In Our Right Minds



Sermon Title: “In Our Right Minds” by Pastor Rosanna McFadden

Good morning! I am grateful to be back with you. This past week has provided lots of opportunities for personal reflections about mortality: partly my own, mostly other people whom I care about. Those of you who were here for services for Doris Walters on Monday know a story of a long, faithful and fulfilled life — the kind everyone aspires to, and hopes their children, grandchildren, friends and church family will be able to reflect on. My father-in-law Wilbur McFadden’s story has a different style than Doris’, for sure, but it also was a long and faithful life; a cause for celebration as well as sorrow. Tim’s cousin Jill’s life feels like it is ending much too soon, and will be a great loss to her spouse and extended family. Tomorrow is the anniversary of my sister-in-law Renee’s death last year, which was sudden and tragic and left us all with unresolved emotions.

I don’t mean this to be a huge bummer for Father’s Day.  The death of those we love is a reality, whether we accept it or not.  I know that many of you are remembering on this Father’s Day fathers and grandfathers — maybe even great-grandfathers, if you were fortunate enough to know them — who have passed away. Obviously it has been on my mind, but it is relevant to this text from 2 Corinthians, as well. In this passage, including the opening verses of 2 Corinthians chapter 5, Paul is making a contrast between the earthly and the heavenly, the mortal and the immortal, our human bodies and the body of Christ. The good news is that the bad news is not that bad, and the good news is pretty great. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Our Board chair, Scott Harney has been using a quote about the body of Christ which he has sent to Creekside team leaders and published in reports from the Church Board in the Connection newsletter. The quote reads “A wonderful part of being the body of Christ is that no single member has to do everything; but a reality of the body of Christ is that everyone is called to do something.” I hope you agree with this sentiment; I do. It is a quote from a sermon I shared here at Creekside on April 21. As you might imagine, I am flattered that our Board chair was paying attention to the sermon and made the effort to go online and look at the transcript of it. I don’t know if this has ever happened before. My personal goal for our congregation in the coming months and year would be “Everybody for the Body”. You can quote me on that.

But here is how I, and I think the Apostle Paul, would want to frame our understanding of bodies and the body of Christ — that is, our corporate work for the kingdom of God.  Our human bodies are limited, but in durability and longevity. If you haven’t lived long enough to figure this out, you haven’t been around for very long. This is what Paul is talking about at the beginning of chapter 5 when he uses the metaphor of tents to describe our human bodies — they are temporary shelters which are not that sturdy or long lasting.  In verse 6 Paul says, “While we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord.” This means that we are not fully present with God during our physical life while we are camped out here on earth. So although our mortal lives are the only thing we have experienced, the only thing we know and feel and see, we have faith that there is another kind of life which we have not yet seen, and will not see until we leave this earthly life behind. In verse 5, Paul writes, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” This is why the bad news isn’t as bad as it could be, and the good news is even better. We don’t have to live out in tents forever because God has prepared something better for us. We may not be able to see it now, but we have God’s word that it is there, and we have God’s Spirit with us now as our guarantee.

The good news is that even while we are hanging on in our earthly tents, trying to keep the rain out and the sleeping bags dry and whatnot, we can begin to prepare for the next thing — our next home. Paul characterizes this as “being in our right mind.” Most of the time we talk like being in our right mind is the obvious and natural thing, and we only mention the obvious exceptions. As in, nobody in their right mind would be out pulling weeds when it’s 95 degrees outside, or, nobody in their right mind would try to remove their own appendix (I just made that up — don’t try this at home. Seriously). But what Paul is suggesting is that being in our right mind is not what happens mostly naturally and easily for us as human beings. Being in our right mind means living for Christ instead of living for ourselves. It means it is the love of Christ, and not our own desire, which is urging us on. This means even though we are living in tents now, but we know we are children of the King.   Being at home with God is where we are headed.

We cannot live in our right minds unless we have faith in things we cannot see. We cannot see the love of Christ as a disembodied thing, but we can experience it from the people who have committed to be the body of Christ. If we are fortunate, we have experienced that love from our fathers, mothers, grandparents, church family, and a whole bunch of people who are trying to put the love of Christ before their own desires. None of us, no matter how well intentioned, will ever do this flawlessly, but this is the character we should be fostering and encouraging in one another. You cannot be a good father, a good parent, or a functional member of the body of Christ if you don’t learn to put others people’s needs before what you want. It doesn’t have to happen all the time, maybe not even most of the time, but we can’t work for Christ until we stop working for ourselves alone.

Paul describes working for ourselves as regarding others from a human point of view. What have you done for me? What can you do for me? How have you fallen short? How am I better than you are? As you can imagine, this kind of thinking is toxic to relationships and to accomplishing things together as a group.  A bunch of people living for themselves cannot function as the body of Christ. Regarding other people solely for their utility — to me — disregards the reality that we’re all human, and therefore mortal and flawed. It dishonors the even deeper reality that Christ died for us all, for you, just as much as for me. I have no greater claim or privilege because of Christ’s love than anyone else. Christ’s death and Christ’s love changes our perspective, and allows us to see other people with different eyes. We may be stuck in earthly tents, but we are all in earthly tents, for heaven’s sake. Maybe we’d see things differently if we try to see how we can work together to make this camping experience better for everyone.

Mortality gets a bad rap, for reasons I understand. Giving us lives which are temporary and limited seems like poor planning on the part of our Creator. It’s hard to let go of the only lives we have experienced, and people whom we love. But the gift of mortality is its impermanence. No one in their right mind would want to be old forever, or sick forever, or pregnant forever — or whatever forever.  Some of the things we experience are bearable only because we know they are not going to last for eternity. What the Spirit guarantees is that God’s word is forever and Christ’s love is forever. We can choose whether we live for ourselves for a while or if we live for Christ forever. This life as we know it is going to end, either way. Living in our right minds can begin as soon we commit ourselves to seeking the mind of Christ. Striving to live with the mind of Christ in this life is a sign of our faith in the reality of a life which we have not yet seen, but we know has been promised to us.

I want to end with a word of thanks to fathers — that is, men who have lived according to the rules of love. Those who have been willing to sacrifice for the good of their children, their families, their parents, their church — whomever it is whom you love enough to sacrifice for. We glimpse the face of God and the love of Jesus Christ through people who have shown us another point of view, who have seen us and loved us for who we are, and imagined and helped us to become who we can be. Thank you for being role models, teachers, friends, brothers in Christ. Keep encouraging others to seek the mind of Christ and keep being an example of how everybody can be for the Body. God bless you.