2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Because a change of scenery does a body good.
We take a vacation to see some new scenery.
We read a book to find a new idea, and change the scenery of our mind.
A change of scenery does a body good!
And Christ is a huge change of scenery for all of us.
Everything old has passed away … everything has become new.
From now on, Paul writes.
From this moment onward …
The young rabbi baptized by John in the Jordan River.
The teacher of the fisherman.
The healer of broken bodies and broken dreams.
The Man of Sorrows who bears the burdens of the world.
Christ in Pilate’s courtroom.
Christ risen from the dead.
Christ ascended to glory, and from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead!
We regard no one from a human point of view.
What an odd thing to say!
Is there any other way to regard one another?
First, let me say a few things about Paul:
No one has ever understood grace better than Paul.
No one has ever grasped the power and the glory of Jesus Christ better than the Apostle Paul.
Others are equal to Paul, but no one exceeds Paul.
When Paul speaks, we do well to listen.
From this moment forward. We regard no one from a human point of view.
It helps if we understand something about the Corinthians to whom Paul was writing.
Forty miles southwest of Athens.
An important city, diverse and cosmopolitan.
A cultural and commercial hub.
A city known for its artisans.
A colony city – a special relationship to Rome.
Like Park City, Utah, Corinth was known as “Sin City,” what with all of its sailors and a transient population of immigrants from all over the Empire.
“What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth.”
And like the rest of the Empire, the city was dominated by a steep social pyramid: a few at the top, and many more on the bottom, with an educated business class in between.
An ancient writer characterized Corinth as a city without charm and not the least convivial, in spite of its wealth and privilege … a tough town, if you will.
Archeologists have found temples, altars and shrines all over the city.
By the way, there was no church as we would think of it … no Covent on the Corner … no steeples and no stained glass windows – the church of those days was house churches – Christians gathered in homes, often times in the homes of the wealthy, who had the room and the servants to help.
House churches … ten or fifteen house churches.
For the first three centuries, the Christian Church had no buildings anywhere.
But they had their issues.
Someone said to me years ago, I wish we could just have Jesus. Why does the church have so many issues?
Yes, we have Jesus, don’t we?
Here’s the church, see the steeple, Open the door and see all the people.
And like Pogo observed, We have met the enemy, and he is us.
And the eye is always a problem!
Oh my, he’s soooo good looking! Wow, they must have money. Can you imagine how big their home is? Good grief, did ya’ see the car he’s driving? Yikes, did ya’ see the rock on her finger?
The eye is always a problem, isn’t it?
It’s sometimes said, The first impression is … what? … yeah, the last impression.
And if that’s the case, we’re missing a lot of life.
There’s more to everything than the first glance.
Mother Teresa … a tiny wrinkly old lady, going about the streets of Calcutta early in the morning, caring for the sick and picking up the bodies of the dead.
Nelson Mandela behind bars for 27 years …
The kid checking out your groceries.
The man picking up your garbage.
The eye is a problem, isn’t it?
We see friends where there are none … like folks saw Bernie Madoff and his get-rich schemes … lots of people saw dollar signs and thought they could find Easy Street.
The eye is a problem, isn’t it?
We see people and call them stranger.
We see people and label them outsider.
The eye is far from reliable!
In the movie, “Avatar,” the Na’vi greet one another by saying, I see you!”
I see you, not just a kid behind the counter.
I see you, not just a garbage man, but a human being.
I led Bible study Wednesday night at First United Methodist Church, Hawthorne – fascinating church … the pastor is Hispanic, a former missionary in Bolivia and Brazil … her congregation made up of Caucasians, Hispanics and Tongans … they have their issues, but as one of them said to me, It’s kinda fun figuring out who the outsider is … we’re all outsiders!
And right into the church it all comes.
Several things seemed to plague the Corinthian Church.
One of the issues, tongue speaking …
The ecstatic gift of the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever heard tongue speaking?
It IS one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
But like any gift, some thought it was the best gift.
If you could speak in tongues, you were on top of the spiritual heap.
You were a graduate-school Christian.
Ya’ had a leg up on the others.
And others had to look up to you.
You had arrived … you were super-Christian!
The other problem was money and privilege.
You know what the Golden Rule is, don’t you?
Those with all the gold make all the rules.
Paul cautions the wealthy to be mindful.
When you come together, be mindful about Widow Brown who can afford only hot dogs and lives in a tiny house on the wrong side of the street. Be mindful – be modest – be careful.
There were plenty of other issues, too.
Makes Paul’s letters to the Corinthians fascinating reading …
If anything could go wrong, it went wrong in Corinth.
I imagine Paul laboring long and hard over every word he writes - every phrase – How can I say it? How can I reach them?
Paul writes with passion and with love.
Paul wants Corinth to get it right.
Paul wants want Corinth to know the love and the glory of Jesus Christ!
From now one, writes Paul. It isn’t about the eye, and how we appear to one another, it’s all about the heart and our common love for one another, because Christ loves us.
It’s not about you, says Paul, it’s about Jesus Christ.
Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, begins with those startling words: It’s not about you!
Like a friend of mine said, tongue in cheek, Well, if it isn’t about ME, what IS it about?
It is all about Jesus Christ.
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them [vs. 15].
There is no greater transformation of life then when we step into the light of Christ and begin our journey anew.
When we shift from self to Christ.
From the eye to the heart.
And begin to see one another in the light of Christ our LORD!
Think of it as a healing!
We need to be healed of our spiritual maladies!
Our eyes need to be healed, so that we can see one another with the eyes of Christ.
Our hands need to be healed, so that we can open them to one another and give freely of what is ours.
Our feet need to be healed, so that we can walk in the ways of Christ, and even run sometimes, and run hard!
Our mouths need to be healed, so that we can speak truth to one another, and do so with love.
Our emotions need to be healed, so that we can meet the challenges of life with the tools of faith, hope and love, rather than anxiety, anger and selfishness.
Our memories need to be healed, so that we can set aside old wounds and bitter thoughts.
Our hearts need to be healed, so that we can receive the love of God and pass it on to others.
Our ears need to be healed, so that we can hear the Word of God!
Our souls need to be healed, so that we can get on with real life, loving God with all that we are, and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Without the healing of God, we blunder on.
Trying this and doing that.
Flitting about like butterflies, from one pretty flower to another.
Regarding one another from a human point of view.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.
No wonder Lent is such a challenge.
Lent isn’t about giving up chocolate or HBO.
Lent is a turning point in our life.
Reach high and stretch far.
That our eyes could see the world as Jesus sees it!