Pentecost 3 B 2021
2 Corinthians 5:1-10 ‘Looking By Faith to our Home’
In the Name + of Jesus
The campgrounds have opened up this weekend, at last. They are likely to be quite busy with thousands of people tired of being at home. Some of them will take their houses with them, so to speak; they have campers with all the amenities of home. But others will be roughing it, camping out in tents.
They won’t stay there in tents forever, especially if they are hit by a thunderstorm. Maybe for the weekend, maybe, for some, a week or two; but eventually folks want to get back to the full comforts of home – if they have a home.
A lot of people in our country, in our cities here, have decent homes, when you think about it. We may be tired of them, being cooped up from Covid, but we do really have a lot to be thankful for. God has given us peace in our country; possibilities and potential that aren’t available in a lot of places; prosperity, even if it isn’t always shared very equally. We have a pretty decent place to call home.
BUT IT’S NOT OUR HOME.
We may have lived here a long time. We may be hoping for quite a few more years yet. We may feel comfortable with the life we have been given. We may be looking forward to it getting better when the pandemic is done.
BUT IT’S NOT OUR HOME
It’s not our permanent home, our forever home; it’s not our eternal home. That is the Spirit’s Word to us through St. Paul today. St. Paul describes our whole life in this world, everything about it – our successes, our failures, our work, our families, our recreation, our vacations, our connections – the whole lot of it, as an earthly TENT.
A tent is not a place we think of living in for a long time. We feel regret and sorrow for those in our community who are roughing it in tents, especially in the wintertime. That makes us different from a lot of people in Paul’s day, and a lot in many places of the world in our day, who do have a tent as their only home in this world.
Yet even if an actual tent is not our full-time and only home in this world, where and how we live is still temporary and tent-like. All things in this world are temporary. Paul told us last week that: the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
What does this mean? Well, first off, there is some comfort in this truth for Christians, especially when Christians suffer. When the life in this tent is difficult, troubled with tragedies, or occupied with ill health, we have a strong urge to ask WHY? Why do we have to undergo such suffering in our lives?
There usually is no good, faithful answer to questions like that. But there is a word of hope and promise in our text today, namely this: For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. We have something better than all of this life, something more than all of this life, in and with our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are campers here in this life. We are pilgrims, sojourners, strangers. Our home is with the Lord. That’s why St. Paul says: We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. That reality is not meant to belittle the life we lead now. The fact that our HOME is in Christ, Who is already seated at the right hand of God, does not make this camping-trip life pointless.
Yet it does grant us some important comfort. Even if this life-in-the-tent is destroyed – even if our job goes down the tubes; even if the family we love is seeming less loveable; even if a pandemic sucks the joy out of life; even if our bodies wear out, or we don’t see healing coming for our disease – even then – if this tent-life is destroyed somehow – we have not just another tent to try, but an eternal HOME. We have a house – the Father’s house with many rooms, as Jesus tells us – a building from God, a life not built with human hands or human hopes or human dreams.
This is NOT ‘pie-in-the-sky’ talk here. Notice that Paul uses some pretty concrete terms. He describes what God has prepared for us in Christ as a building. In St. John’s vision in Revelation, he sees the New Jerusalem, a solidly built city – as the new HOME of the people of Christ. What God has prepared for us in our eternal future is SUBSTANTIAL. We will not float around in body-less souls. We will not be in some mystical nowhere-land. We come into the NEW CREATION, somehow like the original creation of God, but infinitely better – perfect, and kept in its blessed perfection.
One big change when we come to our Home, compared to our tent-life, is that WE will be different. We will be wholly made new in Christ, never to stumble, never to sin again. As we are changed in the resurrection, so will the shape of our life be changed.
God’s promise through Paul of a building not made with human hands is not fantasy. It’s solid. It’s real, more real than the transitory world we see right now. Nor is this something only about the future. Already now your life is hidden with Christ in God; already now you’ve been raised up with Him by faith in to the heavenly realms; already now, as Peter tells us, we have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade, kept in heaven for you, ready to be revealed at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And now already we’ve been given the deposit of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is at work in you now, forgiving you, daily drowning your old Adam, through repentance and faith making you Christ’s new creation. The Spirit is the down payment on this building that is yours in Christ; and the rest of the payments have been made by Christ also, when He announced all things new at the cross, saying It is finished!
Having the down payment of the Holy Spirit at work in us makes us forward-looking people, as Paul gets at when he says that while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened–not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
This groaning arises not only from the agony of the struggle of living; this groaning is not exactly the complaint of those who just can’t wait for this tent life to be over, because we can’t stand being here! In fact, there is much to commend this tent life of ours. This world is still the good creation of God – and thus it is beautiful in so many ways. We give thanks that our life is intriguing; we are ever learning and changing and growing, and we have callings to serve and love here in which God has placed us. We do take care of these bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. We do take care of the lives God gives us, being stewards of all of his gifts to us.
So the groaning Paul speaks of is not always a complaint about our tent-life – like we just want to get out of here; but rather it is a groaning that looks forward to home, a longing to be home, a desire to finally have what we were created and redeemed and sanctified to have.
On one hand, when our tent life causes us to sorrow, the promise of the building life from God gives us comfort. On the other hand, even when our tent life here is good, we are still longing for the fulfillment that we will receive in Christ.
In Newfoundland, when someone comes back home to visit family and friends there, they are welcomed as those who have come from away – that is, the island is still their home, even if they lived in Cambridge for 45 years. Newfoundland isn’t the new creation – yet – but that kind of longing is what we’re talking about. Not a groaning that we can’t stand being here in this camping trip world, but a great desire to be back home!
What does this mean for us?
First, Christians are not Gnostics. We don’t believe that only things spiritual are good, and things physical are bad, as if we hated this body God has created. We don’t believe that salvation means an escape from the body, back to some kind of ‘soul world’. We confess that the body is a good gift from God and that the new ‘building life’, the resurrection to the new creation, is in this body.
And, above all, our Lord Jesus Christ lowered himself into this tent life to be with us and for us. John 1:14 is literally translated: The Word became flesh and tented among us!
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and lived in a family in Nazareth, He purified our living and growing in our homes here; when Jesus ate and drank, He purified and hallowed our eating and drinking in this tent life; when Jesus loved and listened and cared and wept, He consecrated our loving and caring in this tent life.
Yet this tent-life of ours is always tainted, twisted, battered, and bruised by our sin, and by the sin of the world around us. The only way finally to purify and sanctify us and our lives was for Jesus to face what our sin deserves, to take our death unto Himself, so that He who cannot die since He is forever God, in the body of flesh did the impossible: Jesus died to bring an end to sin, and He rose to bring the new creation, the building life of God, into being for us.
Because Jesus is risen to life in the new creation of God, and because He has promised that all who cling to Him by faith will also rise out of this tent life into the mansions of our God, therefore we must confess that we still look for something more in Him – the building of God.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Since our HOME is already the building-life of God, we live as those who belong there! So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him. We live in this earthly tent as those who are, in truth, mansion-dwellers in Christ Jesus. We live by love, as those who will be judged righteous in Christ at His coming. We live looking by faith to our Home. Amen.