Tuesday, August 02, 2005

My First Sermon "This is the House that God Built"

This is the very first sermon I wrote and delivered.
This is the House that God Built!
Sermon Manuscript for II Corinthians 5:1-10

Grace, peace and mercy to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The sermon text is the epistle reading for today, II Corinthians 5:1-10
1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 6Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7We live by faith, not by sight. 8We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

My friends, I have a question for you. Where do you want to live?
I’ll make it easy and give you two choices:
A.) In a frail and faulty tent in the deserts of Iraq or B.) In a warm and welcoming home filled with love and family.

At first this question seems like a no-brainer.
Of course, I want to live in a home, where I am safe and secure, where I am part of a family, where I belong. However, as is so often the case with us sinful mortals, our actions contradict our desires.

St. Paul himself even lamented this in Romans “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing(7:19). We may say that we want to live in a home with all the comforts that entails, but we continue day after day to live in a tent, full of holes, stinking, weathered and windblown. We choose lifestyles that are like stinking piles of rags and despair, we moan and groan about the injustice of it all, about how it stinks and we try on our own to get out of it. We strive to prop up the tattered rags, to mend them, but the more we sew pieces together the more pieces fall apart. We are blind to the fact that all we accomplish is putting more holes in our pathetic little shelter. We open up more weak spots for misery and despair to seep in.

The epistle reading for today speaks of tents and homes. Paul describes our bodies as tents, the physical elements that make up our hands, feet, arms, legs, and all our members, the things that seem to make us who we are. Our earthly home is the in the flesh and we have corrupted that flesh that God gives by our sinfulness. These sin corrupted tents of flesh are a pathetic defense against the temptations that buffet us from all sides. Jesus spoke of His body in a similar way when He said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (John 2:19). Jesus was not referring to the temple in Jerusalem, not to a thing built with human hands, but about His own body.

Describing the flesh as a building or dwelling place is a good metaphor. The flesh has a builder, God “formed my inward parts; [He] knitted me together in my mother's womb.” (Psalm 139:13), it protects from the elements to a certain extent, and because of our sinfulness it is bound to see decay. My friends, our tents are not long for this world. The frail coverings of flesh give minimal protection from the daily trials and tribulations this world throws at us. Our sinfulness has created this state. Our sinfulness, which we cannot of our own good works overcome, is the storm that tatters our pathetic little tent. It is the hail that batters, the rain that soaks, the sun that bleaches and bakes, the snow that freezes our hearts into hard lumps of ice. We daily fall into sin and we daily have to be cleansed of that sin in the waters of our baptism. Paul says we groan in this tent, and not just us, by no means, our sinfulness is not secluded from the rest of humanity, nor from the rest of creation. Paul says in Romans that we groan with all creation (8:23). We can see all around us that our world is in decay. Just within the past few weeks we have bore witness to the sin corrupted creation; the devastating tsunami in Asia is a result of the all of creations fall into sin. We are burdened with the putrid and smothering weight of our sinfulness.

This, my friends, is Paul, great theologian and evangelist, the man of God who was chosen to convey so much of God’s Holy Word to us. He isn’t writing to heathens, he isn’t writing to heretics or false teachers, he isn’t confronting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. No, he is writing to other Christians. He is writing to us. These are our hearts that his quill is reaching out through the ages to prick.

He knows that we will struggle. He knows that if we aren’t reminded, we will wallow in our rags. We will wallow in hopelessness, despair, debauchery and all kinds of filth. More importantly, God knows that we will struggle. God knows that we are weak. God knows that His laws are impossible to keep. God knows and He cares.

Up to this point, I have focused on the tent of the flesh, but there was another option, one you all likely picked and wish I would talk more about. We have a home! That’s right, we have a HOME! It is not a home that we build, so that no one can boast. Only God has the power to give us this home.

He not only gives it to us, but he built it for us. This house is not made with human hands, it will not crumble or see decay. This, beloved in the Lord, is the house that God built! It is eternally set in the heavens. The cross of Christ is the weight-bearing beam. On that cross, Christ suffered the ultimate humiliation, suffering, alienation and death because He loves us, even while we are still sinners. All the filthy tents and putrid rags of our humanity have been piled on top of His glorious cross and it holds that burden off of us. Because of Christ’s work on the cross for us, death is swallowed up in victory! Thanks be to God!

As our brother Paul told the Corinthians, he also boldly and joyfully proclaims to us “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (5:5). What a miracle! What an extreme comfort. We, who were bound to be swallowed up by life, can be of good courage. With our eyes firmly fixed on that precious cross we can walk by faith and not by sight. We know that the things that are unseen are eternal. We are away from our homes now, we reside in the tents now, we are in a hostile place now, but we have the assurance and the clear Word of God that through Jesus Christ we have a home. And this is not just any home. This is the home that God built with the cross of Christ holding it all up.

What is our response to such great comfort? What is our goal as we overcome this terrific problem? Paul tells us in verse nine: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”(5:9) Not so He’ll build us a room or a nice condo, but because he has build us the house, the whole dwelling is ours and set eternally in the heavens. This is our aim because, having received such grace, what else can we possibly do? What other response would be appropriate?

One day soon, we will appear before God in this house. We will be lead to the very Judgment seat of Christ. But we will be able to stand. “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”(Romans 5:2).
My friends, this is the house that God has built! We will have a home there for all eternity, a new physical creation, thanks to the sacrifice that has atoned for all sins. Thanks to the cross of Christ, the tents of our flesh and sinfulness have been lifted off of us and replaced with robes of His righteousness. We know that when the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Let us pray:
O gracious and loving Father, you have set an eternal dwelling place for us who cling to the blessed cross of Christ. Help us to be of good courage and to see by faith rather than sight. We are looking forward, O Lord, to a new heaven and a new earth, our home of righteousness.
Now may Your peace, O God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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