JUNE 17th, 2018 PASTOR DON PIEPER
FATHER'S DAY 2 Cor 1:1-2, 8-11;2:9-14
In Paul's Footprints 2 Cor 3:12,17-4:9, 15-18
In honor of Father's Day, we interupt our regularly scheduled sermon to bring you this...
Calvin: Here's the latest poll on your standing as 'Dad'.
Calvin: The good news is that you have a high name recognition factor. All the household six-
year-olds polled were able to identify you as 'Dad'. This recognition, however, is link-
ed to the fact that your policies are universally deplored. There's talk about voting you
out of office and making mom 'Dad'.
Dad: I see. And what do YOU know about this?
Mom: My first act will be to make you do the cooking.
Calvin: Whoa! That changes everything! (The Days...., p. 26)
That puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
The Apostle Paul, the father of the churches he planted across Galatia, Asia, Greece and Macedonia, pulls out some papyrus and puts things into perspective for his family of faith down in the southern coastal city of Corinth. Before we dig in, however, there are three things you need to know.
First, Second Corinthians isn't Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth at all, its actually his fourth, written between 55-56 AD from up north in Macedonia, during Paul's third missionary trip.
How do we know it's his fourth letter? In 1 Corinthians, Paul makes reference to an earlier letter when he writes: “When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin.” (1 Corinthians 5:9) So First Corinthians is his second letter. The first has been lost.
And here in 2 Corinthians, Paul refers to a third letter, also lost. “I wrote to you as I did to test you and see if you would fully comply with my instructions (concerning the correction of 'the man causing trouble').” (2 Cor. 2:5,9) Clearly he's written since the second letter because the conflict he addresses is never mentioned in First Corinthians. So this is actually Paul's fourth letter to them...
Secondly, Paul writes to reaffirm his apostolic authority: “This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.” (2 Cor 1:1) And again: “I may seem to be boasting about the authority given to us by the Lord, but our authority builds you up..., so I will not be ashamed of using my (apostolic) authority.” (1 Corinthians 10:8)
Paul uses this authority to confront the false teachers in Corinth and to defend the mission he, Timothy and Titus have undertaken to collect a love offering for the impoverised Jerusalem church. We'll hear more about this ministry of generosity next week.
The third thing you should know is that Paul's primary focus in writing this letter is to encour-age his siblings in Corinth by clarifying the church's sense of identity and purpose. To do so, Paul unpacks the who, what, when, where and why of the church's mission. Let's take a look...
First Who. Who are you? It's an identity question. When Alice met the caterpillar in Wonder-land, he asked, Who are you? The Wizard of Oz asked the same of Dorothy: Who are you? It's at the heart of the Abbot and Costello baseball skit, in which, Costello wants to know: Who's on First?
Join us at the Comedy Chimacum event Saturday and we'll try and figure that out!
Throughout his letters Paul repeatedly addresses that question: Who are we? Paul uses a number of metaphors to answer that. We are God's family, an assembly of believers, the bride of Christ – we're Christ's ambassadors. But above all, Paul says, we are the Body of Christ! As he later writes to Rome: “We are Christ's body, with many parts, yet body, and we all belong to each other.” (Romans 12:4)
As Christ humbled himself by becoming one of us so too when His Spirit indwells us! For “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.” (2 Cor. 4:7) In us Christ's Spirit dwells to continue his healing, transforming work in, among and through us. That's who we are. Mere clay jars, that's us! But fragile containers though we may be, within us shines a great light, the very power of God, Jesus himself, life's greatest treasure!
Knowing that gives us boldness to take on the second question: What are we doing? As Paul wrote: “Shouldn't we expect far greater glory (than Moses) under the new Way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? Since this new Way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold!” (3:8, 12)
So what are we to be doing? What's our mission? Paul repeatedly addresses this in his letters such as he does back in chapter two: “God is using us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are like a Christ-like fragrance..., but this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)
I officiated at a wedding in Kansas City once in which the flower girl was the four-year-old niece of the bride. When no one was paying attention she got into her mother's purse. In doing so she dropped her mother's bottle of expensive perfume on the floor and it broke. To cover her tracks the little girl mopped it up with the white gloves she was wearing.
