3rd Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 6 – B)
II Corinthians 5:1-10
June 13, 2021
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle from 2 Cor. 5.
How would you define courage? I suppose each person has their own definition of what it means to be courageous. Courage can be facing your fear of flying by getting on a plane or it can be running towards danger as police officers do. Where do people find courage? I suppose some find it through training or inner fortitude. One author said that many soldiers find courage in their love for their brothers in arms. Some people are always courageous, others never are, some fall in the middle. I suppose that’s okay, not everyone is called to be a soldier and not everyone will chase their dreams. There are many things in life that people are afraid of but as a Christian you’re different; you are called to live courageously.
The Epistle is occasionally used as a funeral text because of its theme of earthly tent and heavenly building, and that’s certainly accurate. Another interpretation of these verses is that they describe life in general. I like how Paul says, “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened.” How accurately does that describe life? Pretty well if you ask me. It’s no secret that our earthly bodies fail to live up to the standards of our resurrected bodies just as our earthly lives fail to live up to our heavenly lives. Groaning under burdens is so descriptive because that’s how you feel at times. I know that some of you groan under the weight of physical ailments, while others of you are burdened by diseases such as anxiety, depression, addiction.
Sometimes these burdens are so severe that you long, you ache, to go to heaven, just so you can escape them. More than once, someone has said to me, “Why hasn’t God taken me yet?” I don’t have an answer; except that time is God’s and not ours. I know that’s wearisome! It’s hard to be courageous when you’re beat up and beat down. But what we Christians have, that no one else, is hope and hope gives us courage.
Paul says, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” How’s that for a promise! You may live in a tent now, but what waits for you is so much more grand, so much more perfect. Even though life is hard, it’s temporary. The life after life, the life we will have with God is with eternal bodies and magnificent. A life free of everything sinful and evil. A life free of heartaches and headaches. A life free death and sorrow. This is God’s promise to you! And you don’t have to just take my word for it, He says it too.
Paul says, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” How can you have hope that life will get better? God promised it and then He sent the Holy Spirit to give you faith that to trust His promises. Your faith, big or small, is all the proof you need that you are saved. The Holy Spirit points you to the faithfulness of God and His string of honored promises. God is the source of your courage when you’re afraid, uncertain, and breaking under your burdens.
I agree that sometimes the burdens seem unbearable, and sometimes you’re not very courageous. But having faith doesn’t mean you’ll have all the answers right now. The Holy Spirit has given you faith to deal with the present, and He’ll continue to speak to you through the Word and Sacraments, imparting knowledge of salvation sufficient to sustain you. As the Lord says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”; He means in this life and in the one to come.
Paul says, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Paul isn’t saying that he wishes he was dead. He’s acknowledging the truth that life with God is better than life here on earth. But when Paul says, “Whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him” he’s reminding us that Christians have a purpose, even when life is hard. I can’t tell you what your purpose is. I can’t tell you what God wants you to do. Except that He wants you to serve Him, for your faithful serving pleases Him. I know that this is often easier said than done. Just don’t forget you’re never alone! Remember what I said about the Holy Spirit? He is the guarantee that your life may seem to dictate your actions, it’s God who really in control, using the events of our life for our good and His purpose.
Don’t be afraid is repeated again and again in the Bible. Be bold and courageous because there’s nothing this world or your life can do to you that God won’t undo. And until then, where do we find this courage? Where do we find the strength to keep going when life keeps kicking our butts? We find it in Christ because we live by faith not by sight. Even though you can’t see Him in this life, you know that He is there. Faith is the certain knowledge, the trust you have something you can’t see, that keeps you going when you want to give up. Faith is the certain knowledge that Jesus conquered all things, even death itself, through His bloody sacrifice on the cross. Faith sees and believes that Jesus’ death is the proof that this hard life is only temporary. Jesus knows what it’s like to be beaten up and beaten down by life. He even knew fear. What He knew more, what He trusted more, was that the Father’s will is always good. He knew His death wasn’t the end, that His resurrection was the final step He would take, and His final step will be yours one day. One day, after death, comes life when we stand before God in all His eternal and almighty majesty.
Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” You’ll be able to stand bravely before Christ, for the good He has done has been credited to you. Judgement Day will be frightening for many, but not for those sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit. Paul says, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” The guarantee is that your sins are forgiven, that earthly strife is over, and that eternal life waits for you. Don’t be afraid, lift up your eyes, know that what you see by faith, you will one day see with your very own eyes.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen