2 Corinthians 5:1-21
(watch here: https://youtu.be/MOClEA-n3Us)
For 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. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 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! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about two dogs and a cat that appeared at the gates of heaven and were asking to be let in. God himself decided to hear their appeal from his judgement seat. The Saint Bernard pled, “I was a valued rescue dog and helped find those nuns after that avalanche.” “Fine then, you’re in,” said God. The collie said, “I was always faithful to my master and brought the family together when they were down.” “Sounds wonderful,” said God. “Welcome.” Then it was the cat’s turn. “And why should we let you in?” hesitantly asked God. To which the cat boldly responded, “Well actually, I think you’re in my chair.”
Aaaah, nothing like lifting up the age-old distinction between cats and dogs! Dogs, so faithful in giving their love and loyalty. They’ll do anything to please their master and receive a little affection. They’ll even put themselves in harm’s way if it means protecting their master or those they love. It’s no wonder why dogs have earned their title of “man’s best friend” over the years. So eager to please! Cats, on the other hand, well…not so eager to please. Sure, they’ll let you pet them, they’ll let you feed them, they’ll even let you clean out their litter boxes but only out of necessity. They’re not the ones who’d prefer to live among us in our homes, or so it seems. They’d be perfectly fine living in the wild, chasing stuff, killing stuff, taking their chances with the rest of the animal kingdom. We’re doing them no favor domesticating them! They could take our love or leave it, means nothing to them. Just feed ‘em, pet ‘em, clean up after ‘em, and leave ‘em alone to do what they do best: sleep. It’s no surprise that that cat would claim God’s throne as his/her own. He/she already thinks of him/herself as the king or queen of the house!
Of course, these generalizations are grossly exaggerated. Cats DO give back some love and affection. Cats DO want to please us or at least live in harmony with us. And dogs DO give more than just love and loyalty. Barks, messes, and bites can disrupt the home quite easily. Dogs DO demand a lot more attention and care. You can’t just leave ‘em alone for a day or two to fend for themselves the way you can with cats. Indeed, there or pros and cons to both dogs and cats and comparing them is purely for comic relief. But boy, how precious is a dog’s faithfulness! They know how to be consistent and true, both in love and eagerness to please. You just can’t deny it. And faith and faithfulness are at the root of this week’s reading.
Nestled in that lengthy and rather meaty passage from his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul lifts up a foundational tenet in our Christian belief: “for we walk by faith and not by sight.” Day by day, we live out our lives and our belief through faith. Having faith is at the core of our belief and salvation. Not in how many verses we’ve memorized or how many times we’ve read the Bible. Not in how often we attend church services or how well we treat our neighbors. Not even in how well we treat ourselves. No, to consider yourself a Christian all you have to do is have faith. All you have to do is confess the truth found in the nicely packaged John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who BELIEVES in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Belief, at least Christian belief, demands faith. Jesus said and did many unexplainable things. He performed miracle after miracle, healing unhealable sicknesses over and over again. He taught us things about God that no one before him or since have rivalled in value and importance. He did what no man has done: died and rose again. He opened doors that were closed, new understandings, new truths, new realities. He forever altered life in this world, never to be the same again. And you either believe it or you don’t. You have faith or you don’t. You see, faith and belief go hand in hand, each feeding into the other. Knowledge and wisdom only go so far when it comes to belief. There are always going to be mysteries in this world, only to be revealed in the next world, in the new life after death. Only then will our curiosities be satisfied, when we return to our source and creator and become one with him yet again. All will be revealed but until that day we must be ever grateful for what is revealed to us in our short time in this world. Grateful and committed to living in faith. We are to be content living in the unknowns of life in this world. Remember, it’s okay to live in mystery. I’ve found over the years that the more you know, the more that is expected of you. With wisdom comes responsibility to share and lead. Friends, there is a great darkness in the world and wisdom is a light in that darkness. It isn’t the only light but it’s a pretty good light. Love is another light, arguably a greater light, but back to it being okay to live in mystery. It’s okay not knowing everything in the world. Believe me, there are some things you or I don’t want to know! We couldn’t handle knowing some things in this world. And God knows this. He reveals only what we’re ready to handle and handle well. Our God is a good and gracious God and loves us so very much. Believe it or not, He’s rigged the game of life for us to succeed. He’s on our side! He wants us to live and live abundantly! And He wants us to live faithfully. Why? Because in faith alone can we put our trust in him. Faith acknowledges his supreme authority over our lives. It acknowledges that He alone knows all and He will reveal what we need to know when we need to know it. Friends, God is very much in charge of all that is in this world and the next one. I know it’s hard to believe that in these unending days of uncertainty. If only He’d reveal himself, reveal his endless grace and mercy yet again, then perhaps these days would be less stressful, less anxious. Well, I believe He is revealing himself and his grace and mercy in a multitude of ways. Talk to any family with school-aged kids and invariably you’ll hear how appreciative they are of these precious few months when they haven’t had to worry about all the sports and activities and bullying. Sure, the academic pressure was still there but barely. Talk to any office worker and invariably you’ll hear how appreciative they are of not having to work in the office environment. Talk to any professional athlete and invariably you’ll hear how appreciative they are of not having to work and strain their bodies. God’s mercies and gracies are all around us…GOD is all around us!
So what does walking by faith mean? At its core, it means placing your trust in God. It means being content with the uncertainties of life and assured that God is always with you, “at work in you, enabling you both to will and work for his good pleasure” as we hear Paul proclaim in his letter to the Phillipians (2:13). God is at work in us right now and we have to trust that our work will bring him good pleasure. The prophet Isaiah said, “Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.” (26:4) Our God is our rock, always has been, always will be. Our world may turn upside down but He is a rock forever. His truth and love is forever unchanging. It will be the same today as it was yesterday and will be tomorrow. Friends, put your trust in THAT! David sang in Psalm 118, “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals.” (vs. 8) People and people’s ways are always changing, evolving, adapting. I know we’ve been doing a whole lot of it in the last 4 months! But that’s just the nature of life. Life is continuously changing, evolving, adapting. Sometimes more rapidly than others. We’re just in one of those rapid times. But we need to take refuge in our unchanging God now more than ever. Faith is about trust and contentment.
So what do you say, wanna walk by faith and not by sight? God certainly wants us to! Let us rejoice in the gift of faith. Let us give thanks for times of uncertainty that allow us to actually walk by faith. Without such times, we’d likely forget the importance of faith and placing our trust in the truly supreme authority over our lives. God is Lord and Master of our lives and oh, how lucky we are for it! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.