"Finding our Way"

Sunday, June 06, 2021

2nd Sunday After Pentecost



Scripture: 2 Corinthians 4: 13 – 5:1


Sermon: “Finding our Way”


It was our wedding day, and one of Jason’s dear friends from college was reading the Scripture for the worship service. We had chosen the Scriptures long before, and then the readers were given the designated passages. Stephen was to read the New Testament reading. Today’s passage in 2 Corinthians. He has cerebral palsy—though that’s not what we think of when we think of him—his abilities far outweigh any of ours. Stephen is so amazing in every ounce and area of his life—we rarely think of his diagnosis. He could kick Jason in a game of basketball—don’t let a wheelchair full ya! He’s happily married to a lovely wife, and they were able to have a child.


It came time for him to read at our wedding, and he slowly made his way up to the pulpit, with his walker cane gripped tight. It took a substantial amount of time for him to get there, and the congregation of 200 or so people sat silently as we waited. Slowly. Then he spoke. It was at that moment that the Scripture, the one Jason and I chose, came alive! Stephen in his most capable way, is belting out the words with such passion slowly, and deliberately… “we do NOT lose heart…even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, 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.”


Our friend, Stephen, was a living example of life with an obstacle, that was a ‘momentary affliction’ that he looked beyond. We felt the presence of God when he spoke. And we heard that  Scripture differently. In Celtic Christianity, such moments when you experience God’s presence are called “thin places.” This was one of those. Are there moments in your life, where you felt the presence of God? Where despite the circumstances, or the surroundings, or whatever was right before your eyes, you knew that God was with you? This, friends, is how the Spirit moves.


Paul is making connections today. He can be a complicated guy—but if you hang with him, he’s got some stuffs to say! He yearns to teach the Corinthians (and us) about our God, who has made for us a house where God lives with us.


Now, it says the physical body is like an ‘earthly tent.’  Have you ever been camping?  You finally get your tent up and inevitably what happens?  It rains. And eventually the tent starts sagging, and water seeps in from underneath if you haven’t properly staked it down. I get the comparison of bodies being like a tent! Paul says, no worries! We have a building from God! I can’t help but think of the Blues Brothers where Elwood says “We’re on a mission from God!” I’d add, not only that, but we have our own building, too! A house not made with hands. A house with no walls as barriers, but a foundation that sustains. Paul is urging the Corinthians to think on these things, and he does this by engaging with Scripture.


He engages with Scripture of the past (I believed, and so I speak) –which is a reference to Psalm 115. And prior to this passage in II Cor. 4:6 Paul gives a loose reference to Gen 1:3 (when he refers to God’s light in the darkness, and the knowledge of light). Paul is having living conversations with Scripture! And these conversation are what fuels his argument and strengthens its effect for his hearers.


Paul says now we believe, and so, we speak! Grace extends to more and more people…even us! And the glory we receive…the eternal weight of glory—is glory from above, not the ‘glory’ that the Roman world might presume: one of success, prosperity and freedom from weakness and suffering. God works through our suffering and in our weakness. Glory comes beyond this earthly life.


In the writings of philosopher Simone Weil /simoan vay/, she describes two prisoners who are in solitary confinement next to each other.


Between them is a stone wall. Over a period of time—and I think we have to

Imagine it as a very long time-they find a way to communicate using taps and

Scratches. The wall is what separates them, but it is also the only means they

Have of communicating. Weil responds “It is the same with us and God….every

Separation is a link.” [1]


What I love about this story, is that the cement wall was a barrier—it was meant to stop any sign of joy. Yet, the wall is the very thing they used to find a way to overcome.


We don’t lose heart!  This is what keeps us going. This is what makes us alive. This is what inspires us and give us joy, even when there’s a cement wall in our way—like the prisoners who figured out how to scratch and tap their way to finding life again.


There is nothing here about a salvation that is simply for ourselves! We and you are in this together!  And ALL for the glory of GOD! The Christian life is not just about this life, but life eternal!


In the meantime, amidst our groans of life, we are guaranteed the Spirit!  John Wesley notes that we may be perplexed often, but “never despairing of His love and power to carry us through.” THIS is why we do not lose heart.  #mywhy.   Because in Christ, the Spirit of God is with us, no matter what.


Christian Wiman is a poet. His words pierce and sooth all at once. He’s been diagnosed with a rare, incurable blood cancer, and wrote a book following. He had just fallen in love prior to receiving this blow.

In Ambition and Survival, he writes:


Love did not deliver me from the earth, but into it. And by some miracle. I do not find

That this experience is crushed or even lessened by the knowledge that, in all likely-

hood, I will be leaving the earth sooner than I had thought. Quite the contrary, I find life

thriving in me, and not in an aestheticizing Death-is-the-mother-of-beauty sort of way

either, for what extreme grief has given me is the very thing it seemed at first to

obliterate: a sense of life beyond the moment, a sense of hope.


Wiman believes that this is what Paul calls us to live by: Hope toward God.

Hope isn’t just meant for this life only. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be hope. We need more of the hope of God in our lives. Not less. More moments reminding us that we do not lose heart. That God’s Spirit moves, and hope goes beyond anything we can see.


Where does the intersection occur between God and your life? Are you focused on the inside or outside—up or down? A cement wall or beyond? Despair, or Hope?


I encourage you this week to get grounded where you are. Take a walk and find a spot to take off your shoes. Let your feet sink into the sand at the beach, or the dirt beneath you, or feel the blades of the grass between your toes. Take a deep breath, and breath out slowly. Focus on where you are in this time and place of this pandemic year. Share all your burdens and cares and joys and celebrations to God. And trust. God will find you—right where you are. And even more, God will reveal to you His love that goes beyond all temporal and earthly things. Hope. It’s more than you can ask for, and it’s all that God has to give us. He is the Everlasting God. Amen.

[1] From Ambition and Survival, Christian Winan.