Reconciliation has vertical and horizontal dimensions—and “the vertical orients the horizontal,” Jerry Andrews, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in San Diego, told Presbyterians gathered for worship on Friday, the final full day of the 222nd General Assembly (2016).
Preaching on 2 Corinthians 5:16–6:2, Andrews said the Apostle Paul calls us to “be reconciled to God.”
“The command is not to get along with each other – though that’s really good advice,” he said. “The command is to be made right with God.”
Layering his sermon with insights from John Calvin and St. Augustine as well as the Apostle Paul, Andrews systematically unpacked the text he called “the theological core” of 2 Corinthians. He noted that Calvin considered that text’s teaching about reconciliation “the most profound in all of Paul.”
The text also talks about “a new creation of all things” by God through Christ, Andrews said. The old way of thinking, he said, would have stressed the divisions between Paul, the “old Jew,” and the new converts in Corinth, “a bunch of barely baptized barbarians.” The new message, he said, is that such divisions in the church and the world can only be healed by God. “God reconciles, not the church. Not ever,” he said. “We have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation.”
And Jesus is the mediator of our reconciliation, he continued. Unlike a moderator, an impartial person who brings together two parties in a dispute but is not connected to either party, a mediator is “one who is in his person both parties.”
The new creation is not primarily about individual salvation, he said: “Salvation is very personal, but never private. The gospel is profoundly intimate but also public.”
Paul says that now is the “acceptable time” for reconciliation with God, Andrews pointed out. He quoted the Nike slogan: “Just do it!” And Shakespeare: “There is a tide in the affairs of men.” And Elvis: “It’s now or never.”
Andrews, who calls himself an evangelical, said some evangelicals stress the urgency of salvation by warning, “Jesus may come back before lunch.” But the ultimate message, he said, is this: “Be reconciled to God. Now.”
Reinforcing that message, worshipers sang the gospel favorite “Just As I Am” as a call to confession, pausing after each stanza for silent reflection.
“You need not be wise, you need not be perfect, you need not be decent or orderly, to join the feast.”