Saturday, February 18, 2012

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 - Sermon - Walking the Walk Part III


2 Corinthians 4:3-6
Walking the Walk: Part III
02-19-12

Today is Part III of this Walking the Walk sermon trilogy.  Two weeks ago we heard from Paul who told us to respect the otherness of people to gain as many as possible for Christ.  Last week we learned we have to be training to be fit as Christians in order to run the race of life that is in front of us and that no matter what we keep moving forward.  Today, on Transfiguration Sunday, we once again hear from Paul but this time from 2 Corinthians.  Here we get another image.  The first week it was an image of a chameleon and last week it was a sports analogy.  This week though we get a lot of talk about light.

There is a lot of discussion about how many letters Paul actually wrote to the Corinthians.  It seems that Paul carried on a lot of correspondence with the churches he started in Corinth.  He wrote at least four different letters, maybe more.  Depending on what scholar you talk too, the passage we read today comes from Paul’s forth letter to the Corinthians.  Some say it may be his third but it depends on whether you believe Paul’s letter of tears is part of what we are reading now or a missing third letter that we don’t have in our Bible.  Which if that is the case it would be Paul’s third letter and not his fourth.  Most scholars believe that this is actually his forth letter to the Corinthians though but we don’t need to get caught up in that debate today. 

Today we need to concentrate on what Paul is telling the people of Corinth and if it has anything to do with us.  There are two basic sections of this piece of scripture.  Verses 3 and 4 talk about those on the outside of the faith and verses 5 and 6 talk about those who are in the inside of the faith, or us believers.  Let’s first look at what Paul says about those on the outside.

Paul says that the gospel is veiled from those who don’t believe it.  Those who don’t believe it are so blinded by the gods of the world that it keeps them away from seeing the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ.  It seems like Paul is saying that anyone who doesn’t understand the Gospel isn’t saved.  They are all still outsiders and only the insiders know what the gospel looks like under the veil.  This seems a little harsh for our modern sensibilities but Paul doesn’t really pull any punches.  In Paul’s time this linear argument makes sense.  It is simply a standard way of presenting an argument.  If this is true then this is true.  The most logical conclusions are the answer.  But that seems really black and white.  We live in a very gray world.  Not everything is black and white.  Hard and fast lines that are drawn in the sand tend to be erased very easily.  So how do we deal with this part of the passage as modern day followers of Jesus Christ?

Let’s take the phrase “god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.”  This is very relatable in our current society.  How many people in here are on Facebook?  How many use Google as their usual search engine on the internet?  How many have no clue about what I am talking about?  Well for those who spend time on either of these sites you may not realize that your world might actually be getting smaller.  The idea behind the internet is to have the world at your finger tips but the reality is through certain algorithmic filters that sites like Google and Facebook use the world actually may be smaller than it use to.

Let me explain a little bit more.  Eli Pariser gave a TED Talk in 2011.  If you haven’t heard of TED it stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  It is a place where ideas are worth spreading.  They have a fabulous website that has thousands of TED Talks about all kinds of subjects.  In the eleven minute talk that Pariser gave he goes on to explain what happened on his Facebook page.  He calls himself more liberal but likes to talk and interact with people who are conservative and moderate in their political views as well.  But he started to notice that his more conservative friends were disappearing from his Facebook News Feed.  What was happening was that he tended to click on status updates and website links of his more liberal friends.  So Facebook, without consulting him, started to weed out the more conservative friends from showing up on his news feed.  Have you ever wondered why you haven’t heard from some of those friends you have on Facebook?   Facebook might have decided they weren’t worth your time in seeing what was happening with them.

Google does the same thing.  Google looks at 57 different factors (whether you are logged in or not) to specifically tailor your search results.  That means if I site down at my computer and you sit down on yours and you on yours and we all search for the same thing, we will all get a different looking search page.  Google looks at what we usually click on, where we are in the world, what computer we are on, and what our browsing history is and then custom makes our search answers.  When asked about this Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, said this, “A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”  Paul says, “The gods of this age have blinded the minds of the unbelievers.”  The gods of this age, known as Facebook and Google tell us what we want.  They are limiting our vision to the rest of the world and we may not even know it.  How can we access information about the rest of the world when these filters are up?  How can we know and see God in our midst when our comfortable little world with all our interests, our likes and our loves are tightly around us?  How do we see the glory of God in Jesus Christ who was high on a mountain top far away from our comfort zones if we cannot escape what makes us feel comfortable?

