All Things NEW

Heritage Presbyterian Church

January 5, 2020
Second Sunday of Christmas
Scripture reading – 2nd Corinthians 5: 16-21

If you watch television for just a little while, it is virtually impossible to avoid commercials that don’t include the word “.”  That word is used a LOT in advertising, and not just on television, but that is where it catches my attention the best.  Just a few examples:

  • NEW and improved”
  • “The all NEW ___” (this one is especially good in car commercials)
  • “Under NEW Management” (think of that restaurant that you haven’t gone to in a while because the food was lousy or the service was too)
  • NEW Formula” (was something wrong with the old one?)
  • NEW Head Coach” (I think there are a few football teams that will be trotting this out pretty soon…especially if they want their season ticket sales next year to go well).

You get the picture.  Just stick the word NEW into the ad or sign or commercial or label…and you have something!

The problem is that just because something is NEW doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any better than the old.

I am especially aware of this troublesome word as 2019 closed and 2020 began.  “A NEW Year”… “NEW Year’s resolutions”… “a NEW decade” (which is debated on the internet fiercely…is it a NEW decade or the last year of the old decade?)

…and everybody’s favorite: “a NEW beginning.”

You can’t escape it…so we might as well jump into this discussion too.  That is why I chose the reading from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians for our Scripture reading today.

In it, Paul takes the concept of “NEW things” to a whole NEW level.  This is a version of NEW that hasn’t occurred before.  And this is what he said:

First, Paul points that anyone who is in Christ is a NEW creation.  The old is GONE…only the NEW creation remains.  This means that if someone is truly “in Christ” then we should not and must not hold anything against them that happened before that person was in Christ.  This is going to be a tough one for most believers.

Most of us have something in our past that we would just as soon forget all about.  And most of us also have someone in our past that we would just as soon NOT forgive and NOT forget all about.  Perhaps we don’t want to hold a long-time grudge, but complete forgiveness is pretty hard for the average believer.  Paul tells us that we must TRY.  Otherwise, what is the use of anyone becoming “in Christ”…including us?

Forgive others and forgive ourselves.  Try to make amends.  Let it go.  You’ll be happier in the long run.  This is pretty important because of the next point that Paul makes.

Once we wrap our brains around someone in Christ becoming a NEW creation/the old creation completely gone, then we need to remember the next thing: God constantly seeks to be reconciled with each and every one of us.  God is the one who always initiates reconciliation.  Yet, if we stand in the way of that relationship, we endanger others not being reconciled with God.  Think about that for a moment: there is someone you can’t forgive…you just can’t.  But what if your lack of forgiveness is the reason that individual can’t be reconciled with God?  What if that person constantly holds onto the sin, holds onto the pain, and holds onto the opinion that “God could never love me because I did this”?  That is not your duty.  Your duty is to forgive and to demonstrate how Christ’s followers are supposed to live.  Paul calls us “ambassadors” for Christ.  That means that we carry a vital, important message, and we carry it in our words, our thoughts, and especially… ESPECIALLY our actions.  If any of those three things reveal anything less than our belief in and love of Christ, then we are failing as his ambassadors.  When Christ died, all died…but all were not dead and finished.  We can all enjoy NEW life if we can only embrace all facets of it.

We can’t continue to see others in a human way.  Because we are ambassadors of Christ, we need to see others in a NEW way.  Paul wrote that a NEW spirit had pervaded all his previous judgments.  For Paul, all true peacemaking between human beings entails their peace with God.  None of us are Paul, but you get the idea.  At least we need to try!

Now what could possibly interfere with this? 

What could stop this NEW thing from happening? 

The answer is a continuing estrangement from God.  How can we treat others in a NEW way if we ourselves are estranged from God?  How can we claim to be his believers when our thoughts and our actions continue to place the barrier of old sins between ourselves and the Lord who loves us so?  How can we seek to follow Christ and yet subject others to human standards of judgment instead of considering each individual to be God’s precious child, worthy of forgiveness and reconciliation?

Four things can do this…and I think they might also keep us from being reconciled with each other:

  1.  Indifference – We just don’t care.  Or the person we care about doesn’t care about us.  We hide behind the “live and let live” motto to the point that we ignore what is going on around us.  We are not interested in others – “don’t bother us!”  We don’t want to listen to their words or their opinions, especially if they differ from our own.  It’s too much trouble to get involved.  We are indifferent.
  2. Resentment – That little green demon that is so close to jealousy.  We hate it that others have what we don’t. We hate it that others get the kudos, the recognition, the advancement at work.  We hate it that they seem to do things so easily while we work so hard for…not enough.  We can’t cheer for others because we are too focused on ourselves.  Instead of forming a supportive community around us – or becoming part of one that already exists – we are still working on our own community of one.  That is resentment.
  3. Selfishness – We may love others but not as much as we love ourselves.  Watch a happy child…that little child is almost always happiest around other children.  A happy child can play any game, go on any adventure, explore any place – as long as others are doing it too.  It is okay for a child to be able to entertain himself or herself alone, but we all know the importance of community when that child gets older.  A child that grows up to care about others is a child who is not selfish.  A grown-up who can raise such a child is not selfish either.
  4. Finally…a sense of guilt.  This is also known as refusing to accept forgiveness, refusing to let go of the past – especially if holding onto it is harmful.  Each of us has done things that make us feel guilty and that we remember.   For me, the worst is when I hurt someone’s feelings.  Those incidents haunt me.  But I can’t go through life running away from those hurts.  Instead, a better way…     a NEW way might be to work harder to guard my speech, to think before I speak (wow…what a concept!), to be softer and gentler and kinder and more inclusive with my words.  That would make the NEW me something that someone I may have hurt in the past recognize that I am that NEW creation.  At least, I hope so.

So, as we begin yet another NEW year, let us remember the words from the 1960’s folk song:

“…and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yet, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

And if that love is NEW, this is the perfect time of year for it!