Third Sunday After Pentecost
June 12 and 13, 2021
II Corinthians 5:1-10
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Do you ever find yourself unprepared for something? Of course, we all do. In school you find yourself stumbling over the test that is before you. You didn’t study, or you didn’t study enough. You just didn’t understand the material that was covered. Maybe that subject never got you too excited. And the test is before you and you know that you are unprepared. That is when you really start believing in prayer!!
Unprepared. Even the best “tech geeks” can grow to despise the wonderful invention of computers. And that means the rest of us have every right to curse at our computer when it just won’t work and we have no way of knowing what is wrong. We are unprepared to take the next step except if we solve it with a baseball bat.
I heard the account from a District President who was attending the anniversary of a congregation in his district. As he looked through the bulletin he noticed that he was the preacher that day. That was the first he knew of that. He felt a little unprepared.
We are unprepared for a number of reasons. We don’t know how to do something, or no one has taken the time to show us how to do it. Or maybe we have little interest in what we are supposed to do. But whatever the reason, being unprepared will lead to some anxiety and panic.
Two weeks ago, beginning on Memorial Day weekend, I went on the Mission Trip to Lutheran Valley Retreat with our youth. Our job was to create hiking and mountain biking trails. That kind of work made me appreciative for being a pastor – it doesn’t require shovels and pick-ax’s. But we were told to drink water – lots of water. And I did.
But there is a problem with lots of water for a 64-year-old man with a 65-year-old bladder. And that problem is that you need to find a bathroom at 2:00 in the morning. We were in cabins, far from a restroom. When my body woke to the necessity of going to the bathroom I didn’t know what side of the cabin I was on, how to get to the door and where the heck my glasses were. But I stumbled out the door and found the bathroom. But without my glasses and not remembering exactly where the cabin was in the dark, I was in trouble. Or someone was going to be in trouble. I came to a cabin and just about opened the door to hop back into bed. But then I read the sign “Hummingbirds” – the girls cabin. I was one of the “Squirrels”. I squinted some more, without the flashlight I should have grabbed, and found the right cabin and the right bed. The next night I was better prepared for my 2 A.M. trip.
I was unprepared that first night and that caused some fear. Today there is something much greater than all those fears about being unprepared which I have mentioned. All those amount to nothing compared to what Paul speaks of in our reading. He talks about being unprepared to live life and being unprepared to face our Judge – our Lord Jesus, and being unprepared to live by faith. In what I’m going to read he uses the idea of being naked or clothed when he speaks about living and then dying. “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For 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.” (II Corinthians 5:2-4)
If Jesus has not clothed you then you are unprepared – you are naked. The only one who can cloth you is Jesus. In Him you are clothed in faith, clothed in His love, forgiveness and favor. If you don’t have Jesus, and if Jesus doesn’t have you, your eternity in heaven is uncertain. You are miserably unprepared.
As a kid I remember a prayer that our pastor prepared before people came to Holy Communion. It read like this, “Almighty God, Before whom all hearts are open, all desires known and no secrets are hid…” I remember one of the dorm counselors, Peg Danker, telling us that the attribute of God knowing everything was a bit unsettling for her. Here is a hard word about God and us, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the deeds done in the body, whether good or bad.” (II Corinthians 5:10) There is no sneaking into heaven. You and I will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Will we feel naked? Will we be exposed? Will that be the most embarrassing moment in life? Will we be ashamed on that day? Will we fear the verdict?
If you are unprepared that day will be awful. But if you are prepared that day holds no terror. How then do you get prepared? I only have one hope to share with you. His name is Jesus. He died for your sins and then He rose from death to replace anxiety with expectation. In this reading that talks about earthly death and then heavenly transformation, notice who builds the building – “Now 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.” (II Corinthians 5:1)
There is someone who has to come by your side and mine on that Day of Judgment. If He doesn’t show up we have no hope. St. John would say of this, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one to speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2) Do you know the passage in Philippians? It reads – “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (1:6)
We are prepared as we walk by faith and not by sight in all these matters. Dr. Jeff Gibbs in speaking about this section says, “When we look at things, we see we commit the same stupid sins and we are the same stupid sinners.” Even though we are the recipients of God’s favor at times we don’t always feel any different inside. I speak words of forgiveness to you every worship service. “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.’ But you may not feel any different than before you heard those words. The Bible promises, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27) You are baptized but maybe you don’t feel any different. Or, you come to the meal of Christ’s body and blood. “This is the body of Christ given for you.” “This, the blood for Christ, for you.” But you leave the meal, and then the service, no different than when you came. Did anything happen? Was it for no benefit? Depend on what He says, not on what you feel. He says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” (II Corinthians 5:7) He says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (II Corinthians 5:17-18)
Unprepared? If we live without faith in Jesus we are unprepared. No glasses, no flashlight and heading into the wrong cabin. If we live by our feelings rather than in confidence in the written and spoken Word of God – what God promises us – then we find ourselves unprepared.
But God prepares us for life and death, for facing our sins, our nakedness before God and allowing us confidence that we will be in heaven forever, and that when Christ returns, then the final day arrives, our body, long dead for most, will come back to life – as Paul says here – “What is mortal will be swallowed up by life.” (II Corinthians 5:4b) As believers in Jesus find confidence in what He has done and build your foundation solidly, “[That I] may be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:9)
But as believers in grace we just can’t prepare ourselves for death, we prepare ourselves for life and for living – today and every day. God hasn’t taken any of us yet – so get busy living. Paul tells his people, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (II Corinthians 5:9)
I find it somewhat humorous how unprepared I have been for so many things in life but somehow it hasn’t gotten me – yet. But I’m glad for you and for me that God has prepared – settled – our lives and our faith in Jesus, our Savior and Friend. Amen