Come Together With All Your Heart
We are a community of G-d’s new creation.
I am not talking about the new construction smell of our worship space or the amazing new bathrooms just outside those doors. We are a community earnestly living in and anticipating the new creation promised to us by G-d in Christ Jesus. Every time a person is baptized, after accepting the unmerited grace of G-d, being claimed and named as a beloved child of our Creator, we are a community recognizing the newness that comes to all of creation as the baptismal waters flow off the recipients head.
We are a community coming together, setting our individual needs aside - an act contrary to what we often hear when people talk about a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” - to live into a life together grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our grounding in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection - especially Christ’s resurrection - is what binds us together.
Jesus’ resurrection makes us a community resurrection. Christ’s resurrection, overcoming the power and defeat of death, is what has made us able to live in the newness of what G-d is creating. Resurrection - which we anxiously look to - was and is divine transformation and renewed our relationship, humanity’s relationship, with our Creator.
G-d’s new creation cannot be achieved through individuals.
G-d’s new creation cannot be achieved through you or me.
G-d’s new creation cannot be achieved through the church.
Our failure to follow the commandments of G-d has made it impossible for us to reconcile ourselves, our community, and the world with G-d. We are entirely dependent upon the saving mercy of G-d in Christ - individually and as a community.
Our life as a community of resurrection is held together by the vows made at the waters of our baptism. I told our confirmands last week, what they will agree to in June, changes the way they will view the world and thus will change the world through the work G-d will do in them. To put it more bluntly, just before I told them the world would change through G-d’s work in them, I told them what they are learning during their time in confirmation is more important than anything else they would learn during the week.
Our baptismal vows direct us towards G-d’s presence and activity in the life of our community and our world. In this shift, we begin to see the newness of what G-d is doing throughout creation as we see more and more the activity and agency of G-d over our own.
As we begin to realize the newness of what G-d has done and is doing, we have the opportunity, as Israel did, to look back and forward. Joshua recounted Israel’s arrival into the promise land - anticipating the possibility of the future while also remembering how far they had traveled. The “disgrace of Egypt” would be remembered by Israel but it would not dictate their future. As a community they could look back, remembering the shame and pain of their bondage but shame and pain would not decide who they would become.
Shame and pain would not change their choseness by G-d.
Shame and pain do not change the choseness we receive in our baptismal waters.
Israel would set aside the shame and pain of bondage when they observed their first Passover Festival in the promise land. Their exodus from shame and pain began with the first Passover and now as they entered into a new land provided by G-d they celebrated who they were, and how far they had come.
As a community, they celebrated the past work of G-d and began to look forward to what G-d would do through them in this new land. In looking forward, they were renewed, made new as a community by G-d.
I know what you are thinking - Teer, you are all over the place - Creation, resurrection, community, Exodus, Passover - you forgot communion (I’ll get there). What does this have to do with Mount Olivet?
What does all of this have to with us today?
We live in the light of the empty tomb and not the shadow of the cross.
We are a community of G-d’s new creation.
We are a community of resurrection.
If we are to be a community of new creation, then we are a community earnestly seeking to extend and ask for forgiveness outside the walls of this building.
If we are to be a community of new creation, then we are a community earnestly seeking to extend Christ’s invitation to his table beyond the walls of this building.
Reconciliation with one another - which enables us to gather around Christ’s table - cannot happen without forgiveness. After all, if we have been reconciled to G-d by Jesus and G-d is no longer “counting people’s sins against them” then we are a community called to the same work. We are a community seeking reconciliation but without forgiveness, we cannot be reconciled to one another.
Forgiveness is the beginning of our lives together and the beginning of the reconciling world G-d has invited us to participate in. As Desmond Tutu put it, “Without forgiveness, there can be no future.”
Without forgiveness, we cannot be a resurrection community.
Without forgiveness, we cannot be a community of G-d’s new creation.
Forgiveness leading to reconciliation with G-d and forgiveness leading to reconciliation with one another.
The work of reconciliation turns us away from sin and towards G-d righteousness.
Just as repentance causes us to reorient ourselves towards the Kingdom of G-d, forgiveness and reconciliation reorient us toward the new creation of G-d we are a part of.
It is impossible for us to confess we love our neighbors and yet live divided from one another. It is a scandal to say we love our neighbors as ourselves and remain separated from those we claim to love. It is a scandal to say we love our neighbors as ourselves when we exclude and separate people from Christ’s body. The invitation to Christ’s table and the fullness of life in Christ’s body is open to all persons.
This is hard work.
This work requires intentionality.
This work requires us to act with humility, mercy, and grace.
The GoodNews is in our reconciliation with G-d and with one another, the starting point is the humility, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ. The starting point is the humility, mercy, and grace of G-d and not our own.
As we leave behind the “disgrace” of sin and separation, we begin to accept the innovation of Christ’s humility, mercy, and grace and experience the fullness of G-d’s new creation.
You and I, we, are not creating something new.
In fact, it is not about us.
None of this is about us.
Just like the older brother when the prodigal son returned, we find ourselves lurking in the darkness of the party the merciful and gracious father threw for the son who had been lost.
We think what about us?
What about me?
I have been faithful.
I have followed the Law.
We see in the new creation of G-d that forgiveness is always extended to us. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have been reconciled with G-d.
New creation is G-d’s business.
G-d has completed this work in and through Jesus.
G-d’s grace invites all of us, the entire community, to step out of the shadow of sin and separation and into the fullness of that which only G-d can create.