by Sara Holland
Hingham Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
May 24, 2015
Soccer or fútbol has been a constant thread throughout my life. My undergraduate studies were no exception to this rule. In fact, my decision on where to get my Bachelor’s degree was made in large part because of the soccer program at the school I chose. By the time I was a senior on the team, I had experienced being mainly a player who would cheer for teammates to being a player who was mainly cheered for, by those around me. Because I had grown as a player and understood how to give a good half-time speech, I became captain my senior year. The day my senior season began, I got into a dangerous tackle, and before I knew it, my ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament was torn.
With the tearing of this ligament I lost my soccer season but perhaps more importantly, my ability to walk and run. As the athletic trainer and doctor told me all about the procedure I would go through to fix the problem, I could not understand how something that seemed so basic could be gone. The doctor told me, “You will have a new knee. You will relearn how to walk.” What a transition to make. It is not easy to relearn. More generally, it is not easy to transition.
Maybe you know what it is like to relearn or transition. It is also paradoxical. The paradox is that while change and transition are hard for us, we love what is new. In the case of my knee, I was certainly not going to continue hobbling around with a leg or knee which did not allow me to walk or run. I needed this hard transition, I wanted that new leg. When I was a kid, I wanted a new toy. Now, I want a new pair of shoes. Sure, my desires have become more boring as an adult, but the desire for renewal and newness exists.
But I bet you know the feeling of breaking in a new pair of shoes. Of all the tiny frustrations, this can feel like one of the worst. What an absurd paradox – to desire renewal, but struggle in transition. We might also consider adolescence and the teenage years we have all gone through. Most adolescents want nothing more than to get to adulthood. But before we get through those years of transition, there is this experience of hair growing in strange places all over your body, maybe the experience of a voice changing. This is hard transition. So a person struggles in transition, desiring the newness of adulthood.
Let’s consider the winter we just experienced. As soon as that second snow storm hit, you know – the one after the first one. The first storm, well we frolicked in it. As soon as that second storm hit, let’s call it snow storm Zelda – as soon as Zelda hit we just wanted to be done with the winter, we wanted our renewal, but the transition had to occur. It still is occurring, no? Flowers are blooming and some of us are struggling with allergies. At least by now we see it is a small price to ‘pay.’ We desire renewal, but we struggle in transition.
As a congregation, we have been struggling in transition. So badly we want renewal and rebirth, which we have recently celebrated with Easter. As much as we desire this renewal, we struggle, as a community in this transition. Change is hard for us, as individuals and as a group. We want that newness! For years we have struggled with our Christian Education and we are longing for renewal, going through more transition now.
I believe the first part of our good news is that we have space and freedom to accept and acknowledge our paradox of transition and renewal. But our gospel word is bigger than acceptance of a paradox. The gospel is bigger and simpler than paradox – God is renewal. “Therefore, if one is in Christ, the old is gone, the new has come.” Before this final verse of our reading for today we have heard Paul discuss Christ’s divinity, but also the divinity of people.
We cannot forget that God is who acts. God is the change agent. The struggle of the Christian community is often to see that which is most simple and obvious – God’s presence. Paul is not the only one who shows us this. We may look back to the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament to see God’s action. We might consider the prophet Isaiah and the ways that the people turned from God. In transition, it is critical that we see how Christ is renewal. Let us live into God’s way, renewal’s way.
For me personally, Paul is confusing, and frustrating, and has been lifted up by one of my favorite scholars to be the homophobe par excel lance. I struggle with his texts, though they mean so much for my faith journey. And the text we have today may be particularly hard for us because much of Second Corinthians stands at great contrast to the rest of the book. From form, to function, the book’s authorship is as perplexing as the person of Paul, himself.
Beyond the critical issues of authorship, the text itself demands that we think seriously about death. What does Christ’s death mean to us? One scholar notes, “Verse 15, moves from Christ’s death to our life in a way that causes no problems of interpretation, though there are many in the way we live it out. Christ’s death requires a deep and abiding response on our part, a response that we can make because Christ not only died but was raised for our sake.” To go beyond this point of what this death means for an individual, we should be sure to recognize that Paul was making this statement for the community. Paul is pointing the audience to the heart. The heart of God.
Yes, our changes and our transitions are hard, but we keep in mind God is renewal. Have you felt this? I have. In part, Paul’s words give us a mystical vision which casts a new light on humanity. That is, God is among the people and for the people. Perhaps as a community and church, we can be renewal. The text states, “We regard no one from a human point of view.” So here Paul has used the negative and I generally like to switch negative statements to the positive, so I posit: “We regard people from a divine light.” That is, we see renewal. We see renewal. And again, God is renewal. Therefore, We see God. I see God. In you. And you. And you.
Again, I know we have all felt the struggles that come with transition, and it is okay to feel this and feel it deeply. While we deal with and feel and think through the struggles and pains of transitions, we remember that God is here. The first month of recovery after my knee surgery, I prayed, and I had to believe people around me when they told me I would make it. And while I prayed, I looked to many people for help, as hard as it was to ask for help. Let us lean on each, remembering that God is here. And remembering that God is renewal. May it be so.
 Second Corinthians, Ernest Best, 54.
 Patrick Cheng once made a joking reference to Paul as such.
 Introduction to 2nd Corinthians, page 1956.
 Second Corinthians, Ernest Best, 52.