March 31, 2019
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
What is the most pressing issue on your heart this morning? What is the number one concern that enters your mind over and over again? That you think over and pray over and worry about….How did this begin? Is this an issue that is new? Or that has been on your mind for a long time? Think about who you are and what you feel when you are in the thick of this question. When it keeps you up at night, or distracts you from the goings-on of your day-to-day….when it colors your reactions and creeps in on your wellbeing, and you find yourself turning it over and over in your mind—like one might play with pebble in your pocket, knowing its curves and its edges. Feeling the weight of what this issue means to you.
And now imagine that it’s gotten to the point that you must talk to someone else about this—you absolutely must! You cannot keep it just on your mind any longer, you must find someone whom you can tell.
Who is that someone going to be? It’s going to be someone you trust, is it not? Someone who is going to listen to you and truly hear you. Someone who is going listen to understand, and not to reply. Someone who is going to love you unconditionally—no matter the gravity of what it is that you are going to tell them.
Because this is not coffee shop chit-chat. This is not something you are going to share with your mailman or your dentist or the waiter at your favorite restaurant. This is not going to be something you tell someone who you have a cursory relationship with. This is the deep stuff of life. And for the deep stuff of life, you are going to seek out someone who knows you deeply. Someone you are connected to and spend time with. Someone who you share your daily thoughts with and who you talk to frequently. Someone who KNOWS you. And who you KNOW in return.
What have you been thinking about on this Lenten journey? What is on your mind and in your heart? Who know you well enough for you to share this with them? Do you feel that you know God well enough to take it to Him?
We say we know God and we trust God and we love God. We say it over and over again, in our worship services and in our time of prayer. But do we really? Is God really the one that we first think of to talk to when we have a problem? Or do we “reserve” God for the formal things, thinking, perhaps, that we should not trouble God with the questions of our hearts; knowing that our personal issues are trivial compared to the concerns of the world.
This is a question that I wrestle with, as a disciple. On the one hand, I know that God is not there solely for my benefit. I know that God exists over and above and beyond anything that my small mind could imagine, and that my concerns pale with regard to the real issues of the world. I have a strong, personal relationship with Jesus, and yet, I know better than to be glib and shallow in my daily prayers. Still, on the other hand, I believe so deeply in a God whose depth knows no limits and whose love knows no bounds that I know—I know for sure—-that God truly does care about the things that I struggle with. I believe in a God who can, at once, fit inside my heart and yet fill the universe with His unfathomable constancy and forgiveness. I believe in the God of everywhere.
So, I say this—that I believe in the God of everywhere—and I say I believe it….and I do. So then, why do I relegate God to that same place of the mailman and the dentist and the waiter at my favorite restaurant when things are on my heart? Why do I seek out a person to talk to, rather than going to Him first? It’s not that I “forget” God—not ever. But it’s almost as though I have a secret list of things that God can and does want to deal with and another list of the things that God won’t want to handle. And who am I, really, to think myself bold enough to decide what God does and doesn’t want?
I am a Corinthian. Just like all those people in Paul’s church who he both loved and who drove him mad. I am here, saying that “I believe” and “I promise” and “I will” and “I trust”. And yet, I really don’t. Not if I think that there is an invisible wall between God and me. Not if I hold the things that weigh on my heart back. Not if I become so bold as to think I know what is of merit to God. Not if I forget that I am reconciled.
Paul says it right here—so clear and so plain—“anyone who is in Christ is a new creation: the old has gone, the new is here!” God calls us to Himself and strengthens us so that we can go on to reconcile the nations. And what God needs from us is the promise to love and trust Him in all things. Not thinking that we know what is good or right or appropriate to take to Him—but just taking it all.
We have just passed the midpoint of our Lenten season…we are halfway there. And here, in this middle valley, we dwell in our own wilderness, even as we remember the wilderness which consumed our Savior for those forty days. We are as much the modern-day Christians as we are the churches at Corinth, and Ephesus, and Phillipi. We are still the Israelites in the desert and the disciples on the shore and all the faces of the ages between. We still have a God who knows the muck and mania of our lives just as He did in the stories of our ancestors. And yet, I fear we try to give God a sanitized version of our truth. We try to live into the expectations that we have put upon ourselves. We think there is a “right” way to worship and a “right” way to pray. That there is some holy answer book where we will be judged by what we offer of ourselves.
And there’s not—because God reconciled the whole world to Himself in Christ. We are changed, here as God’s people. We are changed. When we remember this Love, we are changed. So what do we do with that? How do we stop ourselves from masking our true identities before God and just let the real “us” be seen? How do we let ourselves be searched and known and MEAN IT?
God in Christ answered that question for us, too. In a humble meal of bread and wine. In those words, the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, it has all been answered. And even though, from God’s point of view, we are reconciled and renewed in the one saving act of Christ, God knows that we need reminders. That we stray from the path and get lost and confused and forget our identity as children of God. And so we have the cup—the centering cup—to remind us and restore and renew us again and again and again until we get it. Until we let go of the guilt of what we can not or what we are not, and see ourselves through God’s eyes.
What is the most pressing issue on your heart this morning? What is the number one concern that enters your mind over and over again? Who are you taking it to? We are reconciled to God through the saving power of Christ, and reminded of that throughout our Lenten journey. In this week ahead, as we prepare to take communion together when next we gather for worship, my prayer is that each one of us will reflect on this passage and think about what it means to be so loved—so unfathomably and unconditionally loved—that we can take the deepest parts of our hearts to God, knowing we are heard. My prayer is that each one of us will focus carefully on cultivating our relationship with God so that when the challenges of life feel like they are closing in from all sides, we are bathed in the light of Christ, and that instead of seeking out a person to open our hearts to, we open them first to God. That we don’t hold back—thinking that what weighs on our minds is not important to God. But rather that we remember the renewing, restoring, recentering of the reconciliation. And that we let that reconciliation make us real before God. So that our truth can speak, no matter what we bring before God. And we can be know we are seen.