2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
13 But 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, 14 because 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. 15 Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. 17 For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 18 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. 5:1 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.
The Holy Gospel according to Mark, the third chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. 28 "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"-- 30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit." 31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." 33 And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
"I believed, and so I spoke—we also believe, and so we speak...”
It is the tradition at seminary for students to choose bible verse when you officially become a doctoral candidate. This is my verse from last summer, so I am preaching on our second lesson today.
When I was young, I loved going camping. I went to church camp or Girl Scout camp every summer when I was a kid. We slept on those old canvas army cots in tents on wooden platforms. When I was a child I thought that was great.
I know lots of you enjoy camping as much as I always did. In our second reading today, Paul talks about this earthly life and compares it to living in a tent. I think it’s a great comparison. Tents are fun for camping, but they are really only meant as temporary shelters.
I was a leader for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and took the girls camping at least once or twice a year. After the girls were older, one of our service projects every year was to go to the camp in August and take down the tents. We had to untie all the knots that had been tightened by the rain all summer. I had an old metal crochet hook that I used just to loosen those knots and the girls would spend a long time trying to untangle them. After all that work, several girls would carefully hold the lines while a couple of us lowered the wooden tent poles.
We all know our earthly life is only temporary. It’s like living in a tent. Our bodies are not meant to last forever. The other things in our life, actually the whole rest of our life, is not meant to last forever either. Our canvas gets frayed. Sometimes the rain leaks in. Stuff gets ruined and can’t be fixed. The knots in our guidelines get tighter and tangled and harder to undo.
It’s not just the canvas of our human bodies that gets frayed. Our relationships can get frayed and torn up. Not just on an individual level either. Relationships between and among whole groups of people get frayed. Partly, this happens, because, let’s face it, life is unfair and some of us have nicer camping gear than others to begin with.
Some countries are wealthier than others. Some have more natural resources. Some people have inherited wealth, while others work hard every day for years and still don’t even own a house or a car. Sometimes these inequalities cause our personal and international relationships to get so tied up in knots that not even the most skillful scout could get them undone.
Those of you with nicer things work hard to protect what you have. Those of you who are poorer struggle to understand why sharing is so hard, because you work hard, too. Our neighbors who are moving back into tents at camp hope are wondering with us why there isn’t a more permanent solution for them yet.
Life between and among Christians can even get frayed. One of my Doctor of Ministry classmates wrote with sadness this week that the Presbyterian church of Ireland, the church he grew up in, voted to excommunicate all gay and lesbian members, and now also refuses to baptize their children. My friend left that denomination a few years ago and has been a pastor in the United Reform church in Ireland and Scotland for a number of years. Even though he is no longer a member, he is heartbroken to be excommunicated by the church he grew up in, the church he still loves.
It’s true, the earthly tent we are living in is torn and frayed and wasting away. This is the bad news. But, you already know there’s bad news. You came here to hear something hopeful, some good news. And there is indeed some good news today.
Paul says, “But 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, because 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.”
I believed, and so I spoke. God knows that our earthly bodies, our entire earthly existence is temporary. God knows that life here for us sometimes feels like we are living in a tent. God knows that some of our neighbors are living in actual tents on the edge of town. God knows that sometimes we feel like our tent canvas is pretty frayed and the ropes are tangled up with too many knots.
God knows, because God came in person to do something about it. God came to dwell with us. In the original languages of the Bible, “dwell with us” literally means that God came and pitched a tent in the middle of our campsite.
God came to us in person, in earthly form, became an earthling like us. Jesus pitched a tent in the middle of our campsite and lived among us. He gives us a different view of the world and shows us a better way to live.
Paul reminds us that it is all about how you look at things. He says, “Don’t just look at what you can see on the outside. Look deeper. Look for the things that you can’t see directly.” Because the things we can see are only temporary. Yes, the earthly tent is fraying, wearing out, flapping in the wind. The things we cannot see directly are eternal. Because the whole time these earthly things are happening, God is busy renewing our inner nature.
Sometimes camping is fun. Life is good. But, sometimes the tent is worn out. The canvas is frayed and you get rained on. Sometimes the ropes are so knotted and tangled that you can’t do anything about it.
But, God is renewing us. God is preparing us for a different future. We are not meant to live in tents forever. You see, God has build you a house. That’s right, in heaven we don’t live in a temporary structure like a tent. We will have a house, a house build by God. A house meant to last forever.
The One who raised Jesus will also raise us. God has built you a house. It’s an amazing house in the best neighborhood. You will live right next door to Jesus.
In the meantime, Jesus has pitched a tent in the middle of our campsite. He is hosting a meal. You are invited.
"I believed, and so I spoke—we also believe, and so we speak..”