4th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 6) LSB #693
Text – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Something that really hit me this year is that high school graduates are like a calendar. They’re showing me how much time has passed away since I arrived at St. Matthew. People like Nea Harris & Reid Thelen were only four years old when I became the pastor here. They weren’t even in kindergarten yet. Now, they’ve graduated.
Every day another day passes away, but taken 24 hours at a time it’s barely noticeable. If you take it in 14 year chunks, a lot of things have changed. For example, I’ve officiated at 64 funerals in that time. As seen by the world, there hardly is a greater change for any human being than transitioning from life here on earth to life in the hereafter.
Several prominent people have committed suicide recently so the media is all over that issue. It’s tragic because for the world there is little hope for a person once death arrives. That person’s creativity & gifts, whatever they may have been, are gone forever!
When it comes to important people, the world wishes it could stop such senseless loss. However, unimportant people die every day & the news media does not blink an eye. Further revealing a heartless nature, powerful forces in our culture encourage death as an answer to suffering. Assisted suicide laws are promoted & held up as the answer to your pain & misery.
On the other hand, Jesus taught, “…In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV) God’s Son does not close a blind eye to our suffering, & He does not encourage us to die just to get away from it. Instead, He tells us to take heart. He encourages us not to be afraid because He has overcome world. What Jesus means by that is this – He has overcome everything that brings suffering in this life. Whether that is cancer or mental illness, selfishness or greed, tyranny & war & betrayal, all of them have been overcome. Name the worst thing that has ever happened to you, or the worst thing that ever could. Jesus has already overcome that very thing.
It’s not that difficult to agree to in theory. It’s when trying to put it into practice that problems arise. Emotions get in the way. Other people get in the way. Satan begins to stir the pot. You start to feel like you’re being taken advantage of. You feel as if life is starting to slip away because old age takes its toll on your abilities.
It’s just human nature in this broken world – we tend to focus so much on what is passing away, on what we are losing, that we totally ignore & miss what it is that we are gaining. There’s a saying meant to help us come to grips with that: “If one door is closing, another one is opening.” Don’t kid yourself, it is a battle not to lose hope because of the effects of sin.
You experience that warfare on a daily basis even if you are not consciously aware of it. Even if you do not connect the dots from the problems of life to the Word of God, the Bible is all about the spiritual warfare going on in your life. But the Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write so you would be encouraged in your daily walk with Jesus.
Paul wrote that the old things of sin, death & the devil have passed away, because they are only temporary. They have nothing at all to do with the glorious life that awaits us in heaven. Don’t bother your soul by worrying over the things that are passing away. Stay focused on the things to come, & then consciously be about the work of God’s eternal kingdom.
Everything you spend money on in this life will one day be gone. Yet, the talents & abilities that our heavenly Father has given to you will not be gone once you die. We will have all of forever & ever to put them to use to the honor & glory of Yahweh who created us. So if you believe God’s Word that your old self has passed away, that the self-centered you is dead, then what is alive within you? Our Creator tells us: “[Jesus] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died & was raised.” Does your living bring honor & glory to the One who rescued you from sin & death?
When thinking about the calendars you are using to evaluate the blessings of life, do you mainly focus on that which you are losing, or on that which you are gaining? Do you focus on the past, or do you focus on the future? Jesus Christ is the same – yesterday & today & forever! He is there with you no matter which calendar you measure your life by.
Whether we realize it or not, we choose our attitude on many occasions throughout each & every day. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” That is what Baptism, in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit, has done to you. The new has come.
The specific problem that St. Paul is addressing in the reading from 2 Corinthians is twofold: some Christians have not accepted the responsibilities of being an ambassador of Christ; others have lost sight of the reason for their serving as an ambassador of Christ. Without a proper focus on Jesus, it becomes easy to do nothing at all, or to serve for the wrong reasons.
Jesus love, demonstrated by dying for us on the cross, is the source of our reconciliation to God. As Jesus passed away, so did the old life that we used to live. We are no longer afraid of our future, nor are we afraid of losing our past. In Jesus they are the same, forever! That is true because our identity is defined by our Lord’s love for us.
You & I are not defined by what we do, nor by what we fail to do. Either of those would leave us without our Creator for all eternity. We are defined by the fact that Christ Jesus chose us to be His own in His kingdom, & He made that costly choice by shedding His blood. Taken 24 hours at a time His choice is barely noticeable to us. If you take it in 14 year chunks, the almighty God has accomplished a lot of things through you. The entire Sonshine Childhood Center program did not exist here 14 years ago. The enrollment at Holt Lutheran School has gone down & up & down & is currently on the upswing again.
Many people that were with us 14 years ago have now safely reached the shores of eternal life instead of the shores of eternal death. The entire, eternal future of children who’ve gone through our programs has been changed dramatically. Vacation Bible School has become Soccer Camp. A congregation of Ethiopian Christians is worshipping God in our building.
Members have grown in their faith through serving on boards & committees, as well as through serving in hundreds of different ways in meeting all the needs of operating a school & childcare center. People of all ages have gone on mission trips to foreign countries; & served right here in Michigan, or other areas of the United States.
Members have gone on to be pastors & teachers & family life ministers. Members are raising children to know Jesus Christ as their Lord & Savior. They are also caring for aging parents, or aunts & uncles. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
And the new keeps on coming, each & every day, new life, new faith, new blessing! Yes, we still see our sins. We feel them. We suffer from them & with them. But we also know that they do not define our lives. We now perceive the world differently because we are secure, no longer driven by fear. Such faith is of God & belongs to His new creation.
You see, salvation is not merely a matter of bookkeeping. Yes, your sins have been erased, but the effect of that is so much more than just an entry in God’s ledger book. It changes your heart & you see things differently, in a way that was not possible before Christ saved you. When God reconciles us to Himself by forgiving our sins, He is not employing an accounting trick. He is giving us a new identity. You are a new creation because He says you are. A new identity brings with it a new way of looking at the world. Paul says, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 5:16a ESV)
What sort of things serve as calendars in your life? What do you use to measure the passage of time? Then, how do you respond to it? Certainly, all of us are getting older, every second of every day, which means we are getting closer to passing away. We can focus on, & regret, what we seem to be losing. Or, we can focus on & look forward to what we are gaining.
Just one chapter earlier St. Paul wrote:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Amen.
Thus says the Lord God: “I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar & will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, & I myself will plant it on a high & lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches & produce fruit & become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord; I bring low the high tree, & make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, & make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, & I will do it.” Amen. Ezekiel 17:22-24
 2 Corinthians 5:15 ESV
 2 Corinthians 5:16-18 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet