“Looking For Clues”
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We walk by faith, not by sight. Just because we cannot physically see God doesn’t mean that He is not at work in our lives.
Posted by Elk Grove Presbyterian Church on Sunday, June 28, 2020
2 Corinthians 4:16- 5:10
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it onwe may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
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Growing up my favorite books to read were mystery books. I loved putting the pieces together trying to solve the mystery…hoping to solve it before I would get to the end of the book…I wanted to be able to somehow see between the lines, maybe even anticipate ahead of the author how the details would unfold and then that satisfying conclusion that puts everything together with all the questions answered and all the loose ends nicely tied into a bow! The inquisitive part of me wants to struggle a bit, wrestle with all the seemly disconnected details, the extraneous occurrences that must be related in some way while keeping focused on the bigger picture. And for sure, I didn’t like mystery stories that were too easy to figure out, the more complex the better BUT the pieces needed to fit together…I always wanted so desperately to understand this interrelated connectivity.
This morning’s reading is the entire fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians. If you are like me, I had to read and re-read this chapter several times to see how Paul was connecting everything himself and just how all the pieces fit together. This reading too is a mystery in a sense. Paul’s mind moves quickly from one thought to another (I understand this way of thinking as my brain often does this rapid transition from one thought to another!) And yet if we take our time to break down this chapter from the perspective of the balcony, many ideas can be summarized as experiences in the life of Christians and in particular the process of transformation that always happens when one starts to believe in Jesus Christ.
Paul describes this as, becoming Christ-like. It’s clear this giving up the old self and becoming the new self in Christ is hard work, and I hear this tension in Paul between wanting to finally be with Christ in eternity, (heavenly dwelling), and/or staying in the present place doing the work of changing the hearts of those in Corinth. Just to understand Paul a little better, he is constantly being challenged in his theology, he is continually questioned, threatened, and always in a place to defend his commitment to Christ. And as he faces these struggles he is also always pushing for others to let Christ change their own life.
You and I can understand that same type of struggle, friends question our faith, we wonder if we’re listening to the Spirit, questioning if we are following the right path, pondering if we are becoming the people we are supposed to be. And we too face this similar tension; I often hear about weariness, wanting the struggles to be over, believing that death will lead us to a better place.
Paul speaks to us at our very place of wondering, doubting, and questioning when he says to the people in Corinth “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” Paul is saying we can trust in God even when we can’t see God. We can trust that the old self has died, and the new self has taken its place. This in itself, the personal transformation is evidence of God’s presence. The people in Corinth needed to hear this; and we need to hear this too. “We walk by faith, not by sight. But, just because we cannot physically see God does not mean that God isn’t at work in our lives. Having faith does not mean we have no basis, no grounding, or no evidence to authenticate our belief. God leaves clues all around and we need to start looking for those clues!
Faith has to do with entering into the mystery of God and keeping our eyes open for the accumulation of evidence that is all around. What clues are there for us to see?
We all have to become good sleuths…yes, we must become good detectives.
What makes a good detective? Well, you haven’t forgotten that I love mystery books, have you? And I know any good detective asks lots of good questions, keeps their eyes open, and sees patterns in things. Barbara Bradley Hagerty asked the right question in her book, “Fingerprints of God.” She writes, “Is there a spiritual world every bit as real as the phone ringing in the kitchen or my dog sitting on my foot, a dimension that eludes physical sight and hearing and touch?” This question led her to keep her eyes open to the experiences of others and her own personal experiences. “I wondered about my friend John, who was a slave to painkillers and scotch. Day in and day out, the cravings drove him away from his wife and to bars and Internet pharmacies. One day he felt the touch of something supernatural, and the cravings vanished. He stopped drinking and taking drugs, and while he never really bought into the tenets of his Catholic Church, he subscribed to the mysterious power that pulled him from the pit. I wondered about my grandmother who prayed for people and saw them recover. I wondered about my own brief brushes with something numinous, and the gnawing suspicion that there might be a reality that hides itself except in rare moments, or to rare people. I have stumbled a few times into a mystical presence—once, as a blinding light in my bedroom, another time as a voice, several times as an undeniably physical presence.”
Barbara Hagerty is a detective in the truest sense, asking questions gathering stories of others and herself, and seeing patterns in lives that are changed…all pointing again and again to the presence of God moving and working all around us. We can be detectives too, looking for clues. When is the last time you have asked someone about their experiences of God? When have you noticed prayers that have been answered? When has something amazing happened in your life that you can’t account for?
We do walk by faith and not by sight…but our faith is built on the living God that is always, always working in and around us to transform our personal lives and the world!
Embrace the mystery! Tell your story! Listen to others! For we walk by faith and not by sight!