Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. For as long as I can remember, Iâ€™ve loved tent camping. When I was a kid, my family would go camping just about every summer. I love the adventure of campingâ€”getting to be so closely connected with nature, listening to the raindrops fall on the tent fly while falling asleep, waking up to the sound of birds singing, and getting up every morning knowing that some new adventure awaits. I realize, though, that not everyone enjoys camping. In fact, some people feel very strongly to the contrary. But regardless of where you fall on your opinion about tent camping, I think we can all agree on one thingâ€”no one wants to live in a tent long term. After a while, the inconveniences and discomfort catches up with you. Just last weekend, my family went camping on Mount Desert Island. And we had a wonderful time, despite some of the inconveniences. Sure, the ground under the tent wasnâ€™t quite as flat as we thought it was when we initially setup camp. Sure, the crows who so rudely woke us up at 5am every morning were a bit annoying. But despite those inconveniences, we really enjoyed ourselves because we knew that we had a home to return to. We know that those inconveniences were only temporary. We really learned the lesson that thereâ€™s no place like home. In our text for this morning, from 2 Corinthians 5, Paul picks up on some of these same themes. He talks about the life that we live in this world like living in a tentâ€”itâ€™s only a temporary residence. Paul reminds us that we live in a place thatâ€™s not our home as we await our eternal home. And as we await that eternal home, to use Paulâ€™s words, we groan. The struggles, frailties, and challenges of this life cause us to groan.
2. There are moments in life that lead us to become extra sensitive to the frailties, challenges, and struggles of this life. For me, one of those such moments was this past Saturday afternoon. Iâ€™m a soccer fan, so I was watching the European Championship matches, and there was a particular match on Saturday afternoon between Denmark and Finland. During the match, just a few minutes before half time, one of the Danish players just collapsed on the field. He was unconscious and had to have CPR administered on the field. Thank the Lord heâ€™s in the hospital now and it doing well, but moments like that cause everyone who was watching to groan because of the frailties of human life and health. Maybe youâ€™ve had a similar experience where a medical emergency has caused you to groan because of the frailties of life. Or maybe itâ€™s something different entirely. Maybe itâ€™s the loss of a jobâ€”either for you or for someone you know. That job loss causes you to groan because life is hard, you donâ€™t know whatâ€™s going to happen next. Or maybe itâ€™s you or someone you know who, for lack of a better way to put it, is going through a mid-life crisis. You just wake up one morning and realize that life is just not what you had hoped or dreamed it would beâ€”and so you groan. Or maybe itâ€™s someone later in life who has a similar realization as youâ€™ve thought back over your life and legacyâ€”and you groan because it all seems so meaningless and purposeless. The fact of the matter is, we all groan. The question is, do we groan in hope or do we groan in despair? And thereâ€™s a significant difference between those two things. To groan in hope means to see suffering and challenging circumstances as a reminder that this is not our home. And so we groan in hope for the life of the world to come. But if weâ€™re being honest, most of us tend to groan in despair. We groan and throw ourselves a pity party, wallowing in self-pity. We lose hope by allowing ourselves to be overcome by our groaning and the struggles of this life.
3. So, the question is, how do we respond when these moments inevitably come? Well, in our Epistle Reading, St. Paul offers us some wisdom: For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwellingâ€¦ (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). Paul goes on, but his point here is important. Paul talks about this temporary dwelling place that we live in on this earth as a â€œtent.â€ We live in a tent. And as we live in this tent, we groan with the challenges and struggles of life. But as we live in this life, St. Paulâ€™s wisdom for us is that we Christians always live focused on our eternal home. We live in this life knowing that thereâ€™s no place like homeâ€”and weâ€™re not there yet. But we do have a promise, a guarantee of that eternal home. And so, St. Paul says, starting in verse 6: So, we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:6-10). Even though we are away from our eternal home, St. Paul reminds us that we live in hope, and we groan in hope because we know that our faithfulness in this life is pleasing to our Heavenly Father. He has given us work to doâ€”tasks to do, relationships to pour ourselves into. And we know that our work is pleasing to God not because of the merits of our own works but because Christ sanctifies (or makes holy) our works. And so, we live in hope, we work in hope, and we groan in hope looking to the cross of Christ. There on the cross, Jesus groaned for us so that our groaning might come to an end one day and that we might be made only in Godâ€™s sight.
4. If living in a tent for a while is painful, then building a home is worse. Anyone who has ever been through that process of building a new home knows that to be true. To put it nicely, building a home is a pain. There are always issues that come upâ€”problems with contractors or subcontractors, financial issues, timelines that keep getting pushed back further and further. Building a home is a painâ€¦but itâ€™s worth it in the end. When you finally get to walk into that completed house, itâ€™s all worth it. In a similar way, Jesus is building us an eternal home. The process of getting to the point where we can â€œmove inâ€ is uncomfortable, it takes longer than you would like, there is numerous groaning involvedâ€¦but in the end it will be worth it. It is in this hope of the promise of eternal life that we place our confidence as we groan not in despair, but in hopeâ€”the hope of the life of the world to come.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.