For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 (NRSV)
I wonder, have you ever planted something from a seed? Maybe a flower or a vegetable? A bean in a cup or grass out in your yard. If you have, could you tell by looking at the seed what the plant was going to look like? Maybe if you have planted that kind of seed before, you could identify, let’s say, a pumpkin seed because of it’s size, or a morning glory seed because of its shape. But can you tell what the plant is going to look like by looking at the seed? No. Because the seed itself doesn’t resemble the plant. The seed is a different color and shape and size, and it doesn’t have leaves or stems or blossoms like the plant does.
Now, in order for the seed to grow, we need to dig a hole and plant it. Then we need to water it and give it lots of sunshine. But by planting it, we are burying it, aren’t we? And if we really think about it, the seed has to die or come to an end, for the plant to grow. Doesn’t it? But do we feel sad for the seed? No, because we are excited for the plant that will grow from it. So just like in today’s scripture reading, the plant becomes a new creation. Everything old (the seed) has passed away; see, everything has become new!
As we continue to talk about new creations, I wonder if anyone would be interested in coming forward to build some new creations for us up front. You see, we have a few piles of Legos and quite a bit of space for people to make several new creations. So, if you are interested, you are more than welcome to come up and create!
Okay, so when a seed grows into a plant, it is a new creation. And when Legos are put together, they too build a new creation, because they go from being individual pieces to being some kind of a structure. Maybe a house or an airplane, a cross or a unicorn. But what about people? Can people be new creations? Well, folks, this is the exciting part of today’s message, because what Jesus was really talking about in today’s scripture wasn’t seeds or Legos, but it was people.
Friends, as followers of Jesus, we are all made new. Now I don’t just mean when we when we are born. No, as followers of Jesus, we become new creations all the time! Think about it for a minute. Do you look the same and talk the same and think the same as you did five years ago? No, because you continue to grow and learn and change.
Friends, Jesus calls us in new directions all the time, filling us with new ideas and passions to share with the world. And the best news of all is that even when we make mistakes, which we all do at one time or another, or when we start traveling down the wrong path, or when we when we say things and do things that aren’t the best for us or for our neighbors,; Jesus helps us to start again to become something and someone stronger and better.
The one thing that we all need to understand, however, is that though Jesus makes us a new creation and always gives us a chance to start again, and again, and again, it’s not something that happens magically or something that happens without our input. Sure, we can be surprised by the new creation that we become, but it doesn’t happen without us making a conscious choice or a decision or finding the courage to say that we were wrong and to step forward in a new direction.
My friends, we become a new creation because God has given us strength and insight. Because through our faith, we begin to see the world through a different lens, and we long for a new way of living. Now, some changes can be small, but other times when we truly follow Jesus and strive to live out our faith, we find ourselves in amazing situations, doing things we never dreamed of doing. Yet somehow, we find the strength and courage to do them. They may not all be easy, but as Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Nothing worth having comes easy.”
For the last two days, I have been in Springfield, MA, at our denomination’s annual conference meeting. Over the past several years, there has been considerable work that has been done in imagining new ways to be the church and how we can strengthen our local churches and faith communities. The reality is Christian churches are closing their doors every day because the church is no longer relevant in many people’s lives. Old models and old ways of being church are simply not feeding today’s families. So, we need to search for new ways of being and doing in order to continue sharing the stories of Jesus and making new disciples. But friends, don’t worry, because this is nothing new. The disciples started the idea of church just after the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and the church has grown and morphed and changed drastically in the past two thousand years. Sure, many traditions are carried on, but new life is always being breathed into the church, and it is it constantly being refreshed and reformed into newer ways of being.
As a result of several votes that were taken yesterday, with delegates from more than six hundred churches, our denomination, the United Church of Christ, has stepped forward to organize a progressive Christian voice. Not only will the Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut conferences be joining into one “tri-state” conference, but we will be connecting with other Christian denominations that share our progressive values on topics like racial and economic justice, climate change, and a warm and inclusive welcome for all.
Now, I can see many amazing new creations have been made with our Legos this morning, and I want to thank all of our creators. Builders, I’m going to invite you to take a few minutes to finish up your work and then to head back to your seats, okay?
Folks, we need to remember that not all new creations come together as quickly as our Lego structures have today. Sometimes, change takes time. That’s why we need to be patient with ourselves and those around us. We need to keep searching for new possibilities in our individual lives and in the life of our beloved Oldtown Church. We need to continue to strive to find new ways to share the good news of Jesus as we carry out the great commission that says: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
My friends, Jesus tells us what to do, but he never quite tells us how to do it. He leaves that part up to us. But he does assure us that he will always be with us, until the very end of the age. And that, my friends, is very good news.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, think about the new possibilities that you might begin to imagine for our church or for your own individual lives. Are there things that we might build, or organize, or care for? Do you have a thought or a dream that you would love to see come to fruition? My friends, God works among us in mysterious ways, and we are constantly being made new. So what choice or decision or steps might you need to make to follow God’s Call? Just remember, God doesn’t always call the equipped, but God always equips the called!
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen!