Summary: Fifth and final sermon in series on the Purpose Driven Life.
PALM SUNDAY 2004
April 4, 2004
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel , Jr.
“Made for a Mission”
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we bow in your presence. May your Word be our rule, Your Spirit our teacher, and your greater glory our supreme concern, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
One of the popular television shows in our home is The Learning Channel’s Trading Spaces. The premise of the program is that two neighboring families are given 48 hours and $1,000 to make over a room in each other’s homes with the help of a professional designer and a construction team. Afterwards, each comes home to walk in with eyes closed for the climactic “reveal” of what the neighbors have done with, or to, the room. Happy homeowners shriek and jump about – others are not quite as effusive.
There’s even an outtake DVD titled “They Hated It!” although the producers of Trading Spaces say that the percentage of those who hate their home makeovers is small. Even so, the truth is that external makeovers have a short shelf life.
This morning, we are going to look at eternal makeovers, the kind that happens inside us by the power of God through Jesus Christ. Secondly, we are going to look at the mission that God gives to all who have received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
We begin with verse 17 of our second reading.
v. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.
If you’ve seen just the commercials for the weekday talk shows, you may have noticed that cosmetic makeovers are a staple for them. In addition to these regular segments on the talk shows, there are currently a dozen different “reality” makeover shows running on the tube. One program has taken the common makeover to another level. It is Fox Channel’s Ambush Makeover. Fox says,
“Imagine walking down the street, minding your own business when a stranger comes up to you and offers you a complete makeover – new hairstyle, fantastic makeup, designer clothes…the works. The only catch: you must accept it right now, abandon whatever you are doing and run-off to be a queen or king for the day. Would you do it? Welcome to the unpredictable excitement of AMBUSH MAKEOVER.
“In every episode, the AMBUSH MAKEOVER team travels all over the country, targeting unsuspecting “fashion victims” who are willing to drop everything to receive a once-in-a-lifetime makeover opportunity. Sometimes it’s spontaneous, while other times, the ambush has been set-up by a friend or family member. As soon as a potential participant says “yes,” he or she will be swept away into that city’s most prestigious salons where a team of fashion and beauty experts will work their magic. The viewers see it all as this “instant participant” is transformed into an instant beauty. Along the way, there will be fashion and beauty tips galore, and at the end of the day, the new – and hopefully improved – look will be revealed not only to the participants, but also to their friends and family.”
Paul himself had experienced such an “ambush makeover” on the Damascus Road. In one blinding moment he was encountered by Christ and transformed into the boldest and widest reaching ambassador for Christ in the apostolic church. Christian history is replete with thousands of examples of people who were surprised by the offer of a new life through Jesus Christ and were made new by Him.
For most of us the changes are more gradual. Through Jesus Christ, we are a new creation, but the work of Christ in us is generally slow and deliberate. Becoming a new creation is not instantaneous in all its’ effects. The spiritual makeover takes some time because the old sinful nature within us is so pervasive, and we cling to it so stubbornly. Through Christ, the old nature is declared of the past, even while God works in us, in cooperation with our minds, wills and emotions, to diminish the power of the old sinful nature over us. Explaining this further, Paul writes
vv. 18-19 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God is reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Reconciliation is the main theme of this passage and it is important that we understand what reconciliation meant in Paul’s era. The word was used frequently in Greek to signify a change in relationship between individuals or groups of people, often involving a financial transaction.
Used in a religious sense, Greek literature applies the word “reconciliation” to the healing of relationships between divine and human beings. In verse 19, Paul interprets the death of Christ as reconciling “the world” to God.