Sermon, February 16, 2020
Today’s scripture comes from the book of