First Mennonite Church
April 13, 2014
Living and Dying in Light of Easter Hope (II)
Text: 2Corinthians 5:1-10
1 For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Today, we are celebrating Communion and because of the very nature of this ordinance, we cannot avoid talking about something essential in the life of Jesus—his physical body. In Mark 14:22-25, Jesus indicated that the elements of the meal he offered his disciples were his body and his blood. Most sermons dealing with Communion explain the reasons why Jesus used the bread to symbolize his body and the wine, his blood. I have preached quite a few sermons on this topic in relationship to our practice as the body of Christ in the world.
But today, I want us to reflect on our body. For the next few minutes, let us watch two short video clips regarding the body. This is from Everence. Advice and Education for Adults. (To watch this video go to http://www.everence.com/showitem.aspx?id=12616)
We will watch sessions 3 & 4.
Our body and our identity
We are often characterized and identified by our personalities. Therefore, we say, “such and such is a quiet person while the other is an outgoing person.” Some people are characterized as very friendly, while others are characterized as anti-social. Yet, besides our personality by which so often we are identified, people know us by our physicality. We have physical features that make each of us the person who we are. We have a face that identifies us. Each one’s voice is unique. Our laughter is unique as is our signature.
We experience the grace of God not only in our spirit, but also in our body. We express God’s joy through our body and so we smile, laugh, or give a hug to someone. We give witness of God’s peace in us through our body language, thus we look relaxed or confident. And when we weep with the grieving, people perceive God’s compassion in us through our sympathy for others. When we worship God, our physical posture expresses our reverence towards God.
Paul compared the human body to jars of clay in which God has placed the marvelous treasure of the knowledge of his glory (2Corinthians 4:7). Paul was amazed at the great trust God has in us, that our low and perishable bodies are sort of safety deposit boxes where God places his treasure. People who own valuables put these in tempered metal boxes, or in a safety deposit box in a bank. But God places his treasures in an easy-to-break or already cracked clay jars, which are our body. Isn’t that really amazing!
Paul was also humbled by the knowledge that God makes of our body bearers of his might and grace despite our finitude and fragility. The vision Paul had about the human body is very interesting. To the modern man and woman, aging of the body is described in terms of degree of pain suffering, weight gain, increasing physical limitations, mental decline, wasting away of the body, or depth of wrinkles plus our age. Paul saw the wasting away of the body and the increasing physical limitations as everyday reminders of the death of Christ and our association with him. Paul did not care what people saw on the outside, he fully embraced his humanity with all its weaknesses and limitations.
Paul knew that through his body God was freely displaying the life and death of Jesus. Paul knew that through his aging body God displayed the beauty and glory of Jesus. Both the suffering and glory of Christ are made visible through his body (4:10b).
Through our physical lives the world gets visions of God’s glory, grace, and love. Through our daily interaction with others, the knowledge of the glory of God is made visible. God uses our body to display the nature of his goodness, glory, grace and holiness.
But the body is temporary. Each day we live, we are left with a fewer days. Each day we are given is a day we must give account for. In the text for today, Paul began by affirming the believers’ deep conviction about life. We live a life, which in part is lived out in the earthly and temporary tent, while the other part looks ahead toward the heavenly and permanent building. Our life in this temporal tent, which is the body, is filled with sighs, groaning and longing for the more permanent and eternal life in heaven.
And while we are living in this tent, we know we are away from the presence of the Lord. Paul says: Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.
It did not matter to Paul whether he lived or he went to be with the Lord. The foundation of Paul’s vision of life was not the visible things but his faith in Jesus. For Paul, life is guided by what lies ahead—we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ– thus he made it his goal to please the Lord.
Therefore, regardless of the brevity of life in the body and regardless of the fragility of our body, we should be fully aware that this short life in the body has a determining factor on what we will receive on that final day.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Today let us give thanks to God for giving us a wonderful body. Let us give thanks to God for making of our body his treasure box. Let us give thanks to God for displaying through our body the suffering and glorious life of Jesus his Son. Let us ask God to give us grace and wisdom to live each day making it our goal to please him alone. Amen!
 This video resource was made available to Mennonite congregations by Everence, thus its use rightful.