Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sandcastles by the Sea; 2 Corinthians 4:-5:1

Rev. George Miller
May 31, 2015
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1

“Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
Creeping things innumerable are there…
There go the ships,
And Leviathan that you formed to
Sport in it.”

Those are the words of Psalm 104 which we studied last week; words that talked of God’s creativity, God’s care, and how sometimes God just wants to have fun.

A fitting scripture for Memorial Day weekend, the start of summer; a time for family and friends, of bbq and beverages, blockbuster films and beach reads.

For me, no summer is complete without a trip to the ocean. It’s the place that I find familiar yet mysterious, calming yet wild, of this world and yet unlike anything we can fully grasp.

Here’s a concept to ponder: the ocean is one entity; one thing. Which means the ocean you stick your toes in is the same ocean that is miles out, thousands of feet deep.

When you dig a hole in the sand and it fills up with water, that’s just as much the ocean as the deepest, darkest, part of the sea.

The water that surrounds shipwrecks and the water used to build a sandcastle are one and the same.

Have you ever built a sandcastle, either as a kid, or with a child? Sandcastles can be simple or grand, or magnificent works of art.

Buckets can be used as a mold, packed tightly with wet sand and turned upside down. Shells become decorations. Twigs or feathers become turrets or flag poles.

In my family we used our hands to dig a moat around the sandy structure, designed to catch water and to hold off any incoming waves.

What a fun, summery thing to do, and yet every sandcastle ever built beside the water, no matter how grand, no matter how small, have all faced the very same reality- being washed away into the ocean.

The sand, shell and stone particles are dispersed, becoming a part, once again, of the ocean deep and wide, familiar and mysterious, of this word and other-worldly.

Like earthly tents, no sandcastle was ever meant to be forever. They go back to the very place from whence they came.

It’s not tragic, it’s not bad…it just is.

As Paul wrote in his letter “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Today we hear from 2 Corinthians, which is a composite of letters that Paul had written to a particular church going through some particular issues.

Paul had visited them and spent 18 months as their spiritual leader. He helped them navigate the new waters of welcoming people from other faiths and cultures.

He taught them about Jesus, he taught them about grace, and he shared with them his knowledge about the Last Supper.

Then Paul left to continue his mission and ministry in other cities, in other towns. This hurt some of the folk; they felt as if they had been abandoned.

Then when Paul said he would come back to visit them for two more visits, and failed to do so, some said he was wishy-washy.

There were others in the congregation who felt Paul boasted a little too much about himself. There were others who wondered why their congregation wasn’t growing, and felt it was Paul’s fault.

Eventually, Paul does return, but alas the visit doesn’t go well. There are some who don’t approve of his teachings; there are some who profess a different theology, and not everyone agrees on just what it means to follow Jesus.

Paul’s visit to the Corinthian church is a bust with hurt feelings all around. So he writes them a series of letters; tearful letters, emotional letters.

He tries his best to remind them, to remind himself of whom they are, of whose they are and what it means to live a faithful life.

He stays steadfast in his belief that Christ lived, Christ died and Christ was raised from the dead by God.

For Paul, this set of truths is so important.

Why? Because he believed that we lived in Christ, and that Christ dwelled within us.

Because of this, we get to experience the gifts of joy and grace. Because of this there should be a light that shines within.

Paul finds this reassuring. He finds this way of thinking empowering.

Even in the midst of affliction and feelings of forsakenness, he finds this thought to be a source of strength and perseverance.

If we are in Christ, and Christ is in us there is good news. Why? Because if we live in Christ, that means we too die in Christ.

And if we die in Christ, guess what?

That means that in Christ we too are raised up from death by our God. It means that we too get to experience the mystery of the resurrection.

Our earthly tents may be destroyed but we find an eternalness in God. Our sandcastles may be washed out to sea, but we rejoin the source of all blessings.

In vs. 16 Paul states “We do not lose heart- our outer nature is wasting away, but our inner nature is being renewed every day.”

Day by day.

Our outer nature is wasting away: here Paul is talking about the reality of being biological, chemical, organic creatures dealing with the chronicity of life.

The fact that we grow older, we wrinkle, we ache, we take a bit longer sitting down and standing up. The thorns in our side; the accidents and illnesses that occur.

Our outer nature also refers to the life we live with others; the reality of living imperfect lives with imperfect people in which we coexist with calm and crazy, in which we agree and disagree, placate and persecute.

All these things, according to Paul, are temporary. They are real, but like earthly tents and sandcastles on the beach, they eventually go away.

But our inner nature- well, that’s something else.

Paul is not necessarily talking about our soul. The inner nature Paul is referring to is more akin to a spark. It’s that sense of excitement and new life we get when we encounter and embrace the Good News of Jesus Christ.

This new life, this spark is something that does the opposite of our bodies. It is rejuvenated; it is renewed.

In the imagery of Psalm 1, our inner nature is replanted daily by streams of living water.

In the imagery of Psalm 104, our inner nature is recreated daily to play in the ocean with Leviathan and the ships that pass by.

Our inner nature is fed by the living waters of Jesus Christ so it has the ability to always grow, always flourish, and to be resilient.

To experience mini-resurrections each and every day, no matter what others may say, no matter what others may do, no matter what happens to our outer nature, our tent, our sandcastle.

This, dear ones, is Good News.

In Christ we live, in Christ we die, in Christ we are resurrected. In Christ we are renewed day after day after day after day.

What does this mean?

Our sandcastle may be made with sand that doesn’t hold; sand that falls apart.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

Our sandcastle may be made with sand too rocky, everything clumping together, and goes to pieces.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

Our sandcastle may stand strong but someone comes by and steps on top of it, crushing it to bits.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

Our sandcastle may be magnificent but someone’s dog gets loose and knocks it over.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

Our sandcastle may be tall and mighty but eventually it crumbles from all the weight and comes toppling down.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

We may start our sandcastle small and simple, learn over time how to mix the right amount of sand with water, build a moat, decorate it with shells, place a feather or two on top…and even then the wind or the rain in time will take it down.

But- that’s OK because tomorrow we get to build again.

…until eventually the day comes when we no longer have to build because we’ll be ushered into the great eternal.

Hopefully, before that happens, we’ll realize the great truth is that the goal was never about building the most perfect or the best sandcastle, but the simple fact that we built, and who we were building with.

Earthly tents are temporary. Sandcastles are temporary. But that should not stop us from building, from being, from trying and from having fun.

Earthly tents are temporary. Sandcastles are temporary. Therefore let us live knowing that in Christ there is always another day; there’s always another chance.

To experience the resurrection as our own, to be renewed, restored, replanted, again and again, again and eternally.

Amen and amen.

No comments: