For lent this year I am giving up TV, Movies and Facebook. As stupid as it sounds, I am already feeling the "urge" to go on facebook- but I removed it from my bookmark bar so I will not go on it out of habit...
I am preaching tonight- here is the basic homily...
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
"At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you."
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute.
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
The apostle Paul writes this to the Corinthians because he and his company are being oppressed, and they wish to bolster the credibility of their ministry. Some are saying that he “writes bold letters but is not so impressive in person.” He lists off the virtues that he and his ministry embodies- and continues on to explain his appearance.
Paul Writes the Corinthians about God Reconciling the world to Godself through Christ, and thus entreats us, begs us, even passionately desires that we be reconciled to God.
What better message for us on Ash Wednesday, when we begin our season of repentance and fasting that leads us to the cross- and ultimately to Easter. Paul Proclaims that this is the day of Salvation- and yet we are all here to have ashes smeared on our head. It leads us to ask, What is Repentance?
Repentance is not just an affirmation that , just like everyone else, we from time to time have not been perfect- but rather, a total reckoning of our selves before God.
Here Paul says to the Corinthians-
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true;
as unknown, and yet are well known;
as dying, and see-- we are alive;
as punished, and yet not killed;
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
as poor, yet making many rich;
as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
It almost sounds like a riddle! Having nothing-yet possessing everything??
This is why people in Corinth must be confused- he looks like a beat up homeless guy- and THIS is the great Apostle Paul??
When the world looks at a person it ranks them. How strong are you- how secure- how fragile? And we like the world to see us as Powerful – strong- stable and far from fragile. How else is worth rated? For a young woman it is a unattainable level of “beauty” for the older man it is how well established he has become. How secure we are shows how well the world esteems us.
But Repentance spits on this notion. We can’t care about our status in the world and offer ourselves over fully to God- because by definition repentance is humiliation.
Not humiliation like being caught unawares with mustard on your face.
Humiliation is becoming like Christ “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a (O)bond-servant, and (P)being made in the likeness of men.
8Being found in appearance as a man, (Q)He humbled Himself by becoming (R)obedient to the point of death, even (S)death on a cross. “
That is humiliation- and in Repentance we to are obedient. In Repentance we acknowledge that we are fragmentary and weak when death calls us. Addmiting I am but dust Lord- dust that you have brought into life.
What is Repentance? It is the positioning of oneself before the cross, knowing all the while it calls to our death- to die to the false and endless obsessions of this world- that make us pander for false security- that keep us from loving the broken for fear we look broken too- that keep us from giving because we fear someday we may not have enough- Repentance is the shunning of this false and bitter system and admitting that we have loved it instead of God.
See that we who they call poor, and truly rich. That we who are beaten and bloodied and are close to death- are in truth drinking from the cup that gives true life.
Think about it like this- on school projects teachers give our rubrics. These rubrics detail what the various elements of grading entail- grammar- content- aesthetic appeal etc.
The world has a Rubric by which it judges- but Paul here is showing us a new Rubric- that of Christ.
This new Rubric turns everything upside down- in fact some people even call it the upside-down kingdom!
I used to love playing this old cell phone game called “snake” It was a simple game- but one of its coolest features was that as you would direct your snake (AKA pixlized line) toward the bottom of the screen – it would disappear from the bottom and reappear at the top.
This is the riddle- the audacity of our faith! The way to true life, is not scrambling up the social ladder, but humbling our selves like Jesus- owning up to our mortality- wearing ashes on our faces-
But in our dying- in our fasting – in our sharing in the suffering of Christ God makes us new through the Resurrection- so that we are no longer bound to the systems and principalities of our world but freed to lives without fear of Death- for we have already died!
As we come forward this night- Repent- for as the Apostle Paul proclaims to us Today is the day of Salvation.
In closing I wish to leave you with this verse from the beginning of 2 Corinthians:
8For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,