Daniel E. H. Bryant
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon
The text for this
morning comes from the second letter of Corinthians, chapter 5, verses
16 through 20. Even though we call this the "2nd"
letter, scholars generally think that this is a combination of at least
two different letters that likely represents a 3rd, 4th or 5th
letter. They're not sure, but at any rate, the text for this
From now on, therefore,
we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew
Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So
if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has
passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All
this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has
given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that
is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting
their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of
reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors
for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you
on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
I want to share with you an image this
morning, a painting that hangs in my office, that I consider kind of a
It's a place that just invites you to
come and sit by the stream and dip your toe in the cool of water and
feel the warmth of the Spring sun. And even thought it's really
not that great of a painting -- it's a watercolor -- it's not anything
like Mel Vincent's painting in the back of the church, if you haven't
seen it yet, you need to stop by and see that painting that we just
received from Mel. Just gorgeous -- that one is really an amazing
This, you know, it's average, it's
OK. I've actually seen some better from this particular
artist. But it is one of the most valued things that I
posses. What makes it so? The signature:
Betty Joy. It was a painting done
by my mother a few years before her death. And you see, that
perspective changes everything.
It hangs across from my desk in my
office, so a day does not go by when I am here that I don't see that and
remember. Tuesday will be Mom's 75th birthday. So I will
look upon that painting and I will remember the peace and the serenity,
the joy and the beauty, the sense of awe and wonder that I gained from
my mother, as I celebrate that birthday.
We all have experiences in life that
change our perspective, how we view things. Some of them are
wonderful and amazing, thrilling, exciting, exhilarating. Like
some of the Duck basketball games -- men and women right now
[participating in the respective NCAA tournaments].
Some of those experiences are tragic,
discouraging, disheartening, depressing. Like some of the Duck
basketball games J.
But that will not be the case this afternoon, right? Immediately
after today's service, I'm engaging in 2 hours of prayer, so I hope you
join me in that J.
But those experiences change us.
They change our perspective on life. It was just over a year ago
that I received my diagnosis of prostate cancer. Believe me, that
changed everything -- and still is, in many ways. Those who have
been through similar kinds of serious illnesses, I think, know of which
I speak. You view your body and your health differently. You
take less for granted. You appreciate relationships more, a whole
lot more. It's all about perspective.
In our spiritual formation group on
Thursday's, as we were reading this particular passage from 2
Corinthians and contemplating on the ways in which our perspectives have
changed, Michael Kennedy noted that Copernicus and Galileo literally changed
the way we viewed the world.
When we see the earth not as the center
of all things, as had been the case up until then, but rather as one
planet among many rotating around the sun, as one star among many --
billions -- that changes our perspective on how we view the earth.
It was in 1963 that three men took a
long journey in a little tiny vehicle that changed our perspective once
again. They took a picture on that journey that no one before had
ever seen in the history of humanity, at least not from that
perspective. And of course it's a very familiar picture to us now,
that we see often and have gotten kind of used to it. But I want
you to imagine, take yourself back to 1963, imagine when you saw that
image for the first time.
Astronaut Rusty Schweickart was not on
that flight when the first picture was taken, but on a subsequent
flight, March of 1969, and he talks about that experience, the impact
that it had on him. It was a profoundly life-changing, spiritual
experience. So as you look at that picture, or maybe you want to
close your eyes, I want you to listen deeply to what Rusty Schweickart
says about that experience and how it impacted him:
Up there you go around
every hour and a half, time after time after time. You…wake up over
the Mid-East, over North Africa. As you eat breakfast you look out the
window as you're going past and there's the Mediterranean area, and
Greece, and Rome, and North Africa, and the Sinai, the whole
area. And you realize that in one glance that what you're seeing
is what was the whole history of man for years - the cradle of
civilization. And you think of all that history that you can
imagine, looking at that scene.
And you go around down
across North Africa and out over the Indian Ocean, and look up at that
great subcontinent of India pointed down toward you as you go past
it. And Ceylon off to the side, Burma, Southeast Asia, out over
the Philippines, and up across that monstrous Pacific Ocean, vast body
of water - you've never realized how big that is before.
And you finally come up
across the coast of California and look for those friendly
things: Los Angeles, and Phoenix, and on across El Paso and
there's Houston, there's home, and you look and sure enough there's
the Astrodome. And you identify with that, you know - it's an
And down across New
Orleans and then looking down to the south and there's the whole
peninsula of Florida laid out. …And you go out across the Atlantic
Ocean and back across Africa.
And you do it again and
again and again.
