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05.08.16 Sharing Christ’s Ministry 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 Sermon Summary

by on May 16, 2016

Thanks to evolution and revelation, we can see the world as a frog or as a Christian.

A frog can see only four things (from “Everything is Invented” in The Art of Possibility): clear lines of contrast, sudden changes in illumination, outlines in motion, curves of outlines of small dark objects. In other words, what is needed to eat (a fly) and not be eaten (a swooping bird). It can’t see colors or recognize beauty.

Higher up the evolutionary chain, we can become aware of this and discover that how we look at things changes what we see. And this changes how we behave. And this changes how things are. In other words, perspective influences reality.

In 2 Corinthians Paul describes his reality as ““afflicted, persecuted, and struck down.” He writes of “imprisonments, stonings, floggings, and being beaten with rods.” And yet, he “boasts” in his weakness and vulnerability. He says, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

With this perception, his reality changed: “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18) For Paul and his companions, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)

Even though Paul writes about himself and his travel companions (“We” rarely refers to us), his words invite us to assume his perspective. And what Paul wants is for us to see the world “in Christ”: “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself.”

When we see the world in Christ, we no longer see sinners separated from God. We see people who are victims and longing for justice. We see people who are lost and hoping to be found. We see people who are in pain and needing to be healed.

When we see the world in Christ, we no longer see a world destined for hardship and destruction. We see a garden in need of tending. We see a creation groaning in the pains of childbirth.

When we see the world in Christ, we no longer see a God who delights in judgment and condemnation. We see an architect building a bridge. We see a shepherd calling the name of his sheep. We see a priest making a sacrifice.

Paul invites us to see in the death of Christ, the death of these old ways of looking at things.

This is why Paul, from this perspective, responded to his reality by enduring hardship, setbacks, disappointment, and failure. It is because of God’s reconciliation of the world in Christ. He said, “The love of Christ urges us on . . . everything has become new.”

Paul urges us to adopt this perspective: “We entreat you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” He is saying, “See yourself in Christ. See the world in Christ. Let this perspective of reconciliation with God govern your life.”

For Paul this perspective is achieved and maintained, in part, through the sacraments. Baptism joins us to Christ; Eucharist renews and sustains baptism. When we are joined to Christ, we are joined to one another, which is why membership in the church is important. It’s hard to maintain this perspective alone. This is the reason we worship together, enjoy fellowship together, and serve our neighbors together.

We can be frogs in the way we look at life. We can see only what we need for our own survival. But if we hope to see God’s vision of reconciliation in reality, we have to adopt Paul’s perspective. “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself.”

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