Sermons

Sun, Jun 03, 2018

A new creation

Sermon for 170th Church Anniversary
Series:Sermons

Referring to the original founders of this church...

Roger Monk wrote...

in his secretary's annual report a number of years ago now:

"They were Baptists of the free English tradition, without the taint of fundamentalism"...

and...

"Without seeking the honour, the North Adelaide Baptist Church became known as the most liberal Baptist church in Australia".

It was out of that history and tradition that you called me to minister among you--

almost nine years ago now.

And, in his first annual report after I started, Roger noted:

"We have been shaken and we have been stirred...We are listening to sermons as, possibly, we have not done for many a year...We are questioning. We are thinking. No longer the platitudes of 'nice' or 'good', but the stirring words of 'challenging' of 'confronting' and of 'rousing'".

In that spirit, then...

and to mark this special occasion...

it seemed appropriate for us to do some thinking...

to hear and reflect upon that reading from Second Corinthians...

which-- 

according to a number of scholars-- 

is arguably one of the most theologically dense pieces in all of Paul's known writings.

His focus, here, is on the implications of the death of Christ.

He declares that Christ died for all--

that is, for all without exception or qualification--

which, Paul claims, means that all have died.

It's not that Christ died in our place as our substitute...

paying the penalty that we deserved--

a penalty that was demanded by an angry, vengeful God.

There's no sense here of what's known as "penal substitution"...

that is...

the "God-is-angry-at-our-sin-and-punished-Jesus-in-our-place-without-which-we-couldn't-be-forgiven" theology--

much beloved of so many churches today.

Rather, drawing on the way that the ancient Israelites understood sacrifice--

symbolically...

metaphorically...

sacramentally--

Paul claims that Christ died as our representative...

as, in a sense, a sign of our remorse...

as a pledge or commitment to put to death within us all that is unworthy...

all that is not of God.

And that, for Paul, is universally inclusive:

Christ died for all--

without exception or qualification.

That doesn't mean, of course, that all people know or recognise it...

that they accept it...

or that they appropriate it.

But for those who do recognise and appropriate it...

Paul claims that it means a completely new way of living.

Because, having died with him, we have also been raised with him.

Who we were is dead and buried.

Who we are now--

and who we will become--

is something entirely new.

Who we are, now, are people who are motivated by...

who live out of...

and who manifest... 

the love of Christ.

Who we are, now, are people who no longer regard anyone "from a human point of view".

In other words, recognising who we were and who we are now...

means that, for us, all worldly values and distinctions are rendered irrelevant.

They, too, are dead and buried.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ...

we are no longer bound by the stigmas and categories of our society and culture;

we are no longer bound by political allegiances and ideologies;

we are no longer bound by the constraints of status, privilege, and class;

we are no longer bound by constructions of race or ethnicity, gender or sexuality.

If we have died and been raised with Christ...

then we can no longer see anyone according to ordinary human ways of seeing or perceiving.

If we have died and been raised with Christ...

then we can no longer judge anyone according to ordinary human values;

we can no longer cling to our stereotypes or prejudices;

we can no longer take refuge in inherited beliefs and dogmas;

we can no longer engage with our world as we always have.

It demands of us a completely new, transformed way of life.

Nothing can stay the same.

 

And yet, in a sense, even that doesn't go far enough.

Paul wants us to understand just how comprehensive this change...

this transformation...

has been... 

and how radical it ought to become.

Thus, he suggests...

"If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away...everything has become new".

Note, he doesn't say, "if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation".

Rather, he says, "There is a new creation"...

or, literally, "It is a new creation".

If anyone is "in Christ"--

if anyone knows him- or herself to have died with Christ...

and to have been raised with Christ;

if anyone is immersed in Christ...

and immersed in his values and way of seeing;

if anyone is motivated by and shaped by the love of Christ--

then our whole way of being has changed...

or... 

it ought to change radically.

Indeed, Paul contends, everything has changed...

everything has become new.

If anyone recognises that he or she has died and been raised with Christ--

and strives to live and love as Christ does--

then it is, metaphorically, as if the world as we have known it has ceased to exist...

and a brand new creation has come to be.

Theologically...

metaphorically...

each act of faith...

each loving, Christ-like enactment... 

is an act of world re-creation.

 

And, overarching it all, Paul claims that this is also an act of reconciliation.

If, in Christ, a new creation has come into being...

then so too has a new relationship.

The past has, in a sense, been wiped clean.

We begin again.

We begin anew.

And that doesn't just apply to our relationship with God in an individual sense.

After all, "in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself".

If, in Christ, there is a new creation--

if we are reconciled to God--

then how we relate to God must be fundamentally new.

But, by implication... 

it also means that how we relate to each other must be fundamentally new...

and how we relate to the world... 

as a whole...

must be fundamentally new as well.

Or, else, we're not talking about a new creation.

In light of this, then, Paul asserts, "God...has given us the ministry of reconciliation". 

Given Paul's argument...

this is, perhaps, his definitive statement of what it means for us to be Church.

We are called to reconcile.

We are called to invite people into a new and re-newed relationship...

with each other...

with the earth...

and with God.

According to Paul, that is who we are;

that is why we exist.

Together, you are a new creation.

Be who you are.

 

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