"Life in the Tent" - Pentecost 3B
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
June 10, 2018 at 10:15 AM
Central Passage
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:5
Pentecost 3B

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: Pentecost 3B – June 10, 2018

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:5


Life in the Tent


              When I was in high school, I took a major camping trip to the boundary waters region of northern Minnesota in 1997 with my Boy Scout troop. We canoed everywhere to rustic campsites (and I mean rustic – the toilet was more or less a hole in the ground). We carried everything with us in large Duluth bags. Tents, food, kitchen supplies, small propane camping stoves. We also had some less necessary items. Someone brought a huge fishing net along, and I brought a beat-up old guitar for singing around the campfire. Canoeing with all that stuff wasn’t so bad – so long as no one made any sudden movements! It was the portages where things got really hard.


              Ah yes, the portage. You can’t canoe everywhere in the boundary waters. Sometimes you have to carry everything overland to get to the next lake. Everything, then, goes on your back, including the canoes and paddles. It was a running joke that the word “portage” came from the French word for “torture” (it actually comes from a word meaning ‘to carry’). But it might as well have been true. It was a kind of torture carrying all that stuff, sometimes making several trips to ensure we had everything. Of course, after a bear came one night and took a good portion of our food, our packs were a fair bit lighter!


              I thought of this camping trip – and others – when I read Paul’s analogy about the tent. As a tentmaker, Paul would have been well-acquainted with the capabilities and limitations of tents. And the one thing that jumps out at me is Paul’s contrast of the tent we currently live in – our earthly bodies – with the building God has made for us – our future, glorified, spiritual bodies.


              Tents are temporary shelters, designed for maximum mobility. They can be carried from one place to another fairly easily, but at the cost of durability. Tents are vulnerable to wind and rain. Some of those vulnerabilities can be mitigated with waterproofing, good seams, and quality materials, but the vulnerabilities ultimately remain. Eventually, no matter how good a tent is, it will wear out. It will need to be replaced.


              So it is with our human bodies – a fact that we well know. Our human bodies are like a tent. We carry them with us wherever we go. And there are a lot of blessings to having a human body. Some of the vulnerabilities that come with being human can be mitigated as well – clothing, shelter, good diet, exercise, quality relationships, and that sort of thing. But like the tent, the vulnerability that comes with being human doesn’t go away completely. We are still fragile creatures. Our bodies break down eventually, physically or mentally. Sometimes the damage can be repaired. But eventually, like the tent, the body also wears out.


              The good news that Paul gives us in this rather grim situation is that God has a replacement ready for us. Or rather, the ultimate refurbishment. God will turn our tent into a house. Our temporary dwelling – the human body – will become the permanent dwelling of the resurrected body, where we will see God face-to-face.


              However, on this side of the resurrection, none of us have any experience with that kind of body. What we have from God is one example – the resurrection of Jesus – and a promise. We have the promise from Jesus that he will bring us to himself; that as he is, we also will be. We have the promise that, like in Genesis 3, we will not be left naked and ashamed. Rather, when we take off this tent – this body – God will give us a shelter beyond our wildest imaginings.


              Being limited creatures, however, we tend to focus only that we can see. But when we focus only on what we can see, touch, smell, taste, and hear, we can lose focus on that which is most important – the fact that the person inside of us is being made ready for the new building God has in store for us. We focus on the temporary at the expense of the eternal. And we find ourselves believing the lie, “This is all there is.”


              At synod assembly last week, one of the speakers mentioned that most of the population – some 75% of people – are sensor-types. Sensors tend to pay attention most to information received through the five senses. They tend to be pragmatic and practical folks. Facts and hands-on experience are very important to them. That’s most people. Pastors are the other way around. Most pastors are intuitive-types – paying more attention to potential patterns than hard facts. How things might be. Intuitive-types tend to prefer looking for meanings and patterns in the information presented. They tend to read between-the-lines, and remember events for the meanings they convey. In other words – this speaker said – pastors see things that aren’t there! They see things that might or could be. No wonder one of you told me not long after I began here that pastors are a little “off”. We are!


              And Paul was a little “off”, too. Jesus gave Paul a dramatic, first-hand experience of the resurrected life in the presence of God – first by knocking him flat on Damascus Road – and then by giving him a grand vision of heaven, where he says he saw things that mortals cannot speak of (read 2 Corinthians 12 for more details). He made Paul a witness to things that would be – and he must have sounded crazy at times (again, read the entire Book of Acts or Paul’s letters for more details about how he came off to people!). But through Paul (and the Holy Spirit which sent and guided him), God made known a reality we cannot imagine on our own. God made known to us the reality of the resurrection that awaits us and all of the dead that rest in the Lord.


              Life in the tent is hard sometimes. But when we finally shed the tent we have, we will be given something so much better. As Augustine once wrote in his magnum opus The City of God, “aware as we are of (the body’s) corruption, we do not desire to be divested of the body but rather to be clothed with its immortality. In immortal life we shall have a body, but it will no longer be a burden since it will no longer be corruptible.”[1]


              That promise from God is something we all can count on when the burden of bodies becomes too much to bear. There is hope. The future reality of the resurrected life is not seen yet, but as Paul also says in Romans, “who hopes for what is seen?” Rather, we hope and trust in the word of Jesus Christ, who will bring us to himself.


              Let us pray.


              Lord Jesus, help us to trust in your promise to give us a permanent dwelling in the resurrection. Renew our faith and hope when they are beaten down by the burdens of life in the tent. Amen.


© 2018, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.



[1] Augustine, The City of God, 14.3.