FOCUSING ON THINGS UNSEEN
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Text: “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. – 2 Corinthians 5:1
As we enter June in Florida, we know that new homes can’t be built fast enough, and some previously owned homes are selling even above asking price. There are even some families who were quick to snatch up a home from other buyers, only later to find the home was not really what they wanted! If you have bought a home before, what things were included on your list of decisions? Location? Schools?
Brick? Wood? Stucco? One story? Two story? My uncles in Ellwood City Pennsylvania owned a stone company, and, of course, their homes were made from stone. They looked impressive and strong! When we moved to Malvern, Arkansas, we learned that it was called “The Brick Capital of the World.” Most homes in that town were brick! With what materials have your homes been made? And if you purchased a condo, did you check the age of the building? The monthly dues? The apparent structure against our dreaded hurricanes? As in the classic story of the Three Little Pigs, the building material you used when a hurricane is bearing down on your home may count for a lot! Having a strong home, with a good roof, and hurricane resistant windows matters in Florida! Your insurance could actually go down with hurricane rated features.
While we may think about the strength of our home, there are plenty of people in Volusia county and elsewhere who live in a tent, or live in a sleeping bag, or live on the ground under a heavily used blanket. We have a variety of homes here on earth. And yet Paul—who was known as a tent maker, and probably a dweller in tents because of his travel—says some intriguing words when he is addressing the Corinthians in his second letter. Some of the most powerful, and some of the most obscure quotes by the Apostle Paul will be covered over the next three months. Can you imagine the most influential missionary and writer in the New Testament being what we would call today “homeless?” He lived in self-made tents wherever he traveled. Listen to what he said in his second letter to them: “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” My grandsons notice sagging parts of my skin, and I notice how wonderfully toned their skin is! There is a march of time with all of us, and even Paul pointed it out. But he also pointed out that with age comes wisdom; there a plenty of things I can do to teach, or warn, or guide my grandsons. That is the inner nature, being renewed, but only when we feed our inner nature properly, reading scripture, reading true stories, engaging with others on relational levels. Choosing the company we keep, matters. We can exercise and put creams on our skin, but we can also keep our minds sharp by seeing that they are exercised and challenged. But back to Paul’s home; it was a tent and he called it a tent! The Funeral book I use at graveside services has passages in the King James translation, which are sometimes comforting, sometimes confusing! 2 Corinthians 5:1 reads like this: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” That obscures what tentmaker Paul was trying to say in my view. So, no matter how strong and permanent, or how lightweight and portable our homes are here, our home in heaven is different. Some in these days are now traveling with their home being a camper, or a motorhome! Sales of those have also climbed as we come out of the pandemic. What is your home here on earth? Whatever it is, no matter how good your builder, or your manufacturer is on earth, it does not compare to your home in heaven. As the classic spiritual imagines the Jordan River being deep and wide, my home is “over Jordan” often called “Canaan” or “the promised land,” and we think of it as heaven. People through the years have imagined what their home would be like in heaven. Jokes have been made and songs written about having “mansions” in the sky, based once again on the King James Translation of John 14: “In my Father’s house are many mansions, while historically the word Jesus used most certainly meant “rooms,” there are many rooms in my Father’s house.” So there is a home for you in heaven as Paul says “a building of God, but one not made with hands like on earth, eternal in the heavens.” Heaven will be different. Even Jesus said that. It is a place “beyond the sunset.” It is a place where “there is no more mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the first things [read there the earthly things] have passed away.”
Today we may live in a house, a condo, a tent, a motor home, on the ground, or in a camper. But then, you will have a home not made with hands, and your life and the place where you call home, will be “eternal in the heavens.” One day, that will be our home. For now, the earth is our home, and God has called us to be managers of the earth. This week and in the weeks ahead, we will learn from the great New Testament writer who called his earthly home a tent, and sometimes a prison.
What a message he will bring to our hearts.
Let us pray: Eternal God: we who are finite can only imagine the time when we will join the infinity of heaven. In the name of Jesus, help us to make a difference on earth during our days, so that our names can be written in the Book of Life for our next life. Amen.
Jeffrey A. Sumner June 6, 2021