Sermon: It’s Time We All Hit the Pause Button
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 13:5-13
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Date: June 7, 2020, Year A, Trinity Sunday
Our scripture today comes from the collection of letters from the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. Corinth was a salty sea town that was also a valuable crossroads where vital land and sea routes intersected. It had a plethora of different people there coming and going from all parts of the world. It was a place of rousing business deals and trades. Like today, it was a stratified community where there was a huge gap between the rich and the poor, the locals and the newbies, and a mixture of what we would call Anglo European inhabitants with the others from Persia, the Middle East, and Africa.
The collection of churches in Corinth was some of the most challenging of Paul’s career and the corpus of letters comprising First and Second Corinthians are the Apostle’s attempts to get the church healthy and back on track. The issues the church was having to deal with had to do with everything from their promise to help financially support the Church in Jerusalem but then failing to live into that promise, distorting the work of Jesus, having to prevent various philosophies from corrupting the very unique message of Jesus, to struggling with issues of discrimination within the church. Topping it all off were the Corinthians’ habits of fighting, bickering, and gossiping about each other in the church.
Our scripture today comes from the closing of Paul’s last letter to them. He’s letting them know that he is coming back to Corinth for a third time to set things right in this troubled church and he ends his letter with some simple instructions: Take stock of who you are; does your life and does the Church life look like Jesus is there; are you growing into a whole, well-rounded follower of Jesus; and for crying out loud, get along with each other! Let’s hear Paul say it. Listen to the Word of the Lord!
2 Corinthians 13:5-13
5Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! 6I hope you will find out that we have not failed.
7But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. 8For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. 10So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
11Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 12Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. 13The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Today we are going to focus on verse 5 of our text and I am building my thoughts around the title, “It’s time we all hit the pause button.”
Each of us knows what a pause button is; you’re watching your favorite TV show or movie when all of a sudden you get interrupted. Someone’s at the door. The phone rings. All beverages you’ve been quaffing have to find an exit. For whatever reasons, an interruption will occur and you have to hit the pause button on the remote so you do not miss any action. Today, the Apostle in our text is saying that it’s time for you and me hit the pause button in this swirly life of ours.
This past week, the General Presbyter for Tropical Florida Presbytery, Daris Bultena, posed a very sobering question to the pastors and elders of our presbytery. He asked, “How are you seeing this time we are living in right now? Is it an interruption or rather, is it a disruption?” His question hit all of us and got us thinking. It was a question that jolted us to hit the pause button and do some reflecting.
Are all the events of 2020 an interruption or are they a disruption? The events of this colorful year are many: a world pandemic; international economic challenges and upheaval; social disruptions in Hong Kong, the United States, Europe, and South America because of abuses of power and privilege against those who are voiceless; violence and land-grabs by one nation against another; and then there is the reality of our ever-evolving weather and climate. Are these interruptions or are they disruptions?
One could say this swirly year contains both. Our lives have been interrupted with death and loss and they have been disrupted with fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. But there is a difference between the two and this is what Dr. Bultena was trying to get us to see. If we view the events of 2020 as an interruption, then we will have failed in learning anything. Once the interruption is over, everything will return to normal and we will walk blissfully on our way as though nothing has happened. However, if we view the events as a disruption, then we take the intrusions thrust upon us this year and see them as value-inducing crises that will help us grow deeper, wiser, and closer together. It’s a reminder there is no return to a safe status quo but that life is going to require you and me, the Church, our governments, to learn new ways of being, relating and leading.
Think of it like this: A hurricane is an interruption. The storm comes, we clean up and get back to living again. A disruption is different. The effects of climate change with rising sea levels and warmer ocean temperatures are a disruption that will have much longer-lasting and deeper consequences. Disruptions cause paradigm shifts in the way we see and experience God, each other, our political, economic and justice systems, and the environment. Disruptions are seeds for new beginnings and life. What is vital is how each of us experiences the disruptions. Friends, what our nation, what the world has experienced this year are major disruptions; there is no going back to the nostalgic normal. Hence, Paul’s words in today’s text:
Examine yourselves to see if you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Don’t you realize that Jesus Christ is living in you?”
For followers of Christ, we should not be afraid of all that’s going on in the world. World events are, as Jesus said, birth pangs for something new to be born and where God is already waiting for us. Whether or not we will see this time in our lives as a fruitless cause and interruption, or, whether it is an opportunity for new birth, new growth in our spiritual and communal lives that is redeemable by God’s Holy Spirit through Jesus’ redemptive work is up to each of us as we hit the pause button. In this moment of disruption, we pause to examine ourselves, testing whether we are living our lives in and like Christ.
Beloved, as Christians, let’s deeply examine ourselves to see if we are both publicly and interiorly in our souls living out our faith as though Jesus is living in each of us.
If there are hubris and pride, he’s not there.
If there are airs of superiority and entitlement, he’s not there.
If our dedication to political causes overshadows Jesus showing love to all people, he’s not there.
If we have forted-up to the point we cannot have a dialogue on important issues, he’s not there.
If we fail to show humility, he’s not there.
Beloved, these disruptive times are uncomfortable but they are also redeemable. These disruptive times are violent in speech and behavior but they are able to be made peaceful through the love and power of Jesus Christ. These disruptive times can be painful but new life and birth only come as a result of the pain.
Beloved, hit the pause button. Where is Jesus trying to work in new life, new opportunities, new growth for you? The Church? Our nation? The world?
I close with a poem I found this week on Instagram written by Leslie Dwight. She writes:
What if 2020 isn’t canceled?
What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?
A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw —
that it finally forces us to grow.
A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us
from our ignorant slumber.
A year we finally accept the need for change.
Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.
A year we finally band together, instead of
pushing each other further apart.
2020 isn’t canceled, but rather
the most important year of them all.
Paul says to examine ourselves to test whether we are living in the faith. How is Jesus living in each of us during these disruptions? Amen.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2020 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
By leslie dwight, located on Instagram, June 2, 2020.