The second part of this text talks to those of us who are believers.  Paul says, “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”  So right after Paul gives us some characteristics of the unbelievers, those who have no clue about the gospel, he gives us guidance on how to preach.  Yes, I used the right word there.  I said us and not me.  We all are preachers.  In confirmation class this week we talked about when we become members of the church we are all ministers of God’s work in this world.  That means that each of us have the responsibility to go out and preach the gospel.  We all have the responsibility to walk the walk of faith by proclaiming, preaching, teaching, reaching others for the sake of the gospel.  We ALL have the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the world.  Are you getting it, we ALL have this responsibility. 

Now some are called to do it weekly at a certain gathering of believers in a building that holds a number of people sitting in uncomfortable benches until those said people are soundly asleep.  Others are called to televise their talks to millions of people who were stopped on the channel because they can’t stand to watch fishing shows or political pundits talk.  These are people we usually think of when the think of ‘preachers.’   But we all are.  So let’s talk about how to become a good preacher.

Before we get there though let me remind you of this light.  This is a 1000 watt work light I use in my garage when I’m working on a car or something.  It provides a ton of light.  When Peter, James and John followed Jesus up the mountain on the day of Transfiguration I don’t think they thought they would be starring into such a bright light. But there, on that mountain top, Jesus turned a brilliant white.  Some gospels said that his face shown like the sun.  Kind of like this.

Now light is a familiar illustration or analogy that is used when we talk about faith and God.  We talk about Jesus being the Light of the World.  During Christmas Eve we talk about this light coming to the world to get rid of the darkness of sin.  Here Paul refers to light around five times in these four verses.  It is common and we are familiar with it.  I like this physical reminder of this light because when I turn it on we have to avert our eyes.  It is painful to look directly at which is exactly what it was probably like for the three disciples up there on the mount of Transfiguration. 

We as Christians should be sharers of this light.  Good preachers are to point to the light and show it in our midst.  But that is not always the case.  Sometime when we preach we do this.  We stand in front of the light.  Yes others know it is on but there is something between them and the light, me or you.  When we make the light about us it is not effective.  This is why Paul says “for what we preach is not ourselves.”  We love to talk about ourselves and there are times when I am sure I have mentioned myself more than I mentioned Jesus when I stand up here.  Our culture of self-made men and women enjoy talking about ourselves and what we can do or what we cannot do.  We tend to make church about us or me or I instead of them or Him.  Paul says we need to get out of the way of the light and we need to truly preach about Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as servants of Jesus. 

Do you know where a servant would stand in relation to this light?  Behind it.  Or they would become so transparent that the light would shine right through them.  That is our goal as followers of Christ.  That is how we can perfectly walk the walk.  We learn how to live our life as such a servant to Jesus that Jesus’ glory shines right through us.  We know people like this and there are some in this church right now.  They have such a heart for Christ that Christ’s light just beams through them.  We are affected by these people because we are moved by the light that shines through them.  It isn’t them but Christ that moves us, inspires us and calls us out to live better lives.

My mom use to have one of those make-up mirrors.  I recently saw some of them at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  They have a circle of light and in the middle there is a mirror.  On side is just a regular mirror but when you flip it over there is a 10X zoom mirror on the other side.  Bored one day, I looked into one of those mirrors to bring up memories of my childhood.  I was scared to death at what I saw.  I really do not want to see what my nostrils look like magnified by ten.  My pores look like the size of pot holes and my nose hair the size of oak trees.  I realized for the first time that I was growing dark hairs on top of my nose not just in it.  I do not see how anyone can have a good sense of their own body image if they look at one of these things all the time. 

But that is the difference between the light we create and the light from the Creator.  The light we create illumines our world.  We can see where we are, where we are going and what we look like.   But it only shows us what we look like on the outside.  It is still that veiled interpretation of who we truly are.  But the light that comes from the Creator, the light found on the mount of Transfiguration, the light from the Son of God Jesus Christ comes from within.  That light shines through us and shows the world more about whose we are than who we are.

What we as Christians need to realize is that most of the time we need to get out of the way.  When we get out of the way we can free God’s light to transform the world.  There is too much in this world that blinds people from God’s glory.  When we get stuck in our own little cozy world we would never make a journey up to the mountains.  Yet if we walk the walk of our faith, then we can let the light of God’s glory shine out of our souls and into the world to transform the world.  All we have to do is get out of the way.

And all God’s people said…Amen.

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