Harrowing Of Hell
June 17, 2018

Better Than a New Car

Preacher: The Rev. Ruth Anne Garcia

Good morning Christians, seekers and friends:

I am not much of a gameshow person – I just don’t get them. But, all the same, some of the tunes and the phrases from these shows still reside in my head. In fact, this week, a phrase from the “The Price is Right” with Bob Barker has been on my mind. While I don’t think I’ve even watched a whole show, Bob Barker was on that show for over forty years. And isn’t it still on? I bet most of us could all hum the theme song right now. But anyway, all week as I have been thinking about our lessons, I’ve been hearing Bob Barker saying, “ And you could win….a new car!”

It’s weird that I’ve been thinking about this, because I personally never thought the new car was the best prize. I always preferred the new living room set or the luggage/trip combo that Barker’s beauties would present….But the sound of his voice saying “ A New Car…”well it is stuck in my head for good because t is inextricably linked to the jumps for joy and the unbelievable happiness that it brought the contestants. I mean, something that elicits this kind of response… Well, it is fantastic. And I don’t think I am the only one affected by this, I mean, when Oprah started giving out gifts to her audience, again with the “new car” excitement… And we actually live in a world where there is such a thing as a “new car” scented air freshener. Ah, the excitement of a new car.

But, of course, who doesn’t like something new? We feel a little down, we go shopping. We have a hard week at work, we browse online. Not feeling like we’re looking our best – those new shoes or that new shirt might give us a lift. And something new for free? Well that seems like some kind of miracle. And, if something new is actually free—well, a miracle it is…

In today’s reading from the Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks a little about such a miracle. He says, “… If anyone is in Christ, he says, “there is a new creation: everything old has passed away;…everything has become new!” Everything is new.

Last week, Doyt reminded us that we have never met an ordinary person. That we never meet mere mortals. We only meet immortals. And this is what St. Paul is telling us in today’s reading. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation and all that was old has been made new—perhaps better said — renewed. And while there is a great cost associated with this new creation. This cost is borne by Christ alone. For us, it is absolutely free. Everything is new for us friends—that is what we are celebrating on this Sunday in the “Ordinary Time” of Pentecost. This is what we should be celebrating each and every day. We are made entirely new. We have a new relationship with God. A new relationship of intimacy and love where God, through Jesus Christ, is personally invested in our growth, in our well-being, and in our lives. We have a relationship with God where God wants nothing more than for us to grow, to flourish, to do and BE well. Think about that for a minute –God wants nothing more than for us to BE well. And that is the miracle in our everyday lives. God has made of us a new creation.

Now I know that this is a hard thing to get our heads around. Our human way of thinking is by-and-large transactional. We have to pay for what we get. I want the new car – well, unless I go on the Price is Right – I have to pay for it. And if I want those new shoes, cash or credit? We’ve all heard the old saying, right, nothing in life is free. And so, we live our lives knowing that – knowing that we have to pay—even though we try to find ways to cheat that system. Even though we forget the real costs of what we quote/ unquote pay for.

But it isn’t like that with God. This world and our way of living in it, isn’t based on the model that God has given us. That is what Jesus is telling those around him in today’s gospel. Let’s listen to the stories that Jesus tells the crowds again…He says,” “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself.” And he says, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs.”

In both of these parables, while we think we know the way of the world, Jesus is telling us the way of God. And God’s ways are not like ours. In God’s world, the earth produces of itself. The grain that we gather, we don’t know it all works together. I mean, yes, we know about the need for soil and nutrients and water and sun and all that….But we know that BECAUSE the earth first produces of itself. It was producing of itself before we figured out the science of it. And it was producing of itself before we even started sowing the seeds. In God’s world, Jesus is reminding his listeners, what we have – and by that he means ALL that we have—has been given freely by God. As the Gospel of John put it: “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” And for all that God has given us—God has not exacted any payment, He has not earned ONE PENNY. While we might build fences around our fields and call them ours, while pioneers might have staked a claim on a piece of land and called it a homestead, while we might pay for our goods and receive money for our labor, this is a human way of doing things. It is not God’s way. God freely gives and wants nothing more than for us to take all that we have been given and to grow it, build on it and share it.

In the fourth chapter of John’s gospel, the disciples are concerned about Jesus. As we know Jesus was a busy guy. He had a lot of teaching and preaching to do and so one day, apparently, he had not taken the time to eat. So they urge him: “Rabbi, eat something.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples say to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” And then Jesus says to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Jesus’ work – his self-identified work was to continue to create, to continue to grow that which we receive. And he does all of this FOR US. FOR FREE. We reap what we did not sow. We profit from that which was freely given.

This week in our sermon prep meeting, we talked a little about the part of today’s gospel where we are told that Jesus taught in parables and that he would later explain these to his disciples and we wondered, “Why did Jesus do this? Why didn’t he just tell everyone the same things?” And I wonder if this isn’t why. The truth that Jesus is talking about – the miracle of newness that Paul is writing about—is so revolutionary – is so counter to the way “of the human world’ that, if we were to really understand it and adopt God’s ways, it would absolutely change the world. It would call into question all the law and order that we have taken centuries to put in place. If we truly understood that we reap that for which we did not sow, how would it change the way that we treat one another. How would it change the way that we understand what we “own” – what is “ours.”

In his sermon at St. Mark’s Cathedral on Thursday, Bishop Curry said that he has come to see sin as another word for selfishness. This is consistent with the Episcopal Church’s teaching on sin as stated in the Cathechism which defines sin as the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.” The way of the world may be to accumulate and to hoard but our God is a God that gives freely – who gives us life, who gives us food, and all the elements of creation and invites us to reap what we have not sown and to grow, to build on all that God has given us. And God invites us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, through the free gift of Jesus Christ—to see ourselves as brand-new creations – apart from what the world would tell us we should be or do—to shrug of all the old ways and embrace all the goodness and kindness and love that we are made for…

Friends, with Jesus, life needn’t be so hard. Even when we don’t feel up to it, we are meant to grow and to flourish like the mustard seed. And, the Price is Right—God’s love for you and me is free—and it is better than a new CAR. What God wants to give us is a whole new life!