“The Spirit Lives”
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2, March 3rd, 2019
Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, Second Corinthians chapter three, verses twelve thru chapter four verse two.”
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.
4 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.
“Having heard this hopeful message from the Apostle Paul, let us now embrace its meaning as we continue our journeys of faith while serving the ministry of Christ.”
“The Spirit Lives”
One of the simplest of explanations to our lesson today from Paul’s Letter to the church in Corinth, so long ago, is that as Disciples of Christ, we are meant to allow the Spirit of Christ to radiate from us! We are to do this without hesitation! Once we have accepted Christ into our lives the power of the Living Holy Spirit ought to simply light up our lives and the lives of those around us! This is in direct contrast to how Moses, in the time before the coming of Christ, veiled his face so that the radiance of God’s light would not blind or frighten those around him. That attitude prevailed for a long, long time. We no longer follow in the example of Moses, but rather we follow in the example of Christ, whom came to shine a light into the darkness, not to hide it where it could not be seen. Consequently, our lesson is all about “Since then, through the power of the Spirit of Christ, “we have such a hope, we act with great boldness,” /2 Corinthians 3:12/
What does it mean to be bold? Last Sunday, I boldly told you of the teaching from the words of Jesus which proclaimed to us “we are to love our enemies!” Furthermore, we were taught the “Golden Rule” which tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. When we live into the teaching, we ought not hide the presence of God’s transforming light and power from those we interact with. Rather, we need to feel lifted-up as we allow the love of God to beam through our words and actions! This is what today’s lesson is about! Let others know that the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, lives within each one of us whom have come to know the love of God through Christ. If you have come to know God’s love, God’s glory and grace, if this is true for you, then you and ultimately, we, we need to open ourselves – allowing others to see the core of our faith – the depth of our belief in the Living God!
This coming week is pivotal in our dialogue of faith. Ash Wednesday, this coming Wednesday at noon and at six pm, we will have a service of communion and the distribution of ashes for those whom desire to receive them. Symbolically, we are shifting away from the lessons regarding the gift of the Christ Child, God incarnate; we are shifting our attention away from the time of Jesus’ preparation for his ministry. As we reset our focus, gazing into the coming celebration of Easter, to a time when we shall accept the joy of a Risen Savior, we must first ground ourselves in the man Jesus’ human life. In doing so we must accept his mortality just as we must accept our own. For it is only in our dying that we shall be lifted-up and raised from the grave, just as the Risen Christ did on that first Easter morning. When your pastor marks your forehead or the back of your hand with ashes, he will say the words: “from dust we came and to dust we shall return.” If we do not ‘mark’ this symbolic shift in this our annual journey, we shall miss the whole point of Easter. I invite you, unveil your faith and allow the light of your faith to shine through, so others will see the light of God shine forth from you.
‘John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes is a Bible commentary, (an interpretation of the Bible) that explains verse by verse the chapters and books of the Bible.’ When he speaks of today’s lesson he expounds, he explains how “To triumph, implies not only victory, but an open manifestation (display) of it.” /Westley’s Notes / He is affirming what we have already read. We ought not hide our faith, nor hide the transformations we have experienced or are now experiencing. Rather, we need to open ourselves to the gazes of others. And we ought to do this with confidence that God is with us every step of the way. We do not carry the ‘burden’ of Christ’s story and message. No, we are and we are being transformed into someone new; and we are and we are becoming willing, willing to be a light which lights up the darkness on behalf of the Holy One. The Christ whom has given us freedom from our humanness, and allows us to be, and to do things, which we before were not able to be or do. Thus, what we carry: is the love of God which propels us every forward, bringing the truth of God’s love to the ears and hearts of those who were living without hope.
Ash Wednesday shall move us into the forty days of Lent. As I say this, I want all of you, whom fact-check my references, we shall live into what forty days means in our liturgical calendar rather than critique the number of weeks excluding Sundays there are. A monumental event indeed. Mixed within this time period is our New Beginnings presentation this Friday evening. A time of reflection for us, to be sure, as the focus shall surround the report on this our beloved church by a consulting group. They have been charged with compiling a document which shall display our strengths and our weaknesses and a bit of history about these last one hundred and thirty years. Consequently, as a church, we shall spend much of this Lenten season reflecting on our faithfulness as a church, as-well-as our personal faithfulness as individuals; as Lent implores and beseeches us to do. For the demands of a true Lenten journey are meant to prepare us for our journeys of faith as individuals, as-well-as an institution!
Our scripture today offers us a meaningful way to begin our preparations for this time of discernment as a church and as individuals. Back in the last part of the first Century, Christians whom openly displayed their faith were persecuted. We live in the Twenty-First Century, we live in the United States of America, a country built on the premise of ‘Freedom.” Freedom to practice our faith without fear of being persecuted. Wars have been fought so that this concept of the USA lives, and people still refer to us as “The land of the free!” They do… don’t they? Looking around and reflecting on our opportunities to freely serve the people of God is a privilege that we modern Christians have. Let us take time, during this interval, to reflect on how well we are serving the people of God. And let us consider areas where we may find we could strengthen our ministries; as we strive to reach more of God’s children, more of God’s people, within our circle of influence. Let us take this time of discernment to consider how we might reinforce our relationship with those whom are our neighbors, thereby strengthening their understanding of “the Riviera United Church of Christ” as a church that cares for and about – all of God’s children.
The Geneva Bible has notes written by John Calvin, John Knox and Miles Coverdale. One of their notes makes this observation regarding our scripture this morning. “Christ said unto his own, “You are the light of the world”, whereas he himself alone is the light.” /Geneva Notes/ The point here is reminding us that although we are charged to carry the story, the teachings and the ministry of Jesus to others, we must always remember we are the conduits, the channels of Christ’s grace, mercy and love, not the source. By being reminded, by reminding ourselves of this, as we discern our roles, this will keep us humble and in line with the attitude of ministry which Jesus sets for us to endorse.
Today, as we celebrate communion together let us remember the man Jesus who humbly gave his all for our sake. Let us be reminded that he promised us his Spirit to propel us as we continue forward in his ministry. And may we never forget, that on the cross he forgave his enemies, saying: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Today, we also celebrate our good fortune in that our recent land sale paid off our mortgage and gave us a prudent reserve to see us through potential emergencies and upcoming needs. This has left us in a new position to re-evaluate our abilities to serve and minister to others – as God has called us to – and has envisioned us to be.
Bill Green in his writing “Made in the Image of God” speaks to us, saying “When Jesus enters our heart, he brings the renewing image of God. We are re-clothed with what Adam and Eve lost; we are re-clothed…” /Bill Green/ The Riviera United Church of Christ, RUCC, has one hundred and thirty years of history. Beginning today and moving forward, we have been given a new opportunity to renew and refresh the ministry of this open and welcoming, this friendly, family-oriented church. Let us rejoice and fully live into our future!