Sep 3rd: Reconciliation, with Rev. Tyler McQuilkin.
A Part of the Series:
Reconciliation with Rev. Tyler McQuilkin. Series: One Thing A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21.
Join Tyler as he explores the biblical understanding of reconciliation as a reality achieved through Christ. We respond to this grace not to gain salvation, but out of gratitude. Our imperfect efforts to live out reconciliation are met with fresh grace daily and we are called to participate in Christ’s ministry by becoming reconcilers ourselves.
If you’ve been at worship at all this summer, you might know that our sermon series for the summer, while Stephen has been on sabbatical has been titled The one thing where we have had guest preachers from our community share the one thing, the one message that they think is important and worth sharing to help us live creatively and compassionately in our complex world. I’m grateful for the different preachers that I have heard and have been challenged and encouraged by their messages throughout this summer. Today, my message with this one thing prompt will focus on a theme common in most Christian circles, I’m going to talk on reconciliation, and how we might live our lives in light of reconciliation. If you have been to worship in this church, First Presbyterian, or in plenty of other churches out there, you are probably familiar with this term reconciliation. But we don’t always define our terms and what we mean when we say we are reconciled. So today, I want to take some time to talk about reconciliation, and how we can live into reconciliation each and every day. Our Scripture today comes from Second Corinthians chapter five, verses 14 through 21. And here Paul writes, 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 the one who for their sake, died and was raised. 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 no longer know him in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation, everything old has passed away. Look, new things have come into being. All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the reconcile the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ. Since God is making this appeal through us. We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, God made the one who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Let’s pray. Holy God, we come before you once again in front of your open Word. Do Now what only you can do. And let us hear Your word and become more fully alive in Christ. Amen. Reconciliation is a theme common in the church and our society today. Every Sunday in worship, we have the prayer of confession, the assurance of pardon, and then the passing of the peace of Christ. If you’ve been in worship with us in person, you will often hear me or another pastor, say something along the lines of us being reconciled to God, and having peace with God and others. And then we say, let us now practice this peace by sharing a sign of Christ’s peace with those around us. Then we go around and share a sign of Christ’s peace to the people in the pews next to us. This is common language in our worship. But what does it mean when we say we have been reconciled to God? Whenever I’ve been in classroom discussions, or even reading a book filled with difficult terms, or ideas, I usually have a piece of paper with me with each term and its definitions so that way, I can better track the points being made. So before we get too far into this message, I want to define how we understand reconciliation. In the church context. Reconciliation is simply understood as peace between God and humanity that has been brought about through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. So with this understanding of reconciliation, today, I first want to look at a question about God’s reconciling work in Christ. And then, based on how we understand that question, we will think about what it means for our lives today to be reconciled with God 2000 years after Christ. The question I want to ask this morning is Did Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection? Resurrection? Make reconciliation a reality for everyone? Or did he only make reconciliation a possibility for for everyone, and it is up to each individual to decide whether or not they want to become reconciled to God. Now, depending on which branch of the church you ask this question to, you will get a number of different answers. Perhaps the most common understanding, especially I think, in the modern era in America, is that Christ made reconciliation possible for everyone. But having faith in God is required to put us into a reconciled relationship with God. Now, there are plenty of verses and passages in Scripture that can support this interpretation. But when we think about reconciliation in these terms, it is easy to see how reconciliation is a possibility offered to us. But then reconciliation doesn’t become a reality until we do something about it to actually be in a peaceful relationship with God. It ultimately puts the decision in each person to decide. In this way, reconciliation is possible for us. Because if we choose to have face faith, then something else happens to us to be reconciled. I’m sure many of us have heard the Gospel story told in this way. The other way this question might be answered is by saying that Christ’s life, death and resurrection has made reconciliation a reality, not just for humans, but for the whole world. If reconciliation is a reality, then nothing about our status changes if we have faith or not, we do not all of a sudden come into good terms with God and gain reconciliation. Instead, reconciliation is the core truth of our lives. And faith is simply a response to this reality and claim on us. In his second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul writes that in Christ God was reconciling all the world to God. This language of reconciliation as a reality, or a universal truth, is not limited only to this passage either. Paul writes about it in several of his other letters to the churches in Rome, Ephesus, and Colossi and other letters in the New Testament, written by other authors, other than Paul, also speak of reconciliation in this way. And Romans, Paul writes that while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his son. And in the letter to the Colossians, Paul again writes that through Jesus, God was pleased to dwell and reconcile all things to God. So returning to that question asked earlier, is reconciliation, a reality or possibility? According to these passages from Paul, as well as just looking at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, reconciliation is a reality we already live in. There is nothing we can do as humans to change that. We don’t become reconciled to God by having faith or by conforming to a certain set of beliefs. No, we became reconciled to God 2000 years ago in Christ. So if reconciliation is a reality, and there’s nothing we can do on our end, to be reconciled to God, you might be asking yourself, what do we do? What is the point of having faith? What is the purpose of participating in a church? You might wonder why you try to live a good moral life of faith. If that doesn’t change, any way that doesn’t change your status in any way with God. These questions are essentially asking if our response to Christ’s reconciling work matters. In our passage today, Paul writes that our response does matter. But not a response that signs off on these certain beliefs or joining one specific church that has it all figured out.
