The Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year C)

“A New Creation in Christ”

A sermon by Pastor Jane Jeuland

Paul tells us this morning, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.”

On Ash Wednesday we remembered that we were made from dust… that God crafted us from the dirt of this world. On Easter we are reminded that Christ came to lift us up out of the dirt, out of the grave, and into new life. 

I wonder, where do you find yourself in all of this? Do you feel like one who is made from dirt? Or do you feel lifted up?

Sometimes we can just physically feel like dirt.  We haven’t slept well or maybe we had too much to drink or we haven’t exercised in a long time. We do things or we neglect to do things that make our bodies just feel like dirt.

Sometimes we feel like dirt emotionally. We may find ourselves remembering the ways we slipped up in the past. We yell at our spouse, the love of our lives. We forget a friend’s birthday… and by the time we get to church to confess our sins against God and our neighbor, we feel the heaviness of the wrongs we have done and the things we have left undone. We feel like dirt emotionally. 

At other times we can feel like we are on top of the world. We are eating right, exercising. We were promoted at work and put together the best surprise party for a friend’s birthday. We feel so good.

And sometimes we can feel like we are spiritually lifted up. We sing at church, pray and listen to scripture. We attend prayer group or meditation group and find ourselves in the calm and the quiet somehow transported to a place beyond the here and now. We feel nourished and whole spiritually. 

The thing is we are not just dirty creations nor are we just glorified spiritual beings. We are both. We can be singing hymns now and then on the way home from church, we start cursing at the reckless driver who cut us off. We experience both the mud that we came from and the glory that Jesus promises us.

Paul tells us this morning, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” For so long I thought that Paul was saying that in Christ we become these wholly perfect angelic-like beings who have no human emotions, no fear, no anger, no languishing, no envy. In another letter, Paul even tells us that “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control.” I must not be a very good Christian then because sometimes I am so afraid and not entirely in control. Sometimes I just feel like dirt.

But perhaps this is precisely what Paul meant… we are a completely new creation, not merely of the dirt and not an angel either. We are an entirely new creation in Christ. 

Before Christ we were just children of the mud, made from mud, unable to ever be free of our sin, but in Christ we are given freedom from our sin and the promise of everlasting life. That was radically new. Because of Christ our gaze turned away from the ground and toward the heavens. Because of Christ, we were given a sense that there is something more, something beyond our fallen selves and this fallen sinful world and through Christ we were given access to all that is beyond this life. 

In Christ we are a new creation that trusts, believes, and knows that we were made for something more than this life, we were made for the everlasting Kingdom of God. 

Pastor Furtick put it so well… He said, “we were made from the mud, but we were not made for the mud. The question is – are we moving in what we are made for or are we moving in what we are made of?”  God did not make us for the mud but so many of us get stuck in the mud. We have these moments when we feel like dirt because of what we have done and left undone and we think this must be what I am made for, but we were not made for the dirt of life, we were made to inherit the Kingdom of God.

This morning we heard Jesus tell the story of a prodigal son; a young man who took his inheritance from his father and spent it all on prostitutes and alcohol. After spending all his money, he found that he had nothing to eat and went to work for a pig farmer who did not feed him. The young man found himself eating out of a pig’s trough. He had been raised as a prince and now he was eating pig’s food.  He wasn’t made for the mud, he was made to be a prince in his father’s house, but he didn’t know what he was made for. He didn’t know what he had been given. He wasted the abundance that his father gave him. His father was a good farmer who made sure that all of his farm hands were properly fed, so the son decides to go back to his father’s house to see if he could work for his father and then at least he would be able to eat a proper meal. As the son comes back, filthy, his clothes and his emotions torn apart, his father rejoices that his son is back. He opens his arms to embrace him and offers a feast for him to celebrate his return because he thought he was dead, but in fact he is alive.

When we hear the story of the prodigal son I think many of us think that we would never waste such an inheritance. We would never go that far. We would not waste all that money so quickly on frivolous things.

But I actually wonder if most of us are getting stuck in the mud and eating out of the pig’s trough as if that is what we were made for.

Do you live like a prince who will inherit the kingdom of God or do you waste the abundance that God has given you by getting stuck in those muddy places?

Or perhaps you feel like a hypocrite sometimes so you drag yourself back to the mud. You wonder how could I be so lifted up now when just the other day I was in the dirt? I’m not really spiritually connected, I’m just a dirty hypocrite.

But God says you were not made for the mud and you are not a hypocrite. You are a new creation, a beloved child of God. Your Father in Heaven loves you and whenever you come home, Your Father is always ready to receive no matter how dirty you are when you arrive.

You are a new creation. You are a human made for something more.

So this day, this week, this lent, 

  1. Remember that you are a new creation. You are a flawed child, whose inheritance is abundant spiritual well-being, everlasting peace, joy, love and life. 
  1. Because you are a new creation, live and move in what you are made for no matter how mud-stained you are. Do not waste your inheritance. Live as a child who has endless resources to spend; endless joy, endless peace, endless love from your Father in Heaven. 
  1. And whenever you go astray because we all do everyday, return to your Father in heaven who is always waiting to receive you. He always rejoices over your return. 

Because God did not just fashion you from dust. In Christ he made you a new creation.