BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
Who isn’t familiar with those TV commercials for products not available in stores costing only $19.95? And if we act now, we will get bonus products ABSOLUTELY FREE! For years and years these bargains were introduced by the phrase, “But Wait! There’s More!” So, once we accept the original offer, there is more to the deal as a gift and it is up to us to follow through and use them.
As we go through this message, and, in a few minutes focus on today’s passage, we will discover an area beyond that of traditional focus in the pulpit and Bible studies. For each step as I lead up to that point I will give fair warning: “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!”
Let’s start our journey by reviewing some of the main tenets of our Christianity, some of which may have become second nature and we may be living every day, as well as some we may have forgotten. It will also be an opportunity for those who are unfamiliar with Christianity to see a side that’s outside the media!
When we accept Jesus as our personal savior, experience the life-changing relationship with Him, and become practicing Christians, today’s Scripture will tell us that we are made new.
As John Wesley put it:
God, men, the whole creation, heaven, earth, and all therein, appear in a new light, and stand related to [the believer] in a new manner, since he was created anew in Christ Jesus.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
We grow in faith, hope, charity, and love, knowing that love means sacrificing ourselves for others. The Apostle Paul explains love in
1 Corinthians 23:4:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
We must protect our hearts in keeping the faith. We must protect our ears from what we hear, such as false teaching that is subtle and seem logical. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus to:
put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
As Christians we discover our spiritual gifts and talents. There are, to name but a few: evangelists pastors teachers healers helpers of others administrators givers of hospitality
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
Christians are called to be morally pure, whether physically, verbally, spiritually. Most importantly, we must love God with all our hearts and love others as we love ourselves. With joyful hearts Christians feed the poor, visit the imprisoned, care for widows, and the lesser in health and society.
One last time….
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
As we look up today’s passage found in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20, I’ll tell you a little background. Paul is writing to the church he planted during missionary trips in Corinth—and to all Achaia (southern Greece) from Macedonia during the year of Pentecost, just before winter.
2 Cor 5:17-20
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: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
May God add His blessing to the reading of His Word.
What would cause Paul to write such an impassioned letter? It is said that his Corinthian letters are the most heartfelt, passionate, and self-revealing of all.
Well, the church in Corinth was being infiltrated by those with false teachings who discounted his personal integrity and authority to teach while challenging his claim of apostleship. They were persuading some Corinthians that Paul’s word cannot be trusted because, for one thing—and this is hard to understand in today’s world—his itinerary changed! Paul decided his third visit to Corinth would be one long visit instead of two short ones. (If my friendships depended on not changing itinerary, I’d have no friends!)
Throughout 2 Corinthians Paul is justifying his faith and authority. In our Scripture reading, Paul is writing that the recipients be at peace with God on an individual level with Him, with each other, and the created world. Paul beseeches them as an Ambassador of Christ; that is a messenger or representative of kingly authority. Paul wrote to Timothy stating that all Christians are ministers and all ministers are Ambassadors of Christ! In this case, Paul is representing and advising of God’s assignment of the Ministry of Reconciliation.
So by saying, “But Wait! There’s More!, I am leading to this point that is traditionally overlooked, that is the assignment of dominion authority…that is to rule over creation. That dominion is to be one of love and care, the way we want God to love and care for us. We are to understand that creation also has a relationship with God and it, too, rejoices in Christ. The Ministry of Reconciliation demonstrates this.
In our reading, “reconcile” means to change mutually from enmity to friendship (kat-al-las’-so). That is to change from separation due to sin, to oneness when we accept God’s provision of salvation through Jesus Christ.
“Reconciliation” means “Restoration to [the divine] favor; atonement.” (kat-al-lag-ay) and this reconciliation/restoration includes all the world (“kosmos”). It is “the divine purpose, on the ground of the work Christ accomplished on the Cross, to bring the whole universe, except rebellious angels and unbelieving man, into full accord with the mind of God. “ (Vine’s)
So, assuming we have
agree to wear the armor of God
agree to the love commands
agree to use our gifts and talents
agree to care for the lesser
o then it is now time for us to agree to accept the Ministry of Reconciliation with God, as well as with people and creation.
