Sunday 10th June – 9am Worship
Sermon Series: Radical Hospitality
Theme: Radical Hospitality – A Biblical Narrative
Bible Readings: Genesis 18:1-10
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Over the past month, I have started doing something that I whilst I have done many times throughout my life, I have not done for a very long time. My family and I are starting to pack up a house in preparation for our move to Turramurra later in the year.
Who has ever been through this process – packing up an entire house into boxes only to unpack them somewhere else? Who has been lucky to not have to do that? (Well at least not in a long time?)
The hardest part for me is not the packing – but the sorting. What things to you take? What things do you donate to the flea market? What things do you chuck … it is hard … especially as we have accumulated 14½ years of raising children and all the memories, favourite toys, bits and pieces, art projects and stuff that comes with that. Some of the things are easy to throw away … but some things are hard to let go of.
But that is life, isn’t it? We seem to be living in a world of constant change and we are trying to adapt the best we can to embrace the opportunities of the new while keeping some links to our past.
Paul in our reading from 2 Corinthian also uses this imagery of old and new to talk about our faith and relationship with God. In verse 15 Paul gives a one sentence summary of what discipleship is, what it means to be a follow of Jesus…
[Jesus] died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Jesus who died for them and was raised again.
That’s not a bad summary, is it? Jesus gave his life for us – and the forgiveness and reconciliation with God that comes through the cross and resurrection – and in return we now live for Jesus. But Paul in the well-know verse 17 goes a step further. In making this decision – to live for Jesus, to commit to the way of Jesus – this decision changes us.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation: The old has gone, the new has come!
Our old life without Jesus has finished and our new life with Jesus has come. Agree? Amen?
Yes … but I think it is more than that. Paul is not just saying that our “status” has changed – our old status of “enemy of Jesus” and changed to “friend of Jesus” – but something within us has changed. If anyone is in Christ – it is transformative. WE CHANGE. We do things differently. We think differently
Verse 16 says, “So from now on we regard no one from a world point of view”. We used to think that way, but no more. Romans 12 talks about a “transforming of the mind”. Jesus changes the way that we think. Would you agree?
Verse 12 says that our old way of thinking would take pride in what people can see – the outward appearance – but we now think in a new way … more focused on what is in the heart … or what’s in God’s heart. Our old way of thinking might have been dominated by how to succeed or win or how to put down others … but our new way of thinking is fired up about justice and mercy and walking humbly with God.
Can you see – the NEW is much more than our decision to be in Jesus … when we are in Christ, we are not the same anymore … we are changed. We are a new creation!!! The old has gone, the new has come.
This is true with our faith … but I just said before, that life is not quite the same. I can’t apply this biblical truth to my task of moving homes, can I? Moving to the new home doesn’t mean that we throw away everything that was in the last home and buy all new stuff … although Marion and the family seem to be ok with this idea???
Today we are celebrating the new things that God is doing here at Turramurra Uniting. In the AGM meeting happening straight after the service we are going to be hearing about 5 new initiatives that are moving forward as a result of our Vision and mission planning days. It is an exciting time … the new is coming, but does that mean we need to leave behind everything that is old? No, I don’t think so. So then how do we apply this idea of “a new creation” to our church?
I think that another helpful passage of scripture that talks about the “new” is Isaiah 43:18-19. You have your bible’s and devices here. Could someone read that for me?
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
Ok … maybe we do need to forget everything old and embrace the new thing?
Actually – I think here that the ancient Hebrew that this was written in is more helpful than the English. The ancient Hebrew word that the NIV translates for “forget” is זָכַר (zaw-kar) which is better translated as “do not build a memorial” or “do not constantly reminisce about”. My faithful Good News Translation says, “Do not cling to the past” … and I think that is closer than “forget”.
The Hebrew people were people who honoured their history. They would tell stories all the time of the past. So the idea that God would tell them to “forget” the past just doesn’t make sense. Rather, I think that God was saying to them not to cling to the past, not to be so focused on what has been that you miss the new thing that is happening.
Jesus himself said that when he told the parable about ploughing a field (Luke 9:62). You can’t do it looking backwards, but looking forward. When Jesus was asked in Matthew 5:17 whether he was going to abolish the old law – out with the old and in with the new – Jesus said that he was not abolishing the past but fulfilling it. The old is super important … but don’t miss the new that is happening because you are only focused on the old.
Can you see what I am saying here? God is doing a new thing here at TUC. But that is not about throwing out everything and starting again … but it is about making room for the new things to happen. Jesus in John 15 talked about how the farmer might have to prune back the established green leaves on the vine to allow room for the fruit to grow? What might God be calling us to “prune” back a little to make room for growth?
Jesus in Mark 2:21-22 advises against putting new wine in old wineskins. I once heard a sermon about how this relates to the paradigm or way of thinking that we have. You can’t just run new ideas or new initiatives in a church were the paradigm or way of thinking has not changed – because you are risking the bursting of those new initiatives.
Maybe we need to remember the wisdom of our past, learn from those who have faithfully brought us to this point, but at the same time be willing to adapt or renew our thinking or structure or budget or whatever to best encourage and accommodate the new things that God is doing.
God is doing a new thing!
I’ll finish with one last point. A wonderful illustration I found about how we can best embrace the new thing that God is doing. The writer was suggesting that she struggled with the word “new”… she didn’t like things that were new. New things were unknown, they were risky … she much preferred to stay with the old. Old was safe. And yet, she knew that God was calling her into something new.
She was reading her bible and she came across a word that was more helpful to her. Psalm 104 talks about how the Spirit of God renews creation. Renew. For her it was not about something completely new but rather the Spirit takes what is old and uses it to make something new. Renew. Other words came to her mind – renovation, restoration, refreshing, rejuvenation – but it was this word renewing that was most helpful to her and helped her embrace the new thing … or the renewing … that God was doing in her life.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation … or renewed creation!
God is at work here at TUC and we are just about to hear some exciting stories of this in our AGM. And as God leads us forward may we hear the challenge of today for our church:
- How do we make room for the new thing that God is doing – whilst honouring but not clinging to the past?
- Do we need to do to be encouraging and empowering of the new ideas and initiatives?
And at the same time may we hear the personal invitation from God to not only renew this church – but to renew our lives too.
God is doing a new thing.
Do you see it?
It is happening already.