II Corinthians 4:7-5:7. The sermon had the title "So". Originally I chose this title because it picked up on "So we do not lose heart" (II Cor. 4, verses 1 & 16). This seemed a good fit with the meeting of the congregation that was slated to occur following worship. The agenda of the meeting was to consider a question that sounds something like: "So, how will we best prepare for the year ahead, given the unknowns that lie ahead?" Then, late in time, I suddenly saw not one "so" in these verses from II Corinthians but ten - yes, ten. The text is looking forward to an uncertain future from a time of trouble and suffering, all the while using the little word "so". "So" is a word that keeps a sentence moving forward, keeps a reader and listener thinking of what is coming next. So the sermon became a tour through these ten "so then" moments in the text. Now that I am already looking forward to next Sunday's sermon (continuing on through this part of II Corinthians) there is not time to go back over all of that ground here. But one of Paul's metaphors from this passage, in particular, continues to inspire me to think about the days to come.
It is Paul's description of life lived in "this earthly tent" which will give way to a "a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens". Somehow I have always imagined that this earthly existence is material and that any other existence in another dimension will be, well, more spiritual and, therefore, less material. But Paul trusts that this earthly tent will give way to God's house - a house that is by definition more material, more real, more lasting than life in tents on this mortal plane. When I think of spirituality as it is defined in this day and age I tend not to think of the material world. Maybe that is just me, but I get the sense that spirituality is often defined as the opposite of materiality. Yet the material of Christian spirituality is deeply rooted in the world we know and the bodies we are given. Why would I imagine that spiritual existence on the other side of death - beyond this earthly tent - would be any less material? I don't know what to think about all of this but I am thinking about it. And it does reminds me of Jesus' promise that there are plenty of rooms in the big family home (John 14:2). That promise of a long awaited homecoming resonates with something deep within me.
Of course, this all assumes that there is life on the other side of death. That will, I expect, be the stuff of other blog posts. For now, in the paraphrased words of my good colleague Gerald, "The truth is, believing in God is no easy thing these days. Once you believe that there is a God what is the big deal about believing that God can create life beyond death?"