June 13: The Third Sunday After Pentecost

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. The sermon for Sunday, June 13, 2021 was preached as a response to 2 Corinthians 5.6-17. A manuscript of the sermon is available below.

For we walk by faith,
not by sight.
For we walk by faith,
not by sight.
All of our passages today
make clear that
we walk by faith
not by sight.
We walk by faith,
not by sight,
looking for God’s reign,
but not always knowing, seeing, or feeling,
how it is at hand.
For Paul, writing to Corinth,
he’s trying to prove —
or re-prove —
himself as Jesus’ messenger and disciple.
Between writing 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians,
Paul makes a trip to Corinth
that is painful and humiliating.
After he departs,
other Christians who are critical of him,
come to Corinth
and suggest he’s
not that great an apostle.

In writing 2 Corinthians,
Paul is reestablishing who he is,
and he’s reminding the church of Corinth
that although he persecuted Jesus’ followers,
he’s meet Jesus
and his life has been changed.
In our passage today,
Paul introduces shares
how Jesus is with the Church:
he is away,
but not truly gone.
Having met Jesus once on the road,
Paul doesn’t expect to see him, bodily,
But he walks by faith,
and not by sight,
that Jesus is with him
through his journeys and writings.

Even with Jesus’ current absence,
Paul writes,
he is trying to live his life
as a follower of the way,
a follower of the crucified and risen Jesus.
He expects that
at the end of time,
whenever that is
Jesus will weigh what has been done
done in his name out of love
done in his name out of hatred
done in his name to maintain the status quo.
By expecting Jesus to care
Paul strives to live his best life.
He’s not fearing flames.
He’s so thankful
for his changed life
and the freedom from sin
that he’s found in Jesus
that he hopes the Corinthians
will live their lives
in such a way, too.
Jesus is absent,
but they walk by faith
and not by sight.

Like Paul writing to Corinth,
the Church today is looking to establish
or reestablish,
some of its credentials.
There have been countless scandals
impacting the whole Church,
every part of the Body.
From newsreels to late night opening monologues,
our scandals have caught the public’s attention.
Loud, anti-gay Christian voices
were caught having same-sex affairs.
Protestant and Catholic clergy alike
were caught abusing children
and covering it up.
As society has slowly become more inclusive
and worked
to respect the dignity of every human being,
the Church has often
been the biggest complainer
and slowest feet draggers.
Like Paul,
we are working
to establish our credentials again.

It’s not enough to say, simply,
“Oh, we’re not like that.”
We need to be aware
of how we’re seen.
Particularly how we’re seen,
when taken in the aggregate.
Most people don’t know
Episcopalian from Baptist.
They just know
people vehemently teach
about women’s subordination
“because Jesus said so.”
They know American Christianity’s
terrible history of racism
and resisting racial justice.
That’s the sight
people outside the church have,
regardless of our faith.

We don’t have the experience,
most of us,
of Jesus having met us on the road.
We’re confronted,
almost daily
if not with scandals done
at the church’s hands
in Jesus’ name
then another mass shooting
or the deadly effects of climate change
or the realities of greed
and their impact on global poverty.
It can be easy to despair
when we cannot see the impacts
of trying to do the right thing
when we cannot see
God’s reign at hand,
when we cannot see
all our attempts at making the world a better place
having any impact.
It can be easy to despair when we cannot see…
but we walk by faith,
not by sight.

Paul’s message to the church in Corinth,
embarrassed and hurt as he has been
between his visit and his critics’ visit
is “we are convinced that one has died for all;…
one who died and was raised for them.”
If you notice the confidence in Paul’s writing,
and the repeated references to boasting
in today’s passage,
it’s because Paul
has strength in his convictions.
Not only is Paul strongly convicted
about what he’s taught and done.
Paul is strongly convinced that
“If anyone is in Christ,
there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away;
see, everything has become new!”

Paul’s confidence here comes
not because he is trying
to do anything for himself.
His confidence and conviction
come from his knowing, believing, and experiencing,
living not for himself
but for Jesus
who died and rose again
for the sake of humanity.
Ernest Best says,
“Through his cross and resurrection,
Christ has already created
his followers anew.
Paul does not mean that Christians
have been given new ideals to live by
or that they will experience a slow moral change
brought about by a new desire
to be good.
They would then be
recreating themselves.
It is God who makes the new creation
as he made the first,
and as, according to Genesis,
the first was not a gradual process
neither is the second.
It took place
in the death and resurrection
of Christ.”
Paul may be down
and seeking to reestablish his credibility,
but his hope is not in himself.
He does not boast of himself
or live for himself.
Paul’s hope is in Jesus
who has changed the whole creation
by defeating sin and the grave
through his resurrection.
Paul has been hurt
and doesn’t always see faithfulness
from those with whom he
shared the good news.
But he walks by faith,
and not by sight.

As we keep doing the work
that has been given us to do,
we walk by faith
and not by sight.
Rather than despairing
that we aren’t seeing changes,
we need to look for their reality.
We have to celebrate
that in Jesus creation has been changed
and we have too.
The old is gone
and the new has come!

We don’t do the work we do
from anti-racism
to sock boxes
to make ourselves feel good.
We do them
because Jesus, who is absent now
but present in the Spirit,
prompts us to live
not for ourselves
but for him who died
and rose again.
We do this work because
like Paul
our lives have been changed.
We are responding to God’s goodness
with our own generosity
knowing that Jesus is paying attention
to what has been done
done in his name out of love
done in his name out of hatred
done in his name to maintain the status quo.

When we start to veer toward despair
thinking that we’re not having an impact
we need only remember
that the old is gone
and the new has come.
We walk by faith,
not by sight,
the way that farmers
plant and do as much work as they can,
and have faith
that seeds will grow,
especially if they don’t understand
how the germination process works!
It’s taken far too long,
but policing laws are changing.
It’s faken far too long,
but our House of Bishops
is actually getting more diverse
in clear, measurable ways.
It’s taken far too long,
but reckonings are happening
as the church figures out
whether it serves God or money,
whether it has faith in God
or wealthy donors.

We don’t always see
the fruits of our labors.
But rather than despair
we walk by faith
and not by sight.

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