“The New Creation”
(From 2Corinthians 5: 6-10, 14-17)
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. 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.
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 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. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Our New Testament lesson from 2Corinthians for this morning is very appropriate for us as we continue through this season of Extra-ordinary Time. It informs us that “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Our faith in Christ and his good work of salvation for us on the cross makes us all new creations in him—even if no one can yet recognize us as having been made new. Unlike the butterfly that emerges from its cocoon in its completely new physical form, our new creation begins on the inside. By our faith, the Holy Spirit comes with power to work within our hearts and minds, creating the reality of our declared newness from the inside out. We may experience the Spirit’s work of realizing a new creation within us in various ways. For me, the Spirit creates newness by speaking new thoughts into my heart and mind. I know that this is the work of the Spirit because I do not think like the Spirit thinks. As I am planning Route A, the Spirit opens my mind to the new possibility of Route B, a very different route than the one I was contemplating. My mind begins to mull over the nudging of this new approach, which is always kinder, gentler, and more loving and true, yet often bolder with greater risk, and requiring a greater leap of faith than my own idea. I feel the tug of the Spirit guiding me toward the new course with a sense that this is something good and that all is and will be well. When I listen to and follow the Spirit, something infinitely and abundantly more than I could have ever imagined most often occurs-and that is the new creation alive in me through work of the Holy Spirit.
Some folks I know have shared with me that they have experienced dreams and visions of new opportunities through the work of the Spirit in them. The Holy Scriptures tell us that some of God’s people will see visions of the future through God’s Spirit. Some of these visions have resulted in life and career changes, as well as changes in family dynamics by the Spirit’s leading. For example, one woman I visited who was suffering from cancer shared with me that she had a vision of angels waiting in God’s light for her. She felt she wanted them to take her home to Jesus, but she did not want to leave her family in its current state of turmoil. When her family members heard of this woman’s vision, they began to talk over their issues and come to meaningful resolutions. Their interpersonal dynamics became so improved that my dear friend was finally able to follow her vision of angels into the light of eternal life. In Christ, all aspects of her situation had now, indeed, become new. Still other folks have shared with me that they have received audible messages through the Spirit of God guiding them in new directions that were previously unimagined. One woman shared with me that she heard the voice of God say to her that it was time for her to return to active life and for her time of recovery to end. “You are healed,” God said to her, “so go and live life again!” In all things, in all ways, when we are in Christ, we are new creations; for, as the scriptures tell us, “Everything has become new!”
Sometimes, dear friends, our new creation in Christ Jesus becomes so powerful that it is revealed on the outside for all to witness! A gentleman I knew through a drop-in center where I was serving as chaplain was nearing his bottom. He had abandoned his family, his friends and his career, and now just hung around the center sulking and passing the time between his binges. One of these binges resulted in this man getting into a fight and winding up for several months in jail. While there, the gentleman later shared that he cried out in desperation, “Help me Jesus! Please save me from myself and this life!” At that moment of faith, this man felt himself changed from within—he had become a new creation in Christ Jesus. The next time I saw this man, he was beaming from ear to ear. I remember him witnessing his story to others at the center, telling them that he now wanted to give everything he had given to his former drinking life to Jesus. For this man, in Christ, he was a new creation. We could all see that now, “Everything has been made new!”
So, Peninsula United Methodist Church, here we are today, both as people of faith and as new creations who are spoken into being by the very object of that faith—Christ Jesus. Like the butterflies of our previous new-life metaphor, we are now in the midst of emerging from our own COVID-19 Pandemic cocoons. The time of our comfortably vegetating in the safe sanctuaries of our homes is ending, and we are engaging life around us—even if in some new ways. What new creation in Christ for this Church Community is lurking just beneath the surface, just waiting to emerge as we both discover and uncover it? Perhaps, now more than ever before, this season is our season of extra-ordinary time. Can we, like the man in this morning’s message, so appreciate all that God’s Holy Spirit has done for us and in us that we reveal ourselves outwardly as new creations in Christ? Will our good works for the kingdom in love, mercy, compassion, peace with justice and care of God’s creation be so compelling that others are inspired and want to follow us on this journey of faith? How can we best welcome others and include them in our church community and ministry? Now is the time for us to vision how we will emerge anew, and live out our faith by our actions. We are all new creations in Christ Jesus by the power of the Spirit working within us and through us. May the Spirit so order our lives and the blessed community we share together that people will look upon us, and declare of us, “See, in Christ, everything has become new!” Amen.
Hymn-“Hymn of Promise”
(words and music-Natalie Sleeth)
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.