Why is this important?
1. God’s original intent, and final goal, is for people and creation to live in harmony as found in the Garden of Eden in Genesis, the future “Peaceable Kingdom” in Isaiah, and in the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation.
2. God used the blood shed by Jesus to cover and atone for our sins and to reconcile creation back to himself as stated in Colossians and Ephesians.
3. The whole creation is suffering as it anxiously waits for us to get it right so they can be freed from their lot in life and share in that final reward. Creation is totally dependent on us.
So what does that mean to us as Christians, as Ambassadors of Christ, acting on kingly authority?
1. It can be summed up in “Prayer, Care, Share”. It means our intercessory prayers include creation. It means to care about and take action for creation. Share the rest of the Good News with others and new believers.
2. It is to realize our dominion responsibilities—without taking away from the burdens and ministries specifically and individually placed in our hearts by God. Since it means enough for Christ’s blood to cover creation with the same reconciliation, the same peace, and the same eternity with God as has been offered to people, then we need to take it seriously.
What! Animals in eternity—in heaven? Although Scripture does not come out with a direct quote on that, there are plenty of passages SCREAMING implication. As a matter of fact, it is commonly known that John Wesley fully expected to see his beloved horse in heaven. Billy Graham stated about animals, “It wouldn’t be heaven without them”.
People are first and foremost of all God created—we share being created, thus establishing a place in God’s heart and in eternity. Although God gave animals and the environment over to us for our use, He also lets us know very clearly that all we have still belongs to Him and we are to care for it, not exploit or look at
His living creatures
the air we breathe
ground we walk upon, and
water we use
as throw away commodities. And I believe we will have to answer for the way we treated both animal and environmental creation.
It truly grieves my heart that we have allowed a dominion of profit and selfish desires overrule a dominion of love. I am sure the devil and his demons are dancing with delight every time an animal or the environment suffers because of us. We seem to be totally content to live in a fallen world while looking forward to future glory. This also grieves me deeply.
In my own way, I’m trying to do something about it—and that is sacrifice. The sacrifice isn’t as joyful and it is justified. As but one explanation, I have to admit I LOVE SHOES—in all sorts of colors, varying sized heals, feminine, sporty, dressy, casual. I used to have LOTS OF THEM. Every outfit looked beautifully complete. They were easy to find before, out of compassion, I stopped eating meat and wearing or using leather. So, off to Payless. I found one or two brands of manmade material shoes that were comfortable and up to date. Then at one point I pulled my sciatic nerve and hobbled around in pain for a while. I thank God it healed, and don’t want it to happen again! So, out with almost all my shoes and away from Payless because of lack of diversity in style. Checking out K-Mart, I did find sandals. It was then discovered that the large majority of shoes of manmade materials are in catalogs. Okay, so shoes get shipped home, they get tried on, and sent back when they don’t fit. Now about $12.00-$15.00 has been spent just to try on shoes! There’s something wrong with this picture! Fortunately, shopping with my parents, I discovered Beall’s. Still, there is it dilemma of size, style, heel height, and whether or not the shoe is available with all those combinations! Shoe shopping has become an excavation! And, frankly, I don’t have the time for it! Believe me, it is sacrifice and it weighs heavily. Yet, it would weigh more heavily if I gave in.
