This is my manuscript for my July 9 sermon on "How do we speak about the unseen God?" with the lesson coming from 2Corinthians 4:16-5:10?
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I don’t know if many of you know this, but I have a dog. Ananias is a three year old Olde English Bulldogge. When he stands, he is not quite knee-high to me, and when he sits, he can put his massive, drooling head on my lap.
There are several reasons that I wanted a bulldog, but one of the major reasons was his size. I have a lot of friends who have bigger dogs, Labs & German Shepherds, and even bigger dogs. I’ve seen what those dogs can do. They can take food off of counters and tables.
Ananias can get to stuff on the coffee table, which is how he destroyed a TV remote, but he can’t get to an end table or a table in the kitchen or dining room.
In fact, he can’t even see what is on them. While he will hop up onto a couch, jumping up onto a dining room or kitchen chair isn’t something he has mastered. There isn’t a large landing area for him, and the probability of the chair tipping over is high. He won’t hop up and put his paws on the chair because I’ve worked with him since he was a puppy not to jump up, simply because he could knock someone down.
But having never seen the top of the dining room table doesn’t stop Ananias from wanting whatever I put on the table. He can smell the food. He has watched me prepare it. He may have even sampled a stray scrap that wandered off between cutting board and stove top.
He knows there is something going on up there that he wants to be a part of. So he will sit next to me, looking hungry, adorable and malnourished. If that doesn’t work, he will lean against my leg. Not the gentle brushing that cats are capable of doing; no, imagine two fuzzy cement blocks leaning against your leg. Should that not result in Ananias receiving some food, he will put his head in my lap. And since he’s hungry, he will drool, which is one of the reasons I change into shorts or sweats before I sit down to eat at home.
While he writes well, I know he doesn’t understand how food is prepared, nor that some food that is good for people is not good for dogs, like chocolate or onions. He just knows there is something that he can’t see, but that he wants some of. It doesn’t become visible to him until I break down and share some of my dinner with him. He is confident that between his begging, and my love for him, he will be rewarded. He begs by faith, and not by sight.
That is what Paul is trying to explain to the church in Corinth in this part of the letter. You don’t have to see in order to believe.
Paul writes that for the faithful in Christ, life exists on two levels: there is the world we live in and the Reign of God. In our world is temporary, the Reign is eternal. Now, we live in earthly tents that can be destroyed; then we will live in an heavenly home. Now our lives cause us to groan under the burden we bare; then, we will be free of sin, strife and blessed with eternal life.
None of this is our work. It is the work of the Crucified and Risen Christ, who gave up his body and life for us, so that we may inherit his eternal nature. The Reign of Christ is the gift of grace, given by God, not to entice our goodness, but as a sign of the love God has for all of creation.
The problem is that all of what God has promised to us through Christ is out of our sight. It is promised for a day that is to come. It is on the table out of our sight.
We believe in these promises. We trust in these promise. We have faith in these promises, even if they are out of our sight. We trust in the beliefs we cannot see. We walk by faith, and not by sight.
That is good. That is right, but it is challenging.
The promises of God through Christ don’t come with a tangible receipt. We don’t receive a “Get Out Of Trouble” card. We don’t get a “Things Will Be Easy” pass. But we do have a “With You Always” guarantee. That guarantee is for now, in the good and the bad. That guarantee is forever, when the Reign is made manifest throughout the world.
And we wait to see what is on top of the table. AMEN.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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