“Reconciling Irreconcilable Differences” Sermon Notes from Ash Wednesday

Updated: Mar 4

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

5:20b We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 6:1 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. 6:2 For he says, "At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you." See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! 6:3 We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 6:4 but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 6:5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6:6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, 6:7 truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 6:8 in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 6:9 as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see--we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.


  • Irreconcilable differences: a term we often hear in the context of couples who find they must part ways for any number of reasons. There is a situation that could just not be worked out. Marriages end; friendships end over the fact that human relationships can be hard and sometimes plagued by irreconcilable differences.

  • It is this matter of reconciliation that is at the heart of 2 Corinthians. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (5:18). This is great news because after all, when God saw how humanity was behaving time and again, God could have thrown up hands saying I give up—these folks are irreconcilable! Instead, God reached across time and space to create a bridge back to God—to the quiet center of God’s heart.

  • God did this through Jesus, making “him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” V. 21

  • On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent, we acknowledge what it is that separates us from God, both as individuals and collectively—that we might more fully be able to rejoice in the gift of reconciliation on Easter.

  • A key step in the process of reconciliation is facing up to what has gone wrong. But that is hard to do. How many of us, in an effort to lose weight- know we have been splurging, so we don’t weigh ourselves. We don’t want to look at the scale. We avoid going to the doctor after having been told to change habits at last year’s physical, or we don’t check debit card statements or credit card balances because we know we have spent beyond our budget. It is hard to face the music, to admit there is a problem, to feel like we have failed.

  • It is hard to admit sin or mistakes. But there is no healing without naming and claiming what is wrong. Malcolm X once said: “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.”[1]

  • When it comes to reconciliation with God, we have to understand the reason we are disconnected and that is our sin. Therefore, confessing our sin, acknowledging where we’ve come up short is critical to the reconciliation process. Ultimately our reconciliation came at the price of Jesus sacrifice on our behalf, but we are still responsible for acknowledging our sinfulness as part of the process.

  • Once reconciled to God, we can become ambassadors for Jesus and take on the task of helping others find reconciliation through him as well.

  • When Paul says “we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain” v. 6: 1b, he is suggesting that it is up to us to share the good news with others. We don’t get to have a private hallelujah party. As ambassadors, God makes an appeal to others through us (v. 20), as God’s representatives here on earth.

  • As we focus on Lent being a time of introspection and reflection, thinking about the things that have estranged us from God or gotten in the way of a deep and abiding relationship, we must also think about the things that have estranged us from other people or other people from the Church. There is church hurt in our families, in our community—there are people who see what went on in DC on Jan. 6 with some in the mob that desecrated the US Capital having held up crosses and kneeling in prayer, who are genuinely confused.

  • There are people who may have gotten in trouble with the law or made some mistakes or done things that they wish they hadn’t and they can’t find their way to God because we make them have to come past us first.

  • Vs. 3. Says, “We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.” In other words, we must strive to avoid hypocrisy and maintain a sense of humility, recognizing that we are all sinners saved by grace, “so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

  • Paul concludes this passage by saying that to do all this, involves a lot including endurance and perhaps even hardship. During the season of Lent, we are reminded of the hardship that Jesus endured and, in the process, we find the gifts highlighted in v. 6-7—purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness, genuine love, and truthful speech.

  • May we recognize the power of God is there for us and may it become amplified as we press on through this season and to the end. Praise God for differences that have been reconciled. Let’s spread the good news! Amen.

[1] http://www.notable-quotes.com/x/x_malcolm.htmlPhoto by Annika Gordon on Unsplash