Now, in verse 20, Paul says, our response to the reality of reconciliation is to just be reconciled, and to take up this ministry of reconciliation that Christ has given all of us. For Paul, the response in faith matters, but not as a way to save ourselves. because our faith is how we respond in gratitude to God’s love and reconciliation, and how we participate in Christ’s work. Now, keep in mind, the author of this letter, the apostle Paul, lived into this reality of reconciliation better than most people in history have. He believed that Christ reconcile reconciled the whole of creation to God. But he didn’t think that let him off the hook at all. He dedicated the rest of his life to this ministry, caring for churches, writing them letters, and traveling all throughout the Mediterranean world for the sake of this message. In those years, he was beaten, imprisoned and mocked. But he knew he was responding to the grace of God in a way that used his strengths, to continue Christ’s ministry. So as Paul had this call to share this message all over the Mediterranean, we are also called to be reconciled and to be reconciled errs in our own place and context. Where God calls us is different. The gifts and the strengths we have differ. But the particular and the particular ways we practice reconciliation in our lives will look different from person to person. But the general call to be reconciled, and to take up Christ’s ministry of reconciliation is the same for all of us. So our response to this grace matters. Again, not because it changes our status with God, or makes us a better person than the people that have not responded. No, our response matters because it is how we live into the people we truly are, who we truly are in Christ. In the words of the theologian Adam neater faith does not make reconciliation real. It is how we say yes, and how we embrace what is already real in Jesus. During my last semester of seminary, we received an email one day informing students, faculty and staff, that each week, we could swipe our student our ID card to receive one free meal, which was good for any day of the week, they asked everyone to fill out a survey on what day of the week, we would plan to redeem our free meal, just so that way they could plan to prepare the right amount of food with the inevitable increase in people using the dining hall each day. But even then, if you couldn’t eat your free meal on the day, you initially signed up for one week, you could still swipe your card on a different day and get the free lunch that you did nothing to earn. Before this email was sent to us, I rarely ate in the dining hall, I would either bring a lunch from home, go home to eat lunch, or most days, I would just skip lunch and be pretty hungry by the end of the school day. So this email was a welcome surprise for me. One day, I was walking in to the busy dining hall and bumped into a friend of mine in the line. This was about two months into the new weekly free meal program. As my friend and I were just talking about our classes and plans for after graduation, I asked him if today was the day he gets his free meal. And he looked at me probably more confused than I have ever seen anyone and quickly asked what I meant by this free meal. He had no clue that the program existed. So I explained the whole process of how the seminary sent an email letting us know about this program, how they asked us to sign up for a specific day to receive the free meal, and how each of us would have the meal credited to our student ID card each week. Naturally, he was surprised that that he had not read that email or heard anyone else talk about it for months. What surprised him even more though, was that after we moved through the line and received our food, he just decided to try swiping his student ID card to see if he would get the free meal. Neither of us were confident that he would have the credit on his student account since he missed the initial window to sign up for his day. But lo and behold, the cashier swiped his student card. And sure enough, the credit was on his account and he was able to cash in and receive His free meal for that week and every week for the rest of our time in seminary. This This is how it is with our reconciliation to God. And the gift that God gives us all is so much better than a free meal each week, we have all been reconciled to God, like my seminary ID card, this is already credited to our accounts, without us doing anything to receive it. There is nothing any of us can do to change that reality. Some people might hear this reality and for whatever reason, choose not to live into it. Others might hear this and respond by participating in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. Despite the different responses out there, both have been reconciled to God, but the shape of their lives looks different because of their different responses. So today, know that God’s grace has no limits. It is freely given for all of creation. God’s grace has claimed us, it has claimed us and brought our lives fully into Christ’s life. And God’s grace calls us It calls us to action. And it calls us to participate in the work of Christ, so that the kingdom of God might come into our our world each and every day. And Grace knows that we will not always get this participation, right. Which is why we continue to receive the grace of God fresh each day, so that we can become more fully alive in Christ. In the words of Soren Kierkegaard, infinite humiliation and grace, and then a striving, born of gratitude. This is Christianity. So let us live into this reality of grace and reconciliation. Let us be reconciled to God. respond to this grace and gratitude and move to action to help make this a reality for our world today. Amen.