Later, as she made her way down the hallway leading to the church sanctuary, every head in the church turned – long before she or the bride appeared in the back as the aroma preceded them!
That's us! Notice that Paul puts the emphasis not on our words but our lives. The way we live, they way we treat others, talk to them, listen to them, selflessly help others out, will turn heads and fill nostrils with the wonderful aroma of God's unconditional love and grace in Christ Jesus!
That's what we do! We shine and we exude the fragrant essence of Jesus himself!
And when we catch resistence, what then? Paul makes it clear that “this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom!” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16) How true!
Many today feel the church gives off a stench! As one hurting woman put it: ”Church? Why would I want to go to church? I feel bad enough already!” But don't be put off or discouraged! Paul points out that God looks for opportunities in such adversity to strengthen our faith and resolve...:
“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed, but as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9)
Paul speaks from recent experience. Remember last week? We read how a young man fell asleep during one of Paul's sermons, falling three stories to his death. Talk about discouraging...! But Paul saw in it an opportunity and so did the Spirit of Jesus, evident that when Paul embraced the young man, the breath of life, was breathed back into him. Just as Jesus himself was raised from the dead, so was the young man and yet another moment of defeat was turned into victory!
During our mission trip to the Ukraine years ago the first day of the first week was a disaster. As we were asked to share the highlights of the day everyone was quiet but when asked to share the challenges everyone started to speak at once. That night Christopher, Donald and I huddled in prayer in the doorway of our room. Moments later the hallway was filled with praying team members. The next day there was a complete reversal. Everyone couldn't wait to share what God was doing in their classes. God had used the dark moment to teach us to rely on God who brings life from death!
Paul also speaks to the question of where – where are we going? That's an easy one – wherever the Spirit leads us. We talked about this last week and will again when we get into Paul's letter to the Romans, but suffice it to say, as we open ourselves to the Spirit's leading, Jesus himself leads us to be free – free of fear, free of doubt, free of guilt. Where are we going? We are going to be more like him!
“The Lord (Jesus) is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom...for the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his image.”
(2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
That's where this path, The Way that is all about following Jesus, is taking us. He is leading us on a path by which we become more and more like him, full of love, joy, peace, goodness, selfcontrol -
as we seek and experience more and more of his presence...He begins rubbing off on us!
Finally, there's the question of why. Paul answers that one when he writes:“For God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness,' has made this light shine in our hearts so that we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Why did Jesus become one of us, then die for us, only to embody us by filling us? Why does the church, the Body of Christ exist? Why? So that the light of God that brings life may shine in our hearts changing us moment by moment, in order that all may come to know and experience the glory of God!
“God, in his mercy, has given us this new Way, so that we may never give up!” (2 Cor 4:1)
Reminiscent of this truth, the Lady Galadriel, asks her friend, Gandolf, a similar question during their conference in the house of Elrond. She wants to know why he's taken the path he has, why he has risked it all by choosing these small, fragile clay jars....known as Hobbits. Why the halflings?
[DVD clip from the film, The Hobbit; 1:41:35 – 1:42:40]
“I have found that it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary (fragile) folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.” As God stirs within us the new way, a desire to live for his glory rather than our own, when he uses these fragile clay jars to do amazing things, he makes it clear that our power is not from ourselves, but from God, and this gives hope and courage!
Author, Bill Hybels, has referred to the church as the hope of the world. That's a strange thing considering how fallen and flawed the church has been and continues to be. But he was right; it's not because we are more right or more godly or more loved than others, but because the light of Christ's Spirit is profoundly and powerfully present therein – not a building, but a people, a frail, fragile group of halflings....who, by the grace of God, have come to be bearers of true treasure – Jesus!
“For God, who said, 'Let there be light in the darkness,' has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. And we now have this light shining in our hearts, even though we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”
(2 Cor. 4:6-7) My dear fragile clay jars, bearers of great, true treasure, go light up the world!
As we're being knitted together as the Body of Christ, how can we help one another? How can we support the efforts of our siblings being called into mission? Paul writes: “You are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for us and our safety.” (2 Cor. 1:11) Ari and the Manlys need our prayer. Let's help them...