Delivered at Ames UCC
on June 19, 2016
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
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at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays
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At the heart of today’s passage from Paul’s second letter to his church at Corinth is the notion of reconciliation. The version we hear today, from
The Message translation, gives a clear definition:
God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them.
Reconciliation is the holy work of bridging divides, breaking down walls—whatever metaphor means the most to you to describe eliminating the divisions between people and holiness.
For Paul, the impetus to do this is Jesus Christ. He understands the execution and Easter mystery as God using Jesus as a scapegoat, in the most traditional sense of the word: Put all sins on Jesus then drive him out of existence.
And, for Paul, reconciliation is essential because Jesus will be back very, very soon. He’s less than 20 years out from Easter and certain to his bones that they need to be in the business of preparing for a massive, world-wide, collective, and final experience of God.
In the two millennia since Paul was building churches and creating this first Christian theology, as we have built churches and lived with that theology, we have developed other, equally valid, understandings.
You may remember that, last summer, I did a survey of our church and found we range from classic Pauline theology to “Jesus was a good, regular man to whom a bad thing was done and from whom we can learn to do better.” And we are not a church that places such an emphasis on a second coming of Christ. We name the constant risings of Christ in our midst rather than the cataclysm that Paul imagined.
I think there are at least two reasons for that. First, all predictions of the second coming have proved false. God’s time is clearly not our time. Second, we have plenty of cataclysms of our own that need to be reconciled. We don’t need to worry about one from on high.