Sunday, 4 March 2018

2 Corinthians 4 - 'The human body is like a melting snowman'

Sermon by Rev Angus MCleay, Rector of Sevenoaks Parish Church (based on my own personalised notes) 2 Corinthians 4: 7-18 

In this age of the false 'health and wealth' gospel, life, even for Christians can feel cold and hard.  Believers who are suffering can ask themselves: "Is something wrong? Have I missed something crucial in my walk with God?"  The answer is no.  Suffering is not a sign that something is wrong but an essential part of:
  • showing the power of God in weakness
  • turning evil to good
  • showing the power of the Resurrection
  • preparing the faithful for Heaven
'We have this treasure in pots of clay'
St Paul says that the Gospel is a treasure like The Crown Jewels but it is displayed in the body which is like 'a pot of clay'.  The Roman world was filled with clay pots which now line the shelves of museums, row upon row  They were the world's first mass produced, cheap product. Romans carried olive oil around in them, used for lighting, cooking and cleaning. They broke easily and their modern equivalent is a plastic bag, or plastic wrapper. So this priceless treasure is not conveyed in the modern equivalent of a Securicor van but in a plastic bag, which is the bodies of believers. The fact is that the human body (mostly water) is disposable, but it is very visible. We notice it even if it is both complex and fragile.  The reason for putting The Crown Jewels (The Gospel) in a human body/plastic wrapper is to display it, not to lock it up unseen behind walls and bars. In this way, the Gospel gets out and about in the world and can be easily examined and considered.

Carrying death around with us
St Paul, like some of us, was often perplexed at what God was doing to him through adversity and suffering - but he was not depressed about it, nor destroyed by it.  Why not? He was carrying about in him 'death' emotionally, physically and spiritually (The Cross). He had suffered a lot since meeting with Christ on the road to Damascus - beatings, marginalisation, betrayals by brethren, his own illness. Did he fully realise that he was there to serve God through his mighty letters? Nevertheless, he was also carrying 'life', the ever renewing inner life of the risen Jesus which meant that this 'death' was daily overcome by a tremendous living force: the power that raises the dead.

There is attraction in weakness
What does one see when one looks at someone competent, confident, handsome and strong?  We see them and their human glory.  When we look at someone who feels their frailty and admits it, we see the power of God in their life working to sustain them.  Our weakness is attractive because no one wants the Gospel preached to them by superman and superwoman. We are more convinced by people to share how the Gospel worked for them in their weakness.  It is 'evidence'.  

Evil turned to good
In 1993, a church in South Africa was blown up by a terrorist bomb.  Instead of the glorious outreach they had hoped for, the church suffered death and attack. It felt itself to be 'a plastic bag'.  But hundreds of people became Christians at the funerals of the dead and in the subsequent years, God turned evil to further good.  This revelation came via pain, just as the revelation of who Jesus was came through extreme pain. Jesus was glorified only on the Cross. The inner story of the Universe is that weakness leads to resurrection  and glory - which could be the story of many lives which overcome illness, grief and adversity through faith.  We are like bearers of the NT story, in our frail human bodies.

Melting snowman
So suffering is not 'our train derailed, and off the tracks'.  It is necessary preparation for Heaven and glory, for wholeness and full knowledge.  The body is like a melting snowman, with failing brain and physicality but as this deconstruction proceeds until we die in this world, we are step by step daily nearer to seeing the face of the loving and faithful One who walked through all this with us. That face belongs to Jesus Christ.

Photo - attribution
The Crown Jewels copyright 
By United Kingdom Government - Illustrated       
Magazine, 13 December 1952, p. 14. Copyright label: "CROWN                                                                                                                                               

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