Fourth Sunday in Lent: A New Creation
by Steve Copley
"From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point, we know him no longer in that way--so, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything has become new!" (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
This is part of the Epistle Lesson for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 14, 2010. What a powerful message. We no longer regard others from a human point of view--but, rather as a new creation in Christ.
March 14 is also One Great Hour of Sharing, one of the special offerings of The United Methodist Church. It assists in funding the work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). This offering and the message of being new creations in Christ go hand in hand.
I believe we have seen this most recently in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. As I watch the television, I see so much devastation and loss of life. It would be easy to become disheartened and despairing. But with the wonderful work of UMCOR, many lives have been given hope. In time, Haiti will begin to experience renewal and new life.
I am the Director of Arkansas Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON), a program of UMCOR. We work with low-income immigrants with immigration legal issues through clinics in local churches. In Arkansas, we have clinics at United Methodist churches in Dover, Monticello, and Oak Forest. We also do education and advocacy. For me, our ministry is based on the understanding of 2 Corinthians 5 that we regard no one from a human point of view, but rather from the point of view that we all are part of Christ.
I think of new creation and hope brought by our work. I chair a coalition called the Arkansas Friendship Coalition. In the winter and spring of 2009, we prevented the passage of any punitive legislation toward immigrants. Many were surprised because of the punitive legislation passed in Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Georgia. Also, this past fall, one of the individuals we have worked with at the Dover United Methodist Church was sworn in as a citizen of the United States.
Christians are called to have concern for the strangers in our midst. We must remember that we do not view them as many other views them, but rather from the perspective of Christ. This duty and concern come from our sacred texts in both the Old and New Testaments.
Let's go back to the time when the Hebrews were about to enter the Promised Land after 500 years as slaves in Egypt. This was the land that over the years they had longed one day to live in. It was to be a land "flowing with milk and honey." There were probably several million people preparing to enter the Promised Land. During their time in Egypt, they were living under the laws and rules of the Pharaoh. Now, they were about to set up laws by which to govern their lives.
God gave them the laws that, set forth in the Torah, were the ideal by which the Hebrews could have life. A number of times in the Torah, the Hebrews were called to care for the strangers in their midst, since they were once strangers in a strange land.
Several centuries later, the prophets would challenge and call the Hebrews back to this important part of their journey. By this time, they had become a powerful nation. They had "forgotten" to remember the strangers in their midst.
Jesus was rooted and grounded in the Torah and the prophets. He understood the call to remember the stranger in their midst. He picked this up in Matthew 25, when he said that "when I was a stranger, did you welcome me."
And, if we regard everyone from a human point of view only and not from the view of Christ, then we will not have welcomed Christ himself. Likewise, in the Gospel of Luke, we see the Good Samaritan help the stranger who was beaten and left for dead on the road.
This Lent, I give thanks to UMCOR for helping strangers and seeing them from the point of view of Christ as a new creation. Let us live this truth in each of our lives.
The Rev. Stephen J. Copley is a Church and Community Worker with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, serving as director of Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON) in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Date posted: Mar 08, 2010