Summary: 1) What you see with your eyes is temporary and groan-worthy 2) What you see by faith is eternal and guaranteed
Shortly after the Christmas of 2006, Dave and Sharon Stuht descended on St. Albert with their three boys, Shannon, Trace, and Jesse. Dave had been called here by the Holy Spirit to work as outreach coordinator. Dave didn’t have to come. He could have continued working as an x-ray tech in New Ulm, Minnesota, or if my memory is correct, he had an opportunity to serve as chaplain at a Lutheran senior care centre. But Dave accepted the part-time call that was extended to him through our congregation and didn’t even wait until it warmed up before he moved his family north.
Dave, when you accepted the call, I thought to myself, “Wow. This is what it means to live by faith and not by sight.” Sure, you knew your destination, unlike Abraham and Sarah of old, but you didn’t really know what awaited you here. You didn’t know what exactly the ministry work would be like, or how a part-time call would go. You didn’t know what the schools would be like for your boys. You didn’t know if you would be able to replace your good friends. And yet you simply put all those matters in the Lord’s hands and came. You lived by faith, not by sight.
Now, almost nine years later God has seen fit to exercise your faith again. Your call here has come to a rather abrupt end. That would be difficult enough, but the end came just when you had gotten your foot in the door with the RCMP and Sheriff’s division as a volunteer chaplain. We also just finished our building project and are eager to leverage this space to reach the community. I know you were excited for that and were a constant source of encouragement during the building process.
But now you’re headed back to the States. Your house has been sold. The moving company has been booked. Sure, you have family to go back to, but you have no call, no position in another church you’ll be filling. And this time you’re leaving behind a couple of your boys for the time being. Is this move south perhaps harder than the move north?
I hope that the Epistle Lesson appointed for this Sunday will encourage you, and inspire the rest of us. The Apostle Paul urges you to keep living by faith, not by sight. Why? Because what you see with your eyes is temporary and groan-worthy. But what you see by faith is eternal and guaranteed. Listen again to the opening verses of our text. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:1, 2).
The “earthly tent” that Paul mentions is our body. Like a tent, our bodies and our lives here are only temporary, and for that matter, groan-worthy. Can you identify with Paul’s body-tent comparison? I can because my tent-camping experience usually goes something like this. No matter where I set up the tent, a rock always digs into my back all night long. The cold air seeps through the tent flaps all night long so that I’m never warm. By morning, condensation has built on the walls of the tent so that a simple touch causes water to plop onto the sleeping bags. Should a storm blow through, the whole tent will shake and shudder as if it’s deciding whether to come crashing down on you or not. Tent-camping is a good idea on paper, but it’s never really comfortable, not like being at home in your warm, cozy bed.
The lives that we have now are like that – they are groan-worthy. Dave and Sharon, I think you especially know what I’m talking about. For the last three months you’ve strained your backs and put undue pressure on your knees as you moved furniture around and started to box up your belongings. Then there was the headache of selling the house and getting a mover arranged. That wouldn’t be so bad if you could be certain of the future – that when you arrived in Colorado there was a nice house and well-paying jobs waiting for you.
If all you could do was live by sight, you should be an emotional wreck right now. So many things are out of your control. And so many things are uncertain. But as Christians, you know and you believe that they are firmly in Jesus’ control. That’s what you have confessed while with us. Now once again God is giving you an obvious opportunity to put that confession into practice, to live by faith, not by sight.
Faith sees God’s promise and rejoices that this life with its aches and pains is only temporary. Colorado will not be your final stop. Your final stop will be in heaven with Jesus. And after Judgment Day you will exchange your body with all its scar tissue from past injuries for a body that is perfect on the outside and on the inside. Not only that, you’ll also be surrounded by others who are perfect in every way. You won’t ever have to feel like you have to prove yourselves to anyone because everyone will love you perfectly and unselfishly with no hidden agenda, even as Jesus loves you right now.