However, my sacrifice is not complete since I am not as disciplined in other areas. In many cases, I do give in to using Styrofoam cups outside my home. Our Methodist Discipline specifically addresses caring for our environment by not to using them in our churches! Why you might ask? Here is the story of the little Styrofoam cup taken from Earthwise: A Biblical Response to Environmental Issues by Calvin DeWitt:
We move oil by ship from Saudi Arabia to chemical plants. There the oil is transformed into monomers, which are then transported to factories that transform them into Styrofoam cups. These Styrofoam cups are distributed to stores and then to churches for after-service coffee. They are discarded in wastebaskets, moved to trash containers, and trucked to landfills. As the cups decompose, some of their remains enter groundwater in the form of leachate that may contaminate springs and wells; other remains enter the atmosphere…..altering the earth’s energy exchange with the sun. (32)
Wow! I really need to be more diligent on this issue…it comes down to being self-serving…and I must confess that since I’ve prepared this message I have started to be good at work. I’m washing out my coffee mug and water cup. And, to practice what I preach, I’ve brought a cup for coffee during fellowship!
You can see it would be easy for me to go on and on about behind the scene animal and environmental dominion violations in every area of our lives. We can do some simple things with minor lifestyle change, if any. Here are a few of what I have chosen.
Most importantly, I pray for God’s creation and the creative order. I pray for the hardened human heart that does not value all God’s creatures and does not care. I pray for the secular who God is using to do His creational caretaking, without even knowing it, the way He used the pagan, Cyrus, to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.
Many years ago I adopted the beginnings of a vegetarian lifestyle. After discovering the plight of the three-day-old male calves, I stopped eating veal and buying calfskin products. Slowly my compassion increased to include more than veal.
Another thing I found to do is to use household products and cosmetics manufactured by companies that have nothing to do with animal testing and research.
I refuse to give to charities that use animals in research. Today there are several effective, cruelty free, methods.
I support spaying, neutering, rescuing, and adopting animals from hamsters to horses.
I use cloth napkins and recycled paper towels in my home. I’m pleased to announce that Christians are already involved, from denominations to not-for-profits, from preachers to authors. Did you know that there is a Social Principles section of the United Methodist Discipline as well as a Blessing of the Animals in the UMC Book of Worship? It is now up to us, as Methodists, to act on this wonderful basis for dominion reform!
Good News! Oceanview recognizes this and offers Christ Loves Creatures, too!
More Good News! There’s an insert in your bulletin!
The ultimate Good News is that of Jesus Christ. His sacrificial act reconciled all of us—and all creation—to the Father. Unlike the bonus products we get after committing our $19.95 for the advertised special, the cost to us for God’s offer is simply acceptance of an earthly personal relationship with God and a heavenly eternal life, both through Jesus Christ. Our bonus is the joy of seeing our works glorify God instead of ourselves.
If anyone here has not yet received his or her own life-changing experience through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,
is not yet able to put on that Armor of God ready to face the world with power of the Holy Spirit,
and feels compelled to take the first step of facing a life in which you will never be alone, since Jesus said He will be with us always, even until the end of time…
I sincerely urge you to see me, or a church member—several of whom greeted you today, I’m sure.
To all I say, be a part of this wonderful Ministry of Reconciliation with God, each other, and creation.
We can look at this Ministry of Reconciliation and moan: “Just when I thought I had it all down, God says, “But wait! There’s more!” Or, we can try to fathom all aspects the Cross Event encompassed for our lives saying joyfully…”Jesus did, does, and always will! Therefore, there is more!”
(Intercessory Prayer from National Council of Churches, Eco-Justice Working Group)
Holy God, creator of all things, You weave them together in an intricate tapestry of life.
Teach us to respect the fragile balance of life and to care for the gifts of your creation.
Guide by your wisdom those who have power and authority, that, by the decisions they make, life may be cherished, and a good and fruitful Earth may continue to show your glory and sing your praises.
Almighty God, you have called us to tend and keep the garden of your creation.
Give us wisdom and reverence for all your plants and animals who share this planet with us and whose lives make possible our own.
Help us to remember that they too love the sweetness of life and join with us in giving you praise.
We ask all this in the name of Jesus, our Redeemer and Reconciler.
Sermon given at Oceanview United Methodist Church, Juno Beach, Florida June
This sermon was also given on 10 June 2005 at another church.
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