“Now is the acceptable time, see now is the day of salvation!”
This section of 2 Corinthians is not as beautiful or powerful as some of the preceding sections that we have looked the past few weeks but it shows Paul’s passion and determination to lead this new church that he started in the way of the Gospel.
We remember that the church at Corinth was struggling to live out their new faith in Christ. They were having a hard time being in the culture but not of the culture. They were having a hard time letting their faith determine their values instead of society. They were questioning the authority and leadership of Paul and his coworkers, the very ones who started their church.
Paul was trying to communicate the nature of his and his coworkers ministry as authoritative and divinely rooted. The stakes were high and so were Paul’s emotions. The church body was focusing on things that did not matter and Paul wanted to get their attention back to things that do matter, things of the spirit, things of Christ, things of the Father.
When I was a seminary student I was blessed to work for two semesters at a lovely mid-sized disciple’s congregation. I fell in love with the congregation immediately and connected deeply with some of the church members. While I was there, a committee was formed to oversee the renovation of the sanctuary. They worked hard to come up with a plan to present to the congregation that was both tasteful and affordable. On the day of the congregational meeting which would follow the worship service, I was shocked to learn that a petition was being circulated asking for the resignation of the senior minister. When I asked why, I was told that they believed the senior minister was manipulating the process of the renovation design. They were upset that one particular person had not been asked to be on the design committee and they did not approve the color scheme. Some of the people that I had come to really like and respect were leading the effort to overthrow the senior minister and were leading the fight against the design plan being presented by their brothers and sisters in Christ. The church body was focusing on things that did- not- matter. And while I was in awe at how the senior minister handled this most difficult situation, his passion definitely came through at the congregational meeting. You might say, that like Paul, he was hot.
Paul has been criticized by many throughout the centuries for the way he bragged on himself. To lift up one’s own life as an example for others to follow or to speak of the suffering you have endured is perceived by us as bragging and as placing yourself above or apart everyone else.
But we must remember that Paul lived in a time where it was common for leaders to boast about their leadership skills. People were used to it and even expected it. We expect it too from our secular leaders. If you have listened to any of the many, many candidates running for President, you have definitely heard some boasting and it probably did not phase you because you have come to expect that. But we do not expect it from our church leaders who we prefer to be humble and sweet and who we want to talk about nice things – God’s fatherly love and Christ’s call for us to love because he first loved us and Paul’s words of encouragement and deep faith.
And God does love us and Christ loves us and Paul did leave us with wonderful, beautiful words of encouragement. And there are plenty of occasions where humility, soft words and tones should be used by ministers. But pastors are not doing their job if they are always trying to be helpful and to make people happy. If you are a follower of Christ and you are comfortable, you are not doing it right. If my words do not sometimes make you uneasy, if they do not sometimes make you squirm, then I am not doing my job as a messenger for Jesus. Following Jesus is on not the easy road and it is not the comfortable life.
Paul was not simply bragging – he was telling the Corinthian church to get over themselves, to stop fighting and arguing over things that did not matter. He wanted them to know that the former things had passed away. Social hierarchies, competitiveness, thoughtlessness, small mindedness and the like were no longer part of how they should operate. They could be confident in their leader because he had endured hardship, he and his coworkers had endured hunger and sleepless nights, beatings and imprisonment – they had been persecuted for carrying the message of the gospel. It was because of these things that they could and should be trusted and followed. Paul and his coworkers had nothing and yet had everything, they had given away all their possessions and had taken up their crosses and were doing their best to follow Jesus,
Paul began this part of his argument and our passage for today by quoting from Isaiah 49.8 which says, this is what the Lord says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
“In the time of my favor, at just the right moment, at the opportune time, in God’s time” God will answer and help us. The word in Greek is Kairos and it means: at just the right moment, when all the stars align, we might say, or in God’s time, we might say.”
And Paul then responded to the Isaiah passage by saying the stars have aligned – God’s time is already here – it is God’s now – “now is the acceptable time, now is the right time, now is the day of salvation,” Paul said.
Now is the right time to be a covenant for the people. Now is the right time to restore the land. Now is the right time to reassign its desolate inheritances. Now is the right time to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
Now is the time, it is God’s now.
On Thursday Pope Francis released his long anticipated Encyclical letter “On Care for our Common Home.” Like the Apostle Paul, Pope Francis called all followers of Jesus on the carpet. Francis said, “We have come to see ourselves as lords and masters, entitled to plunder the earth at will.” He said, “we have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth.” and like Paul he said, “Now is the time, this is God’s now.
The Pope said what we all need is an “ecological conversion,” whereby the effects of our encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in our relationship with the world – with nature and with all of humanity. Things that effect the least among us must concern followers of Christ. Things that effect God’s creation must concern followers of Christ for in God’s loving plan every created thing and person has its own value and significance.
Everyone is infinitely precious in God’s eyes; a life’s value and worth grow not from the status attained through wealth or position in the community but from being one for whom our Redeemer died on a cross.
Now is the time, this is God’s kairos, God’s now. It is time for us to stand up for our beliefs. It is time for our lives to stand out – to look different to others. It is time for us to pick up the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left, to claim the power of God, to speak words of truth and live out of faith each and every day.
Disciples of Christ believe in what is called the priesthood of all believers. That means that we are all ministers of the gospel and that ordained ministers are not closer to God than anyone else who follows Jesus. I have been called to ministry as my vocation and in that role I am study scripture and pray and to do my best to lead and serve you who have called me as your pastor. But I am no better or worse than you. I am not closer or further from God. We are all ministers of Jesus Christ and are called to follow him and serve him each and every day. —Paul has quite a resume as a minister of Jesus Christ. He was arrested and beaten, he gave up his influence and privilege as a Roman citizen and as a Jewish leader. He gave up his easy life and hit the road teaching all who would listen about Jesus. He started churches and preached his faith. He wrote letters of support and admonition. He was passionate.
What does my resume look like? What does your resume look like? What have we given up to follow Jesus? Our lives should look different from other Americans. We should share the gospel with other people.
It is the opportune moment, the right time, God’s kairos.
It is time to stand up and speak out for something on behalf of the gospel.
What is your passion this morning? What issue of the heart means so much to you that you think about it a lot and it wakes you up and moves you to tears? Maybe the killing of 9 people in a prayer service because of the color of their skin makes you want to speak out and stand up. Maybe you are passionate about children or women’s issues. Maybe you are passionate about equal rights, issues of poverty, treatment of prisoners, the elderly, people with chronic illnesses, or the earth.
Now is the time, God’s Kairos. —It is time to figure out why we are here and to live out our faith in a way that draws some attention to ourselves! Not so that we can boast about our own work or our own sacrifice, but so that we can witness to God’s power through Jesus. Not so that we can point to ourselves but so that we can point beyond ourselves.
So that we can demonstrate to this very broken world that God is alive and is working and moving among us and through us. So that when someone asks you why you work with women who have worked in the sex industry you can say because I follow Jesus. So that when someone asks you why you work with drug addicts you can say because I follow Jesus. So that when someone asks why I speak and preach so much about creation care I will say because I follow Jesus and he gives me no choice.
Now is the time – we cannot wait for someone else to do it for us. We cannot wait for someone to ask us to tell them about Jesus the Christ or ask us if we go to church. We cannot wait another year, another month, another day.
The time is now – God’s NOW is here and all who follow Christ Jesus are called to live differently, to act differently, to speak differently!
Let us “be a covenant for the people, restore the land, reassign its desolate inheritances, and to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’