If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
Wow! Did you hear that? In Christ there is a new creation! What a great promise to hear on this day! We have this great promise in scripture. With all the changes that are occurring, it can become easy to feel lost and uprooted. With all the changes that that are going on around us, it can be easy to become discouraged. But with the words from our Epistle reading for today, we can take comfort in knowing that what we currently see is not all there is. From the words of our epistle reading, we can be sure that in Christ, there is so much more: In Christ there is a new creation!
Now all this promise of a new creation sounds pretty wonderful, doesn’t it? But we really need to ask ourselves a question: “What does it mean to be a new creation?” In being a new creation, does that mean that what has happened before was in some form “bad?” Does it mean that what had occurred in the past was terrible and that now our life is going to be sunshine and roses? Does it mean that as long as we remain in Christ, that nothing terrible will happen? Or conversely, does it mean if we run into problems in life then we have been, in some form, unfaithful?
Well, the answer to all of those questions would be “no.” Being a new creation does not negate what had come before. Being a new creation does not mean that life is going to suddenly become all kinds of wonderful. Being a new creation does not mean that bad things will no longer happen. What it does mean, though, is that we are never apart from God’s gracious and abundant love.
The gospel reading for today is one that many of us are probably very familiar with. And at the risk of doing a major disservice to the reading, I want to boil it down to one point: The whole conflict in the story of the Prodigal Son is caused because the brothers have forgotten that the love of the Father is abundant beyond comparison. The younger brother wants his share of the inheritance because it might otherwise be gone; and the second brother is upset because he is afraid that the first brother is coming back to get even more of the inheritance. But the Father knows that they are both silly because the Father’s generosity is more than sufficient for both of the brothers.
When we seem to get caught in life is when we forget that there is an abundance of God’s love for all people. We believe that if God’s love is showered on some, then that leaves less for everyone else. The older brother thought that there would be less inheritance for him because the younger had already taken a big chunk and seemed to be back for more. But the Father was there to reassure him that not only was there enough for the younger brother, there was always plenty for the older brother too!
When we look at becoming a new creation, we need to look at it through the eyes of the generous, loving Father -- a Father that wants the best for his children. When we look at becoming a new creation, we need to look at this as something that has been in process since the beginning of time! When we look at becoming a new creation, we need to look at this as the greatest gift we could ever be offered! And in Christ we ARE a new creation!
Day by day we are being formed into a great work of art, an invaluable, precious gift! With each new sunrise, God’s promise of abundant life is once again renewed for each of us! With each new day, not only are we being created, those around us are also being created anew! And as a congregation, a community with Christ as our center, we continue to be formed for the work of God in the world.
Paul tells us in the epistle reading that we are to regard no one from a human point of view. We are not to regard the outer shell as all that there is. When we look out into the world, we are to look upon those who surround us, and upon ourselves too, with the eyes of God, the eyes that see everyone as wonderful works of art. We are to see all of humanity with the grace and compassion of God, the grace and compassion of the one that would send his own Son into the world to bring the world forgiveness. We are to look upon each other with the same grace and forgiveness, as we would wish for ourselves.
And when we do fall short of the mark, which we will do, we need to remember that we can always return home. Even though we may feel that we do not deserve to come back, we need to remember that the Father will have been waiting for us and will be there to greet us.
As we begin this time together, I pray that we can keep these points in mind. I pray that we can always remember that in Christ we are a new creation. Both as a congregation and as individuals, Christ is at work in each of us, using our pasts to bring us to this present, and finally forming us into wondrous creations. In Christ we are able to do so much more than we ever thought possible. In Christ, we are not as the world would see us, but ARE the wondrous creations the God would have us be.
And we also need to remember that no matter where we are, we can return home. The gifts of the Father are so much more than we could ever hope. God’s love is the “welcome” that we all want to hear, and the table is where we can still be fed.
And we need to remember that, like the older son, those who have stayed to take care of the Father’s estate, are no less loved by the Father and are called to celebrate with joy the return of those who have been gone.
We will be going through some times of transition. I am hoping that this will be a time of excitement, a time of insight, and a time of fun. But I am also guessing that there will be times of frustration, times of anxiety, and times of hurt. It is especially during these times, times when things are not going so well, that we need to remember that God is at work with us, making us into new creations. It is also at times like these that we need to remember that Christ is at work in those around us as well. We need to celebrate those around us as new creations. We need to give to others the grace and forgiveness we would hope for ourselves. As we give, we will grow.
This is a great time to be the church and it is a great time to be St. Swithins in the Swamp! I am excited to see what God has in store and I am excited to be traveling along with you! And in all things, we always need to remember, In Christ, We ARE a NEW Creation!