The New Creation

(2 Corinthians 6: 1-13)


In last week’s sermon I quoted John Wesley who said: If anyone be in Christ, there is a new creation.  Only the power that makes a world can make a Christian.  And that’s what the Apostle Paul meant in last week’s scripture reading when he said: So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation.  The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!  If you think about it, Paul had been a part of the old way of doing things.  He was a member of the Pharisees, the religious establishment that controlled all things Jewish and interpreted the word of God applying it to everyday Jewish life.  It was, for all intents and purposes, enslaving the children of God, and it took the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to set God’s people free from the bondage of sin maintenance.  Paul had his eyes opened on the road to Damascus and now saw things differently.  He was in Christ and was a part of the new creation and in his zeal to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ he ruffled some feathers and made some enemies who either didn’t want to change or had their own interpretations of what it meant to be in Christ and a part of the new creation.


I say all that to say this regarding this concept of the new creation and how it is applicable in today’s world.  I was at the Pacific Northwest Conference’s Annual Conference earlier this month which was our first big gathering since the pandemic eased to the point it was safe to attend large in person conferences.  It was also the first conference since the split in the United Methodist Church over the issue of gay clergy serving actively and openly.  Approximately twenty-five percent of the United Methodist churches have opted to disaffiliate and either join the newly formed Global Methodist Church or go nondenominational.  As I sat there at my table with other United Methodists and looked around the room, I realized that we were a part of a new creation, a creation that I hoped represented what God had in mind for his church where the love of neighbor, all neighbors, really mattered.  I observed plenty of folks who looked like me, old, gray and white but what stuck out to me was who else was in the room.  There were younger folks, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, Filipinos, African Americans, Tongans, Koreans, Native Americans, some who obviously identified with the LGBTQ segment of our population, and others I’m sure I couldn’t put a label on.  And our new Bishop was not only an African American, but he was also gay.  The one thing all of these people had in common, including me, was that we were all “in Christ.”  It didn’t appear as if anyone was being excluded.  Everybody seemed to be getting along in peace and harmony as we focused upon the task of being God’s church.  If only it were that easy.


And that’s what Paul was facing in our scripture reading for this morning.  You’d think being in Christ and doing what Jesus would do wouldn’t be that difficult or met with so much opposition.  But it was.  He starts out by saying: Since we work together with him, we are also begging you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  He says, I listened to you at the right time, and I helped you on the day of salvation.  Look, now is the day of salvation!  Paul is concerned for the state of the Corinthian church and fears that they are allowing the priceless privilege of God’s grace to go for nothing.  He is fearful that they are letting the gift of salvation slip between their fingers.  Paul is wondering how could the Corinthian believers ignore God’s message; how could they receive it in vain?  Perhaps they were doubting Paul and his words, confused by false teachers who taught a different message, possibly one that was not as inclusive and not on their terms and conditions.  The people had heard God’s message but did not let it affect what they said and did.  It was life and business as usual.


Paul feels the sting of this rejection and picks up on the cool reception he has received, and he feels compelled to defend his ministry from these attacks from within and outside the church.  He says: We don’t give anyone any reason to be offended about anything so that our ministry won’t be criticized.  Instead, we commend ourselves as ministers of God in every way.  To underscore his point Paul says that they did this with great endurance through many problems, disasters, and stressful situations.  They endured beatings, imprisonments, and riots.  They experienced hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger, and through it all they displayed purity, knowledge, patience, and generosity, serving the Holy Spirit with genuine love as they told the truth and spoke of God’s great power.  In everything he did, Paul always considered what his actions communicated about Jesus Christ, God, and his being a part of the new creation.  And, in doing this, he says that they carried the weapons of righteousness wherever they went as they preached the word of God.  He says they were treated with honor and dishonor alike with both verbal abuse and good evaluation.  They were seen as both fake and real, as unknown and well known, as dying and yet alive.  And, in spite of it all, they survived, they prevailed, and were happy in their work.  Although they were poor, they made many rich in the Spirit and as they physically had nothing they had everything in Christ Jesus.  In closing his appeal, he tells his Corinthian readers that he and his followers have spoken openly to them, that their hearts were wide open, and they held nothing back.  He says: There are no limits to the affection that we feel for you.  You are the ones who placed boundaries on your affection for us.  But as a fair trade, I’m talking to you like you are children, open your hearts wide too.  He’s imploring them to be openminded and to examine closely what they have taught, what they have preached in the name of Jesus Christ, and if there is any misunderstanding, to bring it to him so that they may discuss it openly without any hidden agendas.


From Paul’s vantage point of the new creation, he is rich, rejoicing, alive, and possesses all things and there isn’t a single person out there he wouldn’t hesitate to share it with.  Paul knows that God offers salvation to all people and the fear that keeps him awake at night is that people will put off a decision for Christ, thinking there will be a better time, a more convenient time, that could cause them to miss their opportunity altogether.  And, more importantly I think, they will miss that opportunity to worship with the other children of the new creation who have so much to offer.  You know, those people who don’t look like us, speak like us, dress like us, love like us, or think like us, in spite of the fact they were created in God’s image.


What a difference it makes to know Jesus, to truly and completely know Jesus.  He cares for us in spite of what the world thinks.  In fact, he thinks that how the world sees us is laughable.  Paul’s example to us is that as Christians we don’t have to give in to public opinion and pressure.  Like Paul, we can stand faithful to God whether people praise us or condemn us, remaining active, joyous, and content in the most difficult of hardships.

If you are a believer, a new creation in Christ, you are a minister for God, and in the course of each day non-Christians observe you.  And, in fact, those Christians who are unclear on the concept of the new creation observe you with disdain and disgust because you have gotten it so wrong because you choose to love “those” people more than your own people.  And we must be extra careful not to let our careless or undisciplined actions be anther person’s excuse for rejecting Christ and missing that opportunity to become a part of the new creation.  We do this because before we were a new creation we were shackled by a heavy burden, beneath a load of guilt and shame. And then the hand of Jesus touched us, and now we are no longer the same.  We are the new creation.


Let us pray.


Savior, like a shepherd lead us, much we need thy tender care; in thy pleasant pastures feed us, for our use they folds prepare.  Yes, blessed Jesus, you have bought us, and we are yours to love you and serve you in every way we can.  We are a part of your new creation and gladly accept the awesome responsibilities that come with being your everyday ministers serving you and reaching out to the last, the least, and the lost.  Move us in new directions so that we may more fully and completely spread your words in ways where it will not be taken in vain by those who need to hear it the most.  By your grace we are here to serve.  In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

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