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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Midweek Lent 2015 + Clay Jars Filled with Grace (Paul's second letter to Corinth)

Week 4: "Hope for New Life"

Our time on earth, in these bodies, is short. Today, we are here together to experience the love and grace of God that abounds in this world. And when our time here is finished, we’re going home.

Vicar Meagan McLaughlin
   Wednesday, 18 March 2015; texts: 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:7, John 14:1-7, 25-29

My fellow sojourners in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Life is short! How many times have we heard it said, in different ways? Just before he is killed, William Shakespeare’s tragic hero Macbeth cries, “Out, out brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Some days, it feels like Shakespeare’s Macbeth has a point. The older we get, the faster life seems to go, and the harder it feels to keep up, until our candle will ultimately go out, our hour here expired. And some days, it does feel like we are walking shadows, doing a whole lot of strutting and fretting and not making much of a difference in this world.

In the Bible, The Book of Ecclesiastes begins its reflection on our lives with a similar feeling: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The people of long ago are not remembered, nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them.”

I could easily use an hour, if we had one, just sharing quotes from authors and poets across the ages, but I will stop there!

Macbeth and Ecclesiastes are right about one thing. We are just here for a short time, in the scheme of things. In God’s time, it must seem like the blink of an eye. Because, as Paul reminds us today, this world is not our home. Not really. Our true home is in God’s house, the great beyond, heaven. We are more like tourists here, come to explore and experience a land that is not our own.

Our time on earth was never meant to be a long-term, permanent arrangement for us, but that does not mean, as Macbeth suggests, that our lives signify nothing. Because this where Macbeth got it wrong. Our lives on this earth, brief as they are, do have purpose and meaning, and we mean far more to God than mere shadow.

So, why are we here? How are we called to live, in the brief time we are given on this planet? This life is not simply a test that must be passed or a hoop to be jumped through in order for us to get to heaven when we die. There is already a place prepared for us there. It is our home. Jesus promised that there are many rooms in God’s house, and we don’t have to earn or prove our way in.

Our time on this earth is not a punishment or a penance, although there is suffering here. God created this world, and everything in it, and called it good. And there is good and abundance and beauty on this earth, along with the pain and brokenness that is also a part of our human experience.

If we are to know how to live, what to do with our short time on earth, we must first remember where we came from, whose we are. The story of our coming to this place, the story of our creation in the Book of Genesis, reveals God’s purpose, and our role here. Genesis tells us that God provided this world for us as a place of abundance, and beauty. God created us to be in relationship with the rest of God’s creation, while we are here.

We are in this life here on earth to do the work God has for us to do, and to enjoy the fruits of this world. We are to remember that creation was given to all of us as a gift, and we are called during our short time here to care for it and share its abundance with everyone. And God, knowing it would not be good for us to be here alone, created us to be in relationship with each other, to share the love of God with those around us. In short, we are here to live!

And God has not left us here to fend for ourselves. God is with us, loving us and guiding us. Paul writes that we are being inwardly renewed, even as our physical bodies age and we grow closer to death and the end of our time here. The world may see growing older as a sign that we are outliving our usefulness, but we walk by faith and not by sight. Aging, facing illness, even nearing death, does not lessen our worth as children of God. It just brings us closer to home.

We don’t need to be anxious or afraid about what will happen when we die. In a world that offers hundreds of ways to slow the aging process, look younger, and extend your life, this is not a message we hear often. Death is the end of our life here, but more significantly, it is our return home to the one who created us, the one who loves us without condition. We have nothing to fear in dying. Jesus promises us peace, not based in security in this world, but a peace that comes from knowing that God has a place for us when our life here is over.

Our time on earth, in these bodies, is short. Today, we are here together to experience the love and grace of God that abounds in this world. And when our time here is finished, we’re going home. You’re going home. Home to the place God has created, with a new body that will never fail. A home where separations and barriers between us and God and between us and others are swept away. A home that is without the suffering and brokenness of this world. So don’t let your hearts be troubled. There are many rooms in God’s house, and God has a place waiting just for you.

Thanks be to God!

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