June 13, 2021
text: 2 Corinthians 5:6-17 (Mark 4:26-33)
A dear woman of a small church had died. Her family was meeting with the new pastor and going over the notes she had prepared for her funeral service. Special hymns were noted, as were her chosen Bible verses and a poem.
Then they came upon an unusual request. This dear saintly woman wanted to be buried with a fork.
“A fork,” asked the young pastor?
“Yes,” her family responded.
“Why a fork? That is an unusual request.”
“Mom loved to entertain. She would spend hours in the kitchen preparing special meals. She would set an elaborate table with china, linen table clothes and napkins. She did everything special. She had many favorite recipes that she would prepare.
“Her favorite part of every meal however was dessert. She always looked forward to that part of the meal. She would clear the table and tell us to save the fork, the best is yet to come. And then she would bring out a specially prepared dessert for all of us to enjoy.”
This woman was a devout believer and knew that life on this side of heaven is not always easy. But she always believed in the reality and promise of heaven, and that “the best is yet to come.” So, in demonstration of that faith, she asked to be buried with her fork in hand in the coffin!
Our readings from Mark’s gospel remind us of the mysterious, mystical way God’s kingdom is at work in us and in our world. The seed of faith is planted when the Gospel message is proclaimed and lived. Every word of kindness, every patient and gentle thought, every bit of joy and excitement that is sparked when we see the evidence of God at work in us, in our children and families, and in our world—these are like seeds that grow invisibly and hidden from our sight. And, then, suddenly, those seedlings sprout, bursting forth through the earth and reaching for the sun.
Small acts of kindness, little words that express hope, faith and love in Jesus never go to waste. Little seeds can bring forth huge change. Believe that. Trust it. Act on it. Let God do the work in secret. God is at work in our world.
That is why the Apostle Paul could express confidence and courage in life and in his writing. Our reading from 2 Corinthians 5 states,“So we are always confident…” (v. 6). The word confident can also be translated courageous. We can have courageous confidence in God’s work and activity in us and in our world because our vision goes past the physical reality and things we see—drought, social upheaval and political chaos, war and violence and conflict, besides the distress and angst we carry in ourselves—we see past all this. We see behind the curtain. “We walk by faith and not by sight.” (v. 7) The word walk implies how we live and conduct ourselves in this life. As followers of the Lamb, as believers in Jesus Christ, we are governed by higher values and principles than the world is ruled by. We move past selfishness and self-centeredness. We don’t give in to pride or prejudice, fear or lust, greed or hatred, bigotry or intolerance, etc. We are governed by the love of Christ.
Our faith in God goes past the present “realities” and trusts in the stronger and more certain reality of God’s goodness and love as proven through the cross and empty tomb.
The Apostle Paul could write to us about being “at home in the body,” that is, in our physical flesh and yet know that we are “glory bound saints with heaven in our souls.” This broken world with its violence and unrest is not our real home. Heaven is. Yet, through God’s grace and mercy, we are also able to be “at home” on this side of heaven and at home in our bodies.
When we think of this we might think of being at home in our own skin. Accepting our bodies, our unique personalities, strengths and weaknesses—what it means for us to be human, to be who and what we are. That is important because sometimes we don’t like being who we are and struggle with self-hatred. Don’t. Don’t do that. Learn to be at peace with being human.
Consider this old phrase, “I am me and I’m good ‘cause God don’t make junk.” Corky and quirky maybe, but true. Sin and brokenness have affected us. There are certain things about ourselves that we can change; such as our attitude, words and actions, how hard we work, what I do with our lives, etc. We can treat others with more respect and patience. There are, however, things that are unchangeable. Those things we need to accept and make peace with. Instead of despising who we are, we need to learn to accept ourselves as created by God.
Paul reminds us that our eternal destiny is life in heaven with God. So we learn to live confidently and courageously, striving to please God in all we do, think and say. We remember there is a day of reckoning where we “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.” (v 10)
The Apostle Paul goes on to say, “the love of Christ compels—urges us—on because we are convinced that One has died for all; therefore all had 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.” (vv. 14-15)
When we really believe this, it changes our perception of reality. We see ourselves differently. We view others and our world differently.
Paul is courageous enough to say we don’t see people the same old way anymore. Our vantage point is not through the eyes of the flesh, but through Christ’s perspective. We see Jesus in ourselves and in “the others” around us.
“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.” (v. 16). The Greek word for “human point of view” is the word for sinful flesh—sarx.
Now, because of God’s love expressed through Jesus death and resurrection, we see ourselves and each other differently.
We are new creations. Entirely, completely brand-new. Again, the Greek here is not new in the sense of washed and clean, or remodeled, but completely new, as never having existed before type of new.
So… when we look at ourselves and see our brokenness, our faults and failures, our sins and mistakes, and see that as the sum of who we are, God sees us differently. We are new. We are brand-new. Each and every day can be fresh, clean and new because of Jesus. Leave the past behind. Make a new decision. Do the next best right thing.
We can do that because heaven has already started to take shape in our souls. And we are bound for a better place. Grab your fork. Be ready for dessert. The best is yet to come.
We are glory bound saints with heaven in our souls.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.