And that identity -
that you identify with Houston, and then you identify with Los
Angeles, and Phoenix and New Orleans and everything. And the
next thing you recognize in yourself, is you're identifying with North
Africa. You look forward to that, you anticipate it. And there
it is. That whole process begins to shift of what it is you
identify with. When you go around it in an hour and a half you
begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing.
And that makes a change.
You look down there and
you can't imagine how many borders and boundaries you crossed again
and again and again. And you don't even see 'em. At that
wake-up scene - the MID-EAST - you know there are hundreds of people
killing each other over some imaginary line that you can't see.
From where you see it, the thing is a whole, and it's so
beautiful. And you wish you could take one from each side in
hand and say, "Look at it from this perspective.
Look at that. What's important?"
And so a little later
on, … another astronaut, … goes out to the Moon. And now he
looks back and he sees the Earth not as something big, where he can
see the beautiful details, but he sees the Earth as a small thing out
there. And now that contrast between that bright blue and white
Christmas tree ornament and that black sky, that infinite universe,
really comes through. The size of it, the significance of it - it
becomes both things, it becomes so small and so fragile, and such a
precious little spot in that universe, that you can block it out with
your thumb, and you realize that on that small spot, that little blue
and white thing is everything that means anything to you. All of
history and music and poetry and art and war and death and birth and
love, tears, joy, games, all of it is on that little spot out there
that you can cover with your thumb.
And you realize that
that perspective . . . that you've changed, that there's something new
Apostle Paul says: In Christ, we
have such a new perspective. Once we saw Christ from the human
point of view, and now no longer. Once we saw ourselves from a
human point of view, but no longer. Once we saw each other from a
human point of view, but no longer. Once we saw the world from a
human point of view, but no longer.
In Christ, all of that has
changed. Christ gives us a totally new perspective on all that
Now Paul, of course, is speaking from
his own personal experience. Of his dramatic encounter with the
risen Christ on the road to Damascus. I know not all of us will
identify with that, will have that kind of experience. But Paul is
also speaking from his experience with the church in Corinth. And
that was not always a good experience. In chapter 2 he speaks of
the painful visit he made, and a tearful letter he wrote. Scholars
think the last four chapters of 2 Corinthians is perhaps that 'tearful'
letter. You read those chapters and you get a sense for a way in
which Paul's leadership has been challenged, his integrity as an Apostle
has been questioned.
And so for Paul, after such an
experience, now, to say that this congregation, the one that caused him
so much grief, that it is a new celebration, is rather striking.
And I think it suggests that Paul sees this not as something that is
accomplished once and for all when we become Christian, but rather it is
Paul as a new creation is Paul's appeal
to us. To say that God is not through with us yet, and there's
more to come, our best years are still ahead of us. And if Paul is
correct, that in Christ we are a new creation, that must mean that we
are then invited to see one another and to see our world through the
eyes of Jesus.
So think about what that means, to have
such a perspective. Think about how Jesus saw that despised tax
collector, when he said to him 'Zacchaeus, come on down, I want to have
dinner with you, in your home'. Think about how Jesus saw that
women caught in adultery, and says to the crowd 'Whoever is without sin,
cast the first stone'. And then to her when the crowd
leaves: 'Woman, has no one condemned you? Neither do
I'. Think about how Jesus saw his crucifiers: 'Father,
forgive them, they know not what they do'.
Think about, then, how Jesus sees you.
And those around you. Your neighbors. People you work
with. That person on the street. The person in the
news. Paul says that is how we are to look at one another.
With that kind of perspective.
So if God does the reconciling, and
it's not us, and all our reconciled to God, some just don't know it
yet. We are ambassadors of that reconciliation. We are the
ones who are called to help others to discover that they too can be
reconciled to God. And that's going to be hard to do unless we
discover it for ourselves. That we too are a new creation.
That Christ has made all things new in us, has given us a fresh new
perspective from above, or maybe from within.
The world values money, status, and
power. Paul says we are a new creation. We have a different
perspective. The world sees us for the titles before our name or
for the initials after it, or the things we have accomplished or the
things we have acquired, but we are a new creation. We see every
person created in the image of God. The world is deeply divided by
race, religion, class and wealth, but we are a new creation.
Neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female, Paul says.
The world focuses on shame and guilt, finding someone else to blame, but
we are a new creation. Paul says that we have even become the
righteousness of God.
So we have a choice. We can see
the world, we can see others, we can see ourselves, we can see even
Christ from a human point of view. Or, we can see all of that from
the perspective that God gives to us.
You see, that perspective changes
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