Sermon for June 13th, 2021


Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92:1-4,11-14
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17
Mark 4:26-34

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 

Everything. Those words of Saint Paul from his letter to the Corinthians paint a slightly different picture of Christianity than the one we often see.

Being a part of Christ. Being in Christ. Being baptized into his body; being redeemed by his blood; being saved by the son of God who died and rose again, that should change everything for you. Everything. 

How you live and how you die and everything in between. Everything in your life from the way you spend your money to the way you spend your time, everything should be influenced, everything should be touched by being in Christ. 

Jesus didn’t die and rise again just to redeem an hour of your life every Sunday morning. Christianity is not a hobby to be pursued alongside all your other hobbies, and it’s not a form of do-gooderism either. Do-gooderism, I don’t know if that’s a word, but it is now. You know what I mean. We aren’t here to just be a club of nice people that like to do nice things once in a while. It is easy to fall into thinking that way though, because that is very much the story we are told by society all the time. It is the picture of Christianity that the world shows us.

We live in a secular, and pluralistic society, as does a large portion of the modern Western world, and don’t get me wrong, there are some great benefits to that, but one of the downfalls is that in these modern times, we have all been taught to compartmentalize our lives. So you have your public life and your private life, your professional life and your home life, and we’re all supposed to keep everything in its own little box, including our religious life. Religion, for the rapidly decreasing number of people that find it significant at all, is now just another compartment of our private lives. Religion is about what we think happens to us when we die; Religion is about what holidays we celebrate with our families a few times a year; Religion is about a culture that we identify with; at best it is a part of our identity among many other parts of our identity. And of course there is a huge segment of society that doesn’t even want that level of commitment, so a lot of people call themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’, and while a part of me wants to be critical of that mindset, there is another part that recognizes that those folks are longing for a better story than materialist western society is giving them, they recognize that atheism and modernism are insufficient stories to make sense and meaning out of the world they live in, BUT they haven’t yet found in Christianity (in any of its forms, or in any other religion) a better story. Well, that is on us, it’s not on them. We haven’t been good at telling them a better story. We have also bought into this modernist, secular worldview that your faith is supposed to be this one little compartment of your life, among so many other compartments, and so often that is what we sell people when we talk about our faith (if we talk about it at all): it is another thing to do, another club to belong to, another bill to pay and if that is what Christianity is all about then I really can’t blame people for not wanting to be a part of it. But is that really the Christian story?

Saint Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians says: 

For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Paul is not talking about Sunday morning religion folks. What Paul is talking about is a way of looking at the world that changes everything. Everything. The conviction that Jesus died for all, even for someone like him, changes the way that Paul looks at every other human being. It changes the way he looks at himself. The death and resurrection of Jesus isn’t just some historical event, it is something that touches the life and death of every single human being. A Christian, therefore, someone who is in Christ and united to the man on the cross, a Christian isn’t meant to be just the same old human with a bit of window dressing added on. A Christian isn’t supposed to be someone with just another box to tick on a census form, or something else to do on the weekends. A Christian is supposed to be someone who is radically reoriented to the world around them. We have a completely different story to tell about the universe than the modernist, materialist story the world is telling. The power behind the universe, and the source of all life, for us, is not some meaningless, purposeless, shapeless force, for us the power behind the universe has a name and a face. We have witnessed, in Jesus, the god of all creation. We have been invited to live our lives as a part of his life. All of our lives. God isn’t asking to be the Lord of your Sunday morning. God doesn’t need your free time. Christianity isn’t a hobby, it is a completely different way of looking at the world. It is a different story, that we are invited to be a part of.

Should Christians be doing good things in the world? Absolutely! You bet! Faith without works is dead. But the church isn’t a club for nice people that like to do good things. We are meant to be a community of believers that have a story to tell. It is a different story than the one the world tells. The world likes to tell the story about what humans have done. Human beings are the heroes of the secular, modern world. In that story, we congratulate ourselves for all of the progress in the world. In that story, we become convinced that through our own intellect and ingenuity, we are just going to keep making the world better and better. There isn’t a higher power or deeper meaning in that story, just more and more stuff. There is a lot of stuff in the world’s story and the more of it you have, the more blessed you will be. Although, blessed is probably the wrong word, isn’t it?, because there is no blessing in that story. There is no unmerited grace, just chance. Just luck. If there is any salvation in that story, it will come at our own hands. But salvation is a pretty meaningless concept in that story, because what is being saved but a just a heap of swirling chemicals and molecules? If you follow that story to its logical conclusion, our deepest emotions and attachments in this world, become nothing more than illusion created by a bunch of hormones and chemicals in our brains. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are being told that story by the modern world all the time. 

But the Christian story is different. We have a story to tell about what God has done, and what God is doing in the world. God is planting the seeds of his kingdom all around us. It may be invisible to us at first. It may be hard to see, but it grows. The story we tell isn’t just about something that happened once upon a time, it is a story about here and now too. God is alive here and now. Jesus didn’t die for your Sunday morning; he died for your every morning. He died so that every time you open your eyes, you look out on a world that was created not as some cosmic accident, but as an act of love. The Christian story doesn’t have to be opposed to science; that is a false dichotomy. Christians just see, behind the workings of science, deeper meaning and significance. Science is good at explaining how things happen; but it isn’t good at explaining why? The Christian story is about why. The Christian story isn’t just a few set answers to questions about what happens after we die, the Christian story is a completely different way of looking at the world, and when that story becomes our story, when we become a part of that story as Jesus invites us to, that should change everything for us. Everything.

The atheist, modernist, materialist story about salvation through human progress…it’s a weak story. I think a lot of the world knows that it’s a weak story, they just haven’t found something better yet. That, my friends, is where we come in. We have a better story to tell. We have a story, that when told properly, should change everything. The Christian story is not meant to be just one compartment among many in our lives; it is a completely different way of looking at the world. It is a different way of life.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!