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Treasure in a Tupperware

Penetecost +2, Common Lectionary Year B

2 Corinthians 4:1, 5-10

©2018 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

Reading Paul’s letter,
aware that it was written to a beloved community
of rag-tag hoi polloi,
pawns in an indifferent, even hostile Empire,
turns the text in a whole new way for me,
and I hope for you.
We realize that many of those listening to his letter
knew they were nobodies, left-overs.
They were the earthen vessels, clay pots of the Empire,
used to being about as aesthetically appealing as your Tupperware drawer –
mismatched, useful, expendable,
but not beautiful, nor precious.

So when Paul doesn’t disabuse them of this self-image,
but underlines it,
it may well seem like bad, not Good News.
There will be no change in physical status,
no promotion from Tupperware to porcelain,
much less gold.

Now Apollos (Paul’s competition in Corinth)
was saying just that,
that there is a way of being Christian
that is all about prosperity, and political power,
that can elevate you to be a Superapostle,
full of miraculous spiritual gifts,
and commanding a $45M private jet
just for calling Jesus Lord.

But that’s not the Jesus community Paul is promising,
nor the one we’re offering these nine people
who today will become full members
of this community of faith.
What’s he’s offering makes no sense,
what we’re offering makes no sense.

Being part of the body of Christ,
part of the Jesus-team is not sexy at all,
but very, very clodden,
clay-bound, earth-bound.

Affliction, perplexity,
persecution were the hallmarks of Paul’s life
as disciple of Jesus,
and he’s promising the same to those who follow.

So, why on earth then would you want to join the God-in Jesus team?

Perhaps it’s because of what Paul tells us these
cracked clay pots and tupperware tubs contain:
Gospel treasure.
the Good News of Love and Life, made known
in the flesh and soul of Jesus of Nazareth.

Looking back over 20 years of a
teaching and preaching ministry,
what have I come to understand
about this Gospel treasure,
held in vessels as clodden and earthen as me?

Paul was right!
It’s not about high salary, professional success,
academic tenure, completed doctorates.
It’s not about Greek and Hebrew,
nor epistemology, ecclesiology,
or any other ten-dollar theological terminology.

It’s not about the size of congregation one serves.
It’s not about annual report numbers
and percentage values given to M&S.
It’s not about denominational restructuring,
nor even about the roof or the kitchen.

The treasure Gospel that binds my life
into the life of God
is way more mundane, more simple,
earthen and elemental.
And the longer I’m at this game, the simpler it gets.
This treasure of the Gospel is
Love, from the heart of God cast out into creation
without price, limit, condition or end.
That’s it. Love.

Oh, and much more….
It’s not about guilt or fear,
but about awe.
It’s not about “got to”,
but get to.
It’s not about should,
but about shall, and will and can.
It is not about “if”
but “so”.
It’s not even about sin and penance,
but about missing the mark, falling short time and again,
and being lifted back up, and to centre time and time and time again.
It’s not about staying within the lines,
but about splashing colour outside the lines.
It’s not about satisfaction
but about joy!
It’s not about club rules, and doctrines and dogmas,
but about the certainties that we are loved always and forever.
It’s not about deserving help, or earning points,
but about pure simple unexpected, surprising grace upon grace.
It’s not about me and mine, them and they,
but about we together.
about radical welcome, and humble openness.
It’s not about an eye for an eye,
but about forgiveness more times than you can count
It’s not about punishment
but about seeking reconciling justice,
working for peace,
spending mercy like a child spending nickels at the fair!

We have this treasure, this extraordinary power of God,
to create and forgive and renew and restore,
to reconcile and welcome, to heal and mend,
in the clay jars, earthenware, Tupperware of day-to-day
ordinary existence.
God’s treasure in the earthen vessel
of a building we use not to look great,
but to extend the reach of a great goodness,
way beyond ourselves,
way beyond our comfort,
out to where God is most needed
in an indifferent, even hostile world.

We have the great loving goodness of God to extend,
through play-mats and Aunties on a Thursday morning,
through a lounge filled to overflowing with generosity in pillows and pots and pans,
and even in a mundane,
oh so ordinary kitchen re-equipped
to feed not just ourselves,
but all who are hungry for food,
and belonging, and purpose,
on a Friday evening, and who knows how much more often, if we listen and respond to the call of God?

And if you think about it, these things,
these treasures of God’s love, justice and care,
don’t belong in gold or steel, or china cabinets,
but in clay, and earth, and flesh and bone,
heart and soul.
If this is what you want
– to hold this treasure in your life,
along with us the cracked, clay and Tupperware vessels of CPU,
then, in the name of God, be welcome!
Grace and peace to you! Amen.

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