“6 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. 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

11 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. 12 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. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 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.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;[a]even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,[b] we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

-2 Corinthians 5: 6-17


 2 Corinthians 5: 6-17

 The Reverend Tasha Blackburn

 June 14, 2015

There is nothing much better than opening to the first page of a new book. All the promise is there that this could become your favorite book  ever. At the very least, you can be assured that the author is going to take you into a new world.

This was how I felt when I started a book by an author I really respect. Annie Dillard wrote a book called The Living and, a few months ago, I got the pillow just right on the bed and started in on page one. After the first chapter I slapped the book shut and turned to Phil in resignation. “Two people died in the first ten pages, Phil, one of them a 2-year old! I don’t know if I can read this.” Night after night, though, I kept reading. Each chapter offered another generation in time and each one went the same: someone was born, they suffered, they injured, they died. Over and over again.

Of course ,I am not unschooled in living. None of us are. Even our scriptures point to the vicious circle it can be. Our first book, the book of creation, introduces us right away to a man and woman who betray each other and then turn on one another; we meet siblings who hate and hurt each other. Some are destined to lives of loneliness and others are destined for grief. And all that is just in the first four chapters! We know that this is life: we are born, we suffer, we injure, we die. This is life; but is it really living?

I had been in college for about a semester when I started sneaking out. On Sunday mornings, I would sneak out of my dorm room to the empty bathrooms down the hall. No one else was ever up and I would quickly get ready and sneak out of the building. Why did I sneak? Because there was a church just down the street. And my sneaking was not done, for I would sneak into the back of their sanctuary just as they were singing the first hymn and I would sneak out before the last hymn had ended. I always sat on the back row. [So don’t think I don’t know your tricks!] I wasn’t there to make friends, not at first. I was not there to please my parents. I was there for one reason only. All that sneaking and getting ready was for one moment in worship, and it lasted about ten seconds. I was there for the Words of Assurance. There were many Sundays when I could have left right then in the service and I would have worshiped. Truth be told, there were some Sundays when I wished I had!

The Assurance: those words of promise spoken to us after we confess: “Hear the good news: Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old life has gone, the new life has begun. Know you are forgiven and be at peace.” It could be argued that those ten seconds are the most important part of our worship, most important part of our week. Why? Because we come in this room with life but the Assurance of Pardon calls us back to living.

That’s what Paul is talking about in this section of his letter to the Corinthians. He tells them that this life keeps us away from Christ and we would rather be with Christ than away from him. But, even when we are away from him, he finds a home in us and we can be with him, at least in some part, even now. And Christ’s presence changes everything about life.

First, because of death. Paul writes, “Christ has died for all so all have died.” What a statement! Christ has died for all. His work was for all, should they wish to respond. And we do wish to respond ,so we have to die as well. As the mystic Meister Eckhart wrote over 600 years ago, “The spiritual life is not a process of addition, but rather of subtraction.” When we hear the words of the Assurance we hear, “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old life has gone…” Because of Christ in us, some things have to go. Depending on what fills up our life now, that is what must die: greed, anger, fear, pride, regret. You know what else Paul says has to go?

Our shallow view of people; it has to die. Our negative view of ourselves and basing our worth on what others think; it has to die. And these deaths are not sad ones. Indeed they are just the opposite. It is a great blessing to know that, because Christ died for all, we can live without those things that deal in death. It is not a weight on us but a relief. Our lives don’t have to be about death anymore because we are a new creation and that new creation deals in living.

Second, Christ’s presence changes everything because, as Paul writes, “his love compels us.” Other translations say “controls us” or “pushes us,” “urges us on.” Even as the old life has gone, a new life has begun and that is Christ’s life working in us.

Thank God.

Thank God because we cannot do this without his help. Even a new creation still lives in the old one and we get overwhelmed and we get discouraged. Paul himself writes just before this in the letter that he is deeply troubled and confused, harassed and knocked down. Life is hard. It is hard for all of us: we suffer, we injure, we die. But Christ is pushing us. His love is drawing us forward. So no matter what life throws at us, his new life in us is stronger. Which is why Paul can write, “Troubled, yes; but we are not crushed. We are confused, but not depressed. We are harassed, but not abandoned. We are knocked down, but we are not knocked out.”

This is the new creation: the relief of an old life dying and the promise of a new life that urges us on. Everything else in our world and most every moment of this week will tell us about the old creation. Only the gospel will tell us about the new and the Words of Assurance are the gospel in ten seconds. And if we want to do more than just get through life these words are what we need. “So hear the good news again: Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old life has gone, the new life has begun. Know that you are forgiven and be at peace.”

Now that is living.