Friday, June 12, 2009

B, Pentecost 2 Proper 6 - 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 "Swallowed up by Life"

Samuel, the last of the great Judges of Israel; also a prophet and priest of the Lord is sent by God to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king for Israel. Because of Saul's disobedience the favour of God had departed from him and so too did God's envoy and mouth piece, Samuel. Rather God had in mind to anoint a young harp playing shepherd boy, David, the son of Jesse.
But before God revealed David to Samuel, Jesse's other seven sons appeared before Samuel. When the first son appeared, Samuel, who was sent to hear God and carry out his will, thought this was the son God would choose.
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7)
And so after the seven sons appeared before Samuel, Jesse fetches David and God calls Samuel to anoint this meek youth with handsome soft features and a tender fresh face. Who would have thought this unassuming young boy would be the new king of Israel?
When we think of King David, we picture a man with great power, who had many military conquests and made Israel strong. However, David's origins were not as we would expect, the youngest son, relegated to living with the sheep in his father's fields. Yet from the moment Samuel poured the horn of oil on David's head, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. David was devoured with life from the Lord.
To be "swallowed up by life" is a phrase rarely heard today. One would expect to be swallowed up by death rather than life. To be swallowed up or devoured for us takes on negative connotations. But for this young boy David, he was swallowed up into a life of service under God. The life he was swallowed up into was a life of kingship.
As Christians we too have been devoured up by life. Salvation swallows us; we have been gulped up by God. Death once threatened to eternally destroy us but has now been destroyed itself. The death that would have devoured us has been devoured; it has been stripped of power and so too we have been devoured and stripped bare, only to be clothed in Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5 we hear… Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. (2 Cor 5:1-8)
We Christians have had our mortality swallowed up by life. However, often we find ourselves seeking the clothes of mortality once again. We find ourselves in the midst of a tug-a-war between the desire to dress ourselves with possessions, success, wealth, acceptance, eternal youth and good looks, plus all the other things we see as advantageous, against the consummation of Christ and his robes of righteousness.
Our aspirations turn us to look at appearances, rather than seek what God seeks. Superficial things often lead us to seek regurgitation from the life that has swallowed us. Then we find ourselves clothed in all the things that are passing away leaving us standing naked before a God who is far from pleased with the nakedness of human sin.
When you see yourself craving worldly desires know that you are seeking to become naked before God once again. This is the way you once were! Surely it is better to remain swallowed by life, and covered with Christ. Therefore, confess your sin and hear God's word of forgiveness. His forgiveness is our assurance we have been clothed by Jesus' death and resurrection, and just as Jesus pleased the Father in heaven, we now stand confident in the God pleasing clothes of Christ.
We hear again from Paul… So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:9-10)
Just like David the shepherd boy who was ordained as the Lord's king over Israel, you too have been ordained as kings. Swallowed up by God you now bear Christ to the world. You are servant kings under Christ the Servant King. You don't do the serving yourselves though however, but Jesus does it in you while you allow the Spirit to consume you into Christ.
But there is a warning for us too. David was not the first king of Israel. Saul too was chosen by God. Yet he grieved God by not doing what God had commanded him to do and God turned his back on him. We too can grieve God by not allowing his Holy Spirit to continue his work of consuming our mortality with the life won for us at the cross.
If you reject faith — that is, you refuse God's faithfulness and work to swallow your sinful nature, and seek to live by sight once again — you put yourself in a precarious place. If you refuse to have your mortality swallowed by life, you shall have your mortality and it will swallow you. If you seek to live by sight and not faith, God too will sight your naked sinfulness, and spew you out of his mouth forever.
This is not the case though for you who dwell in the Kingdom of God! You have been consumed by God. So let your mortality be continually swallowed up; hear and believe the forgiveness with which God clothes you in Christ.
You might feel irrelevant in this world just like the mustard seed that starts off so small and seemingly insignificant. But by the grace of God it grows into the largest of trees. Because of Christ you are already a king in his kingdom, he seemed small and insignificant in this world too, but when Christ returns as the supreme King of Creation, you too will see him as he is and you will be revealed as the king he has redeemed you to be. Amen.