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2 Corinthians 5:6-10 & 14-17

Pentecost 4/Refugees Sunday, June 16, 2024

Holy Trinity Cathedral

“In the Body”

I think that everyone has had the experience of being separated from a loved one at some time in their lives.  There is a feeling of dislocation, of incompleteness.  Part of ourself is missing, and so things don’t seem right.  Even if it is a temporary situation, and you know when you will see them again, this happens.  One of the family goes away and there is an empty bed or one less place at the table.  Home doesn’t feel like home until they return.   


Often, our family can be separated by distance, by circumstances beyond our control, or by death.  We don’t know when we will see some members again.  They may be in far away or dangerous places.  There may be barriers in reuniting with us.  And so we worry for them, and we are anxious ourselves.  When will the Lord bring us together again?  Where will that be?


If your family has immigrated here to Canada or come as refugees, you understand something of the hardship of separation, and the dislocation of finding that this new place doesn’t feel like home.  In moving, there is a tearing away of the familiar and a tearing apart of relationships.  Some friends and family remain in the original homeland, or still struggle to follow a path to rejoin arrivals in Canada.  It is not easy to be confident when the few communications we receive tell of their ongoing afflictions and difficulties.  And how to tell them that this new place doesn’t feel like home, with a different culture and language and rules for working and living?  There are those who have come to this country and found it too difficult to overcome the sense of dislocation: they are the ones who return back in spite of the poverty and dangers that motivated them to emigrate. 


In groups that support immigrants and refugees, it is not enough to teach English and help navigate the government’s regulations.  The physical, mental, and spiritual health of individuals is important.  In the Pacific Immigrants and Refugees Society that meets in our hall on Monday and Tuesday mornings, every session begins with exercise and mindfulness.  Like every one of us need to do, the women practice stretching and relaxing their bodies. They attend to releasing the anxiety and negative thoughts that hover around them and bring to mind with gratitude the blessings they receive.  It is done in a way that respects different faiths and those who have none.  But there is a distinctly spiritual component in bringing them together as individuals who share the experience of trying to realize a new home in the absence of some they love.  This last week, one of the topics was friendship, and the women spoke of how they had individuals who encouraged and listened to them in the countries from which they came.  Even away from these friends, they were able to keep a connection. 


The apostle Paul also speaks of keeping a connection even when we are separated from our sense of home.  He understood the feeling of “not at home” very well.  In his second letter to the church in Corinth, his vulnerability comes through in his longing to be with the Lord.  By this, Paul is meaning his death.  His lived experience is a series of afflictions which he believes will be worth enduring for the glory that is to come.  By his example, Paul tells the new Christians not to lose heart.  He is confident that God’s hand is at work in bringing us all back together in the kingdom.  Although he would prefer that his task is completed and that he goes home to be with the Lord, he firmly believes that what he is currently doing on earth has value.  He is not home yet; but he counsels patience to walk by faith in life until we see the reality of the kingdom to come.  His aim, he says, is to please God by what he does while he is still alive, so that what he does in the body is good.   This is Paul trying to be in the world yet not of the world.


So how does he go about making where he is a home away from home?  Paul’s ministry is about reconciliation.  In loving service, it is the task of the faithful to heal relationships wherever we are.  In this sense, we are family no matter what our origin story.  Paul proclaims, “from now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view, even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in this way.  So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see everything is become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Jesus in his earthly life was a Jewish rabbi from Nazareth.  Through his dying and rising again, he laid his earthly form aside and took up the new resurrection body that revealed his heavenly glory as the Son of God.  He died for every one of us, to bring us together into one great family.  We too are new creations. We are adopted by faith as fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters into the body of Christ.  As such, our human idea of family expands.  Home is not only where our loved ones are.  Home is anywhere we are able to love. 


This is Fathers’ Day in Canada.  Through God our heavenly Father, we know both loving care and attentive presence to our needs.  We give thanks for human dads that reflect God’s love.  I also invite you to remember families who do not have fathers.  For those whose fathers have died, and for those in which fathers are absent or separated by distance, work, illness, or hurt.  The apostle Paul was a father in the faith to the people of Corinth who needed guidance and encouragement.  In our own time, the church community and society need men who give of their time and their guidance to others.  So we give thanks for all people who are like fathers and show what a good home is like.


This is also a day when our Church remembers all who are refugees seeking a home, it is good to celebrate all faithful people who are engaged in this particular ministry of reconciliation.  Through the efforts of many Anglicans and partners, we have enabled the sponsorship of people to our Diocese.  In the process we are reuniting families of birth, growing communities of faith, and learning that in helping others, we are all moving towards the kingdom. Although this new country can never be the same as the place from which our new neighbours came, our confidence and hope is that together we walk by faith.  We do not have the human means to heal every hurt and wipe away the tears of separation.  But in God’s good time, the new creation will be revealed and we will be home. Amen.