Friday, June 8, 2018

Trusting in What Cannot Be Seen: Reflections on 2 Corinthians 4.13-5.1 (RCL Proper 10B, 10 June 2018)

Trusting in What Cannot Be Seen
Reflections on 2 Corinthians 4.13 – 5.1

RCL Proper 10B
10 June 2018

Saint Faith’s Anglican Church
Vancouver BC  

            4.13But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture — “I believed, and so I spoke” — we also believe, and so we speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence.  15Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

            16So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  17For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18because 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.

            5.1For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

1)    For the past five years I have had a ring-side seat as our Diocese has confronted the challenges of being twenty-first-century disciples of Jesus in a society and culture which treats communities of faith with a combination of distrust, disinterest and dismissal.

a)    In the autumn of 2013 Peter Elliott, then serving as Diocesan Administrator following the retirement of Bishop Ingham, asked me to become Priest-in-charge of Saint Mark’s Anglican Church in Kitsilano with a mandate to manage the integration of the Saint Mark’s community with the community at Saint George’s near Vancouver General Hospital.

b)    That mandate led not only to the integration of the two communities but also to the sale of Saint Mark’s.

c)     As a member of Diocesan Council I’ve been party to conversations regarding the financial sustainability of a number of congregations as well as facilitating the process that has led to a new regulation regarding what is the fair share each congregation is to contribute to the shared expenses of the Diocese.

d)    And now, after seven years as your priest, I leave to offer leadership to the re-development of Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Westminster, a project that has implications for other congregations in the Diocese.

e)     In the eyes of some people, Christians and non-Christians alike, what I and others have been doing may seem signs that our ‘earthly tent’ is not just being destroyed but gradually swept away by the winds and the floods of our ‘spiritual but not religious’ society and a re-energized neo-atheist movement.

f)      But I see things somewhat differently.

2)    Anyone who is ‘in Christ’ has begun to live in the ‘already but not yet’ of God’s reign of justice, peace and dignity. 

a)    The apostle Paul had every reason to be discouraged ---

i)      his Jewish sisters and brothers were not flocking to join the Jesus movement;

ii)    some of the communities he founded, such as Corinth, where divided by conflict, and

iii)  ‘life on the road’ was not always kind to a man who, by the standards of the 1stcentury ce, was getting to be a bit long in the tooth.

b)    But to the Corinthians, in his second written attempt to bring peace, he writes words that require a little parsing:  ‘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 in temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.’ 2 Corinthians 4.16-18

c)     ‘What can be seen’ is the world that is evident to every human being.

d)    ‘What cannot be seen’ is the world that is visible to those who are ‘in Christ’, to those who have chosen to follow Jesus and who have begun to look at the world through God’s eyes rather than the eyes of the status quo of the Roman empire.

3)    And what is it that cannot be seen except by those who are ‘in Christ’?

a)    What cannot be seen are the signs that this world is being transformed by God working in and through the disciples of Jesus, in and through those whose lives have been changed by their trust in the resurrection.

b)    What can be seen is the reality of a world which is not yet what God intends it to be --- a world in which the innocent suffer at the hands of the powerful, a world whose resources are controlled by the few, a world where inequality diminishes the human dignity of many.

c)     But we who are ‘in Christ’ see the world differently

d)    We do not ignore the evils, the suffering and the sorrows which all too evident in the daily news.

e)     In the face of such news, our answer is the same as Jesus’ answer to the disciples of John the Baptist who came to ask him whether he was the one who is to come, the one who will begin to makes things right:  ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.’  Matthew 11.4b-5

4)    I know that these are challenging times for every Christian community, especially for Anglican parishes such as ours.  But let’s pause for a moment to hear and to see what is already happening here at Saint Faith’s.

a)    Because we care for this building, people young and old have a place to gather to form meaningful communities, whether they are connected to Christian faith and practice or other activities.

b)    Because we support a Community Resource Centre, vulnerable people are finding safe housing, worried seniors gain access to financial support, and people who are overwhelmed by the bewildering labyrinth of social services have a guide, a friend, an advocate.

c)     Because we have opened our doors to Saint Hildegard’s Sanctuary, people are gathering and re-engaging the good news of God in Jesus ---

i)      some had said ‘no way’ to ever entering a church, but they are now here;

ii)    some had said ‘no longer’ after being away, but they are now here;

iii)  some had ‘never’ been involved in a Christian community, but they are now here, and

iv)   some had thought ‘not yet’, but they are now here.

d)    Because we are committed to outreach, organizations far and near benefit from our generosity and the generosity of our neighbourhood.

e)     Listen carefully.  Look around. The signs of the resurrection surround us on every side.  Invisible to many, but visible to those who have the ears to hear and the eyes to see.

5)    During the coming year this wonderful outpost of the resurrection we call Saint Faith’s will discern, under the leadership of the interim priest-in-charge, what shape our on-going ministry will take and who we believe should provide the ordained leadership for that ministry.

a)    Trust that God is on this journey with us and that God has something new in store for us.

b)    Be adventurous and be willing to try something new.

c)     Be generous in caring for one another.

d)    Be here in the midst of the community.

e)     Be vigilant for the signs of the resurrection and be eager to share with others the signs we have seen.

f)      For God is surely at work here and we are God’s partners.

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