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Pentecost 2
June 18, 2006

Everything Has Become New!

1 Samuel 15:34--16:13
Psalm 20 or Psalm 72
2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17
Mark 4:26-334

There are two scenes of action, and God stands astride them both. The one scene is on stage where everyone can see. The other is off stage where only God can see. Samuel sees Eliab and thinks he is to be the next king, but God selects David from off stage. The Psalmist reminds God that when the nation is in trouble on stage, God will intervene from off stage. Paul speaks directly of the two scenes: "So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord--for we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:6-7) Sight is for the audience watching on stage. Faith is responding to the off stage voice. In Paul's mind it is Jesus who holds these two scenes together: "So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him." (2 Cor. 5:9) On stage or off stage, Jesus is the focus of our existence. Jesus speaks of a confluence of the two scenes under the concept of The Kingdom of God, where on stage and off stage mingle wihtout losing their separate identities: "It is like a mustard seed, which when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." (Mark 4:31-32)

There are serious problems with the two-scene world view. It can relativize human life. It doesn't matter what humans desire or plan. The off stage voice prevails. Saul thinks he is still king. The voice counsels dissumulation in Samuel's ear. David becomes the man of destiny. This is fine if you are David. Psalm 20 was written during a "bull market." The off stage voice can be seen as the guide and strength of the human scene, but it can also go silent or worse, punitive.

Human behavior is relativized because it is judged. "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.'" (1 Sam. 16:7)

"For all of us must appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recmpense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil." (2 Cor. 5:10) Paul affirms the contingency of the on stage scene but with a difference. By the grace of God he now is an actor on stage. There is a new relationship with the off stage voice: "...we ourselves are well known to God..." (2 Cor. 5:11) God is also "well known" to Paul. The off stage voice now has the face of Christ. The off stage voice has appeared on stage. The curtain separating the off stage and the on stage has been removed. There are no longer two scenes of action, but one. It is a new day! "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 Cor. 5:16-17)
Roland McGregor, Pastor
Asbury United Methodist Church, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

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