2 Corinthians 5: 6-17 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Mark 4: 26-34 June 17, 2018
“So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.”
Prayer: O God, the sun came up; a new day dawned. It’s time to sing your song again. May we sing of You, your love, your wisdom, ever-present in our lives. Amen.
One of my favorite praise songs that CollectiveSpirit sings is called “10,000 Reasons.” The first verse invites us to sing God’s song as the new day dawns, to find more reasons to bless the Lord, to worship God’s holy name.
Last April, a boy named Emanuele met with Pope Francis. Emanuele told the Pope that his father, a man who did not believe in God, died recently. The boy wondered and asked the Pope whether his father was in heaven. To his credit the Pope replied, “God is the one who says who goes to heaven,” but then the Pope added that “God has the heart of a dad who does not abandon his children” (America, April 16,https://www.christiancentury.org/system/files/resources/052318.pdf, retrieved June 15, 2018, p. 8).
What a great response! Love it! I hope the sun came up on that boy’s grief. I hope a new day dawned in his life that he might know God a little better, know of God’s authority, but also of God’s extravagant love, compassion, and the power of God’s salvation. I hope that boy might come to bless the Lord, causing him to worship God’s holy name, believing that his dad is in Christ, and a new creation, and so is he.
Moments like those make me realize that God invites us to see the movements of God’s grace in our lives, to see divine presence at work causing new days to dawn, adding reasons to bless the Lord. We have to walk by faith and not by sight in order to see them sometimes.
Clearly, a new day is dawning for Ellie and Rylie and their parents Adam and Caitlyn. It takes faith to believe that something deeper happened here; that it was not just water that was sprinkled on their heads, but instead the presence of God washing over them and us! They are, as are each of us, new creations in Christ.
Clearly, a new day is dawning for Pastor Fred and for Trinity UCC in Gettysburg as he has finished the work God called him to do here at Christ Church. Both Fred and Trinity walk by faith and not by sight believing that a new day is dawning. Both are in Christ; both are new creations with God at work in their hearts. So, new and wonderful things are in store that they can’t see yet.
Clearly a new day is dawning for us here at Christ Church, too. We start a new chapter as God calls us to share and practice the all-inclusive Good News of Christ. Both you and I walk by faith, not by sight believing that a new day is dawning. We are in Christ; we are new creations, with God in our hearts. So, new and wonderful things are in store that we can’t see just yet. It takes faith to believe that a new day is dawning here at Christ Church.
Now with all those… well, it’s easy to see the new day dawning. But, God, I think invites us to see more deeply in lots of other places. What if God is speaking to us in the simple things of life? Moments can speak more deeply than what appear on the surface. Divine presence is in unlikely places. There is always more than meets the eye.
That’s one reason why Jesus used parables to describe God’s realm. He spoke of ordinary circumstances like plants growing in the ground to help us understand that the kingdom of God can grow deep in us. When God gets in us, a new day is dawning. God creates us constantly into something new.
Jesus spoke about the smallest of seeds that can grow to not only be beautiful, but powerful, too—just like God’s presence and love can grow beautifully and be powerful in our lives. When that happens in us, a new day dawns. We are a new creation.
When I think of what it means to be in Christ, I sometimes think of an ordinary sponge. To be in Christ I think means among other things to be absorbed into God’s presence. It’s in you, you’re in it. Just like the way a sponge is saturated with water. The sponge is in the water, and the water is in the sponge. That’s what it’s like to be in Christ. That’s what I mean by hearing God speak through common, ordinary items.
And if we’re in Christ, and Christ is in us, what’s to stop us from seeing God’s perspective everywhere we go? It may cause us sheer delight to see how God is Stillspeaking to us through the circumstances of our lives.
I was sitting in my office one morning last week, and I was thinking about Pastor Fred moving on from being an Associate Pastor for thirteen years and becoming a solo pastor. As I was sitting there, I noticed that my big dracaena plant had some dried up leaves still hanging onto the stalk among all the new growth. As I plucked off those dried up leaves, it occurred to me that God was speaking to me as I plucked off those old leaves. The old was passing away, and a new creation was here. I shared with Fred that as he becomes the solo pastor at Trinity, he would need to shed the role and responsibilities of being an Associate and let the new role and responsibilities as a solo pastor grow in him. A new day is dawning.
As we go forward we will need to shed old leaves in our ministry making way for the new to come, too. Making way for the new creation God is creating in us. We will do that preparing for new leaders called by God to minister among us. We will do that by preparing for new ideas and new ways to be the church. We will do that as we deliberately engage in best practices of being an all-inclusive church. I invite us to look beyond the obvious, beyond the budget, beyond the usual “we’ve always done it this way” mentality to discover God moving in new, wonderful creative ways. We have to pluck off the old leaves and become a new creation in Christ because a new day is dawning.
One last thing I want to say… and again, it’s hearing God speaking in ordinary circumstances. You know I love air planes. I have two hanging in my office. Barb and I enjoy going to Lancaster Airport and sitting at Fiorentino’s Restaurant and watching airplanes as we eat dinner. Some airplanes are sitting on the tarmac, tethered to the pavement. They have to be because if a strong enough wind blows, an airplane can get airborne while parked in its chocks! The truth of the matter is that airplanes are meant to fly. Airflow over and under the wing provides lift and off the ground it goes. It does very little to fulfill its purpose by remaining on tethered to the ground on the tarmac, stuck in the hangar.
In the same way, the church is NOT meant to be tied down. It does very little to fulfill its purpose tethered to the old dried up leaves that are just hanging on. The wind of the Holy Spirit moves us as the church out to the edges of faith, out to where spiritual pioneers are needed in the face of cultural injustice, out to the peripheries where our deep joy and the world’s deep hunger need meet. The wind of the Holy Spirit flows over and under the church providing lift and off the ground it goes, taking us into new realms where God is Stillspeaking, to us in our world.
What could happen if, across the spectrum of the Christian faith, the church’s wings stretch wide to catch a new, strong wind of the Holy Spirit? The possibilities are breathtaking! More of us would be in Christ. New creations would be all over the place. A new day would be dawning.
CollectiveSpirit also sings another song called “Go Light Your World.” I invite you to concentrate on the lyrics because just as the new day dawns bringing in new light, the new day that is dawning spiritually for all of us brings in new light shining from each of us. That light comes from God and shines from us and it is renewed all the time. That lights penetrates the darkness. That light means we are in Christ. We are new creations. We are the new day dawning. Amen.