2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
June 7, 2015
As we begin,
take a look at the map in your bulletins.
Look at Corinth.
Corinth was a city in Greece about 40 miles southwest of Athens.
It stood on an isthmus, linking the Peloponnesian peninsula to the rest of Greece.
It was both a commercial and religious hub.
Shippers could avoid the dangers of the open sea of the Mediterranean
by traveling across the Corinthian Isthmus,
so Corinth was full of sailors and travelers.
Corinth was a large city for its time – about 130,000 people.
In Corinth there were at least 12 temples,
including shrines to the gods Poseidon and Aphrodite.
Corinth was a city with a reputation…
it was known as a city filled with immorality –
in particular greed and sexual immorality.
The apostle Paul lived in Corinth for about 18 months
as he established a church in the city around the year 50.
As he frequently did, after he left, he kept in touch with the community by letter.
Paul wrote at least 4 letters back to the Corinthians…
only two of which are in existence.
For the next several weeks we will be looking at what the Bible
calls the 2nd letter to the Corinthians…
but we will see that it is probably actually the fourth letter.
The verse I’m going to focus on today comes from the 4th chapter,
the 16th verse:
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
I’m not really sure why this verse sticks out for me…
but it probably has to do with the fact that I’m turning 50 in a few weeks,
and more and more it feels like I’m falling apart!
My outer nature isn’t “wasting away”
but it is changing…
physically, there are things I just can’t do any longer.
I used to be able to do a back bend,
and yet when I went to yoga class last week, it wasn’t happening
(no matter how much I tried to ‘breathe into it’)!
My feet never used to bother me;
I didn’t used to have to take medication for cholesterol;
I never used to turn on the light to read fine print.
According to researchers, we reach our physical peak
in our late 20’s or early 30’s…and then it’s downhill from there.
I admit I’m in denial…
I sent my brother a notice about the Warrior Dash obstacle course yesterday.
It’s an outdoor course complete with wall-climbing
and scrambling through mud.
My brother (who’s two years younger than me) simply replied, “Really????”
Paul says, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.”
Our outer nature is wasting away…like it or not.
A question Paul raises is,
“Is our inner nature being renewed?”
As I reflect on 50 years,
I know that I am not the same person I was 5 years ago, or 10 years or 25 years ago.
Physically, I have lost strength and flexibility;
I have more aches and pains.
But perhaps you would agree…when I think back to my younger self, I don’t want to go back.
I have gained far more than I have lost.
The gift of years (a gift that not everyone receives)
brings with it experiences and relationships
which lead to inner growth.
Spiritual growth never peaks.
This is what Paul means by the renewing of our inner nature.
A friend of mine wrote this as her Facebook status recently:
“The longer I live, the more I am convinced that life is a journey of empathy-building experiences.”
She continued,”The latest? Colonoscopy prep. Oh. My. Goodness.”
Life as a journey of empathy-building experiences.
True, isn’t it?
In our younger years we don’t quite understand…
fill in the blank: we don’t understand illness, financial distress, depression, grief, pain, colonoscopy preps…
and then it happens to us.
Sheryl Sandberg wrote a similar sentiment this week.
Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook
and her husband died suddenly in a treadmill accident last month.
He was 47 years old.
Sheryl wrote that in the 30 days since her husband’s death,
she feels that she has lived 30 years.
She is 30 years sadder…and 30 years wiser.
She has learned things about grief that she never knew before.
As well-intentioned friends and loved ones tried to tell her that everything would be ‘okay’, Sandberg says that she learned that,
“Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay
but acknowledging that it is not.”
Through the experience of the loss of her husband,
Sandberg grew in empathy.
Life is a journey of empathy-building experiences.
Today many of us could make lists
of ways in which we have fallen apart over the years.
I’ve given you some of mine.
Paul would ask us about them,
“How have you grown through them, despite of them?
Is your spiritual self growing?
Is your inner nature being renewed?”