2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10 What do you see? 6/12/16
Some of you may not know Almeda Lewis. She and her family were the first black family to move into her block of Rokeby Rd. back here behind the church in 1968. She became a member of Hunting Ridge in 1999. She was an ordained ruling elder. But in my 5 years here, she has not once set foot in this building due to her failing health. Our only contact with her has been through calls or visits to her. Almeda Lewis had a birthday one week before she died. She was 94. For the past several years she has basically been living in a bed. In a bed in a room in a care facility. In a bed because her body was wasting away. Already thin, she got thinner and thinner and weaker and weaker. The outer nature, the physical body, the “tent” she was living in for 94 years, was coming to the end of its usefulness. Her family knew it. She knew it. In recent weeks, she and they knew it was soon time to move into the house built by God. She would be moving into the permanent house that cannot be seen from here.
As we talked together this week, Almeda and I wondered about what that house might look like. She was sure it would be big. I was sure it would be comfortable. We both agreed there would be a lot of music going on. And that we will be welcomed with open arms. Living in God’s house will clearly be different from living in a tent. Like those clay pots we talked about last week, tents are temporary. The apostle Paul offers encouragement to his peeps in Corinth, telling them not to lose heart, to be confident. To be confident that there is a lot more to life than what meets the eye. To be confident that there is a house not built by human hands which is always ready for move-in day. There is a song by Audio Adrenaline in our summertime Faith Place on Friday curriculum called Big House, imagining what this house not made with human hands might be like. Maybe you know it. Here is part of it: Come and go with me to my Father’s house. It’s a big big house With lots and lots a room A big big table With lots and lots of food A big big yard Where we can play football A big big house It’s my Father’s house.
A big house means lots of room. And its a big house you don’t have to worry about cleaning or furnishing or maintaining. It’s a big house filled with people you have never met who are family you’ve always known. A big house where you fit right in. Be confident, says Paul. Whatever you are struggling with while you are housed in this body—this tent—is not going to last forever. What you see is not what you get. There is so much more to life than what you can see.
This week I had the opportunity to speak with the woman who leads the African dance ensemble which performed at the Strawberry Festival last week, Jewel Wilson. She raved about the event, the diversity of the crowd, and the joy of being a part of it. Then she said—there was a lot more going on that you could not see. She meant that perceptions were being challenged and barriers were being cracked. People from different neighborhoods laughed, jump-roped, and danced together. There was the universal attraction to the drums which she was used to seeing, I am sure. But then there was the black woman showing the white teens how she jumps rope. There was the older white guy working the grill next to the young black guy. There were brown and black and white hands serving side by side as you collected your hamburger and chips. If you were a kid living in an all black or an all white neighborhood, you saw something very different on our front lawn than what you see every day when you walk out your door. You really got a picture of life in God’s big, big house on God’s big, big lawn. There was a lot more going on than we could see.
Paul wants his readers to be reminded that this is not all there is. When we look around at the level of violence, the amount of trash on the streets, the drug deals that happen boldly in front of our eyes, police officers being tried for murder, and the number of people needing food from 40 West, (which, by the way, is in great need of food for the pantry shelves—make a mental note to bring canned or dry goods with you to church next Sunday)—when we see all that is going on around us physically, we can get depressed or angry or both. Angry is better, because then there is more chance we will do something about it. When we simply look at the world around us and see it as a lost cause, we are letting the visible control the invisible. What can be seen is temporary. It is what cannot be seen that is lasting. Paul says, we walk by faith, not by sight. That means we don’t let what we see limit our forward direction. God works in ways you can not see. God works on renewing the inner nature, the part unseen.
Let me offer a couple of examples. God has done something to the Hernan family to make them work their summer schedule around taking a return trip to serve at the Lakota Reservation in Minnesota later this summer. That includes lots of meetings, trainings and even reading a book to learn more about native American culture. God has done something to those adults who have agreed to teach this summer in our Faith Place on Fridays experiment, creating a willingness to give up Friday nights, to prepare for a lesson, and to better get to know a teaching partner. At first glance, you might think a crowd of 30 kids is just a noisy crowd. But 30 kids saw on Friday night that adults care about them, that the church is a comfortable place to play and learn and use their creative abilities.
Perhaps walking by faith means staying attuned to what is going on under the surface, recognizing that there is always a lot more going on than what you can see on the outside. Walking by faith involves a level of trust in God and God’s hand at work all around you. It is possible to breeze through life and not notice God’s hand. It is possible to think that what you see is what you get, and nothing more. I choose to walk by faith, to not only trust what I can see, but trust the One who helps me to see different possibilities, different outcomes, different gifts at work. What do you see? Amen.