Agents of God’s Mission in the New Creation
John 20:1-29, 1 Cor. 3:5-11
12 April 2015, Hamblen Park Presbyterian Church
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
The reality of Jesus resurrection took time to settle in among the disciples. The fact of an empty tomb and rumors of a risen Lord appears to have unnerved everyone. In John’s gospel the disciples are in hiding. The city of Jerusalem is in an uproar. It is a fearful time. (Read John 20:1-23)
Into this chaos Jesus appears announcing “peace be with you”. For those gathered on the evening on that day, the first day of the week, these were words of comfort. When Jesus repeated the blessing of peace again it came with a charge to go and to forgive. Peace, presence, and forgiveness were meant to characterize the post-resurrection followers of Christ.
Eventually these followers of Christ, who would become known as Christians, came to describe their new reality as living in God’s New Creation. In essence the Christian concept of new creation is anchored in salvation through Jesus Christ. We call this the Gospel; the good news of reconciliation!
The early church struggled mightily with how to live into this Gospel. Our second scripture reading today comes from Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. Corinth was a city of commerce. At this time it was only about 100 years old. People came here to make a name for themselves. Who you were associated with was everything. It appears the culture of Corinth was creeping into the church. (Read 1 Cor. 3:5-11)
This was a kin to partisan politics. And Paul wanted it to stop. It reminds me of the current American political landscape. As the campaign for the presidency heats the interest in who is ‘in the race’ and ‘who is undecided’ is filled with intrigue, power, and yes, lots of money. (Screen shot from NY Times chart)
Here’s the point Paul is driving home: the Gospel is big enough for me and for Apollos and others in the future to build upon. The Gospel is vast. The Gospel of Christ is good news to all people, in all contexts, for all time. Make room for its many expressions. Room enough for Paul, and Apollos, for those who plant, and water, and tend to the care of God’s people. This is not about red and blue. There is one Gospel, one church, with one mission and many expressions of the good news of the risen Lord Jesus.
Scripture is filled with rich images of God’s work in restoring what has been damaged or broken by sin. There is a Latin term for this: Missio Dei; literally the mission of God. The mission of God can be described as God’s initiative to be in loving relationship with creation. When humanity through sin broke that relationship God offered restoration through the Son. Put simply the Mission of God is reconciliation between us and God and all of the created order.
For the next 10 weeks we will be looking at what it means for us as 21 century followers of Christ to live in the New Creation. How do live as people of peace, presence, and forgiveness. It is a bit of complex issues best approached through listening to a variety of voices. Here is our plan: Pastor Betsey and I plan to preach on Paul’s, Peter’s, and John’s view of new creation. Pastor Brad will join the conversation preaching about new creation from an older adult point of view. Joe Bruce, Director of Children and Family Ministry, will bring his wisdom to the pulpit looking at faith and science. We all know he has strong passion for and expertise in this area. In two weeks Rev. Rick Melin (former presbytery executive) will preach from the perspective of care of creation and Service and Social Concerns invites everyone to get in the game that weekend through a wide variety of activities. On Pentecost South Hill Pastor (and beloved Whitworth leader) Stephy Nobles-Beans will be with us to preach about racial reconciliation as an expression of God’s new creation.
10 weeks, 6 voices, 1 Gospel, for 1 church – rich, poor, old, young, new member, founding member each one an agent of God’s mission in the new creation.
One concluding thought: hear John 20:24-29 as if for the first time. (Read John 20:24-29) Did you hear anything new? I found something new in this story recently – Thomas was ‘with them’ (those whom Jesus had appeared to earlier) for an entire week. And what a week it was – of historic precedent. Jerusalem is in turmoil. Disciples are filled with fear of what the Jews might do. And these 11 stayed together. The 10 who believed and one who doubted. I find this stunning. Why? Because when you are an ‘insider’, privileged to special information, one of the ‘10’ in this instance, it is so easy to exclude the ‘other’. Is it not? Any yet they made room for Thomas to stay among them. Perhaps this is evidence they took Jesus’ words to heart – let peace, presence, and forgiveness be among you and evident to all. This gives me hope. Early on though it would have been easy and expedient and perhaps even ‘smart’ in terms of their ‘security’ needs to leave Thomas out. He was not left out.
And kudos to Thomas. He hung in. He stuck around. I bet that was not easy to do. Yet, there he was a week later with ‘the others’ and Jesus appears again. I bet Jesus was pleased to see the sight of them there huddled together.
In closing Susan (the organist) is going to play an instrumental piece of music for us. This time in our worship is for you to reflect on how it is with your soul.
Sermon Reflection Questions:
- How has partisan spirit in the church impacted you? Have you found ways to deal with it that might be helpful for others to hear about?
- Is creation care a topic that interests you? Why or why not? Consider joining one of the weekend activities as a group, family, or with friends.
- Is there another expression of the Gospel outlined in the sermon series that sparks your interest? If you could design a response what might that look like?
- Have you experienced a season of doubt in your Christian life? What role did the presence of other Christians in your life play?
- In what way are you an agent of God’s mission today?
Interim Ministry Note: following worship on this date the congregation met to elect the Pastor Nominating Committee. This team completed their task in nine months. Together with the Mission Study, which was also completed in the same amount of time, the Interim pastor served for 18 months (following an installed pastor who took another call after 27 years of leadership).