Message for 17 June 2018–“Ready to Renew?”

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:6-17 reveal how salvation brings newness of being. Underlying Paul’s message is a distinction between earth and heaven. The earthly realm includes all that is limited by the five senses of seeing, touching, hearing, smelling and tasting. Transcending mere physicality, the Kingdom of Heaven involves both a promise (for the future) and a state of mind (for the present). God’s kingdom is where we, God’s children, prioritize love above all else. Are you an active member of this heavenly kingdom of love?

What did Paul mean when he said in 2 Corinthians 5:6 that we are away from the Lord when we are at home in the body? It seems that he was highlighting the contrary relationship between heaven and earth. For now, the human spirit is mostly constrained within the body. Trapped or not, your spirit can continue to grow regardless of who or what you are. People can choose to not become prisoners of anything. That’s why seekers of God strive for a life of wellbeing which unleashes God’s promises. Yes, biological life still matters because on earth everyone remains a material being living in a concrete world. Despite all this, your soul is not stymied by your physical body and the two can complement each other in interesting and productive ways.

Paul emphasized that you can walk by faith rather than by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). How true! Spiritually speaking, you can live by faith and not simply by the rules, processes and limitations of your five senses or anything that seemingly controls them. You are invited to trust in God despite not having answers to life’s perplexing mysteries. God is worthy of your allegiance despite humans’ tenuous, incomplete knowledge. You can trust in the goodness of God’s character and know that as you embrace the Almighty you can achieve that high goal of human existence: a life of holistic wellbeing.

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (II Cor. 5:17).” Paul’s encouraging words speak to renewal and regeneration. Even when perceived as new creatures, people of faith still grapple with humans’ wayward tendencies. The road of Christian faith is not paved with magical stones. You and I still stumble, often fall, but we can always rise as we grasp God’s compassionate hand. Paul’s words can empower you, activating a new lease on life despite where you came from or what’s in your past. Once set free, God invites all of us to move forward, to continually muster transcendent energy as we journey with God’s loving essence.

Take heart and accept the promise of life newness through God’s redemption. Don’t allow a less than perfect life limit what God can do for you and through you. And realize that even a new spiritual life doesn’t mean that all challenges and discomforts will go away (obstacles can be invitations for faith exercise and spiritual growth). Even spiritually awakened persons struggle with two natures, between the old self and the new. If you persevere, then your new nature will be triumphant when and where it counts. God assures that your blossoming faith will eclipse what holds you back; you needn’t be imprisoned within a defeatist attitude. You can embrace an enduring exaltation as you rise to the privilege of a life of wellbeing. Do you dare challenge yourself and others with such a marvelous opportunity?

Paul’s talk about newness of life can apply to some people in a peculiar manner. For instance, many folks who’ve more-or-less been in church since early childhood may not easily recall or definitively sense a personal spiritual transformation. Having known church all their life, some people describe their religious participation for granted and despair of making spiritually-empowered progress. Baptism, confirmation, even consistent church attendance doesn’t guarantee that you are on the best path to God. Sure, church rituals and rites of passage can be helpful signposts but as my grandfather used to say, “Working in a barn doesn’t mean that you’re a mule.” Farm metaphors aside, there’s certainly more to spiritual health than passive participation in rituals or even in being a good church person. Intimacy with God isn’t as much about life’s quantity as it is about life’s quality, that wonderful existence of ever-strengthening spiritual awareness and living through a personal relationship with God.

Over the years, I’ve heard numerous folks question if they are experiencing a life of wellbeing. Some fear that they are not spiritually awakened, that they are unfulfilled despite social pressure to exude a superficially positive façade. Long-term church attender or not, there’s no harm in rededicating your life to God to remove any lingering doubts about your spirituality. There’s nothing to lose and you have everything to gain by embracing the God who wants to energize you with redemptive love. Partner with God, who will help you leverage your emotions, intellect, spirit and body for a life of holistic wellbeing. Through it all, you will become a new creature embracing a new way for a new day.  –Reverend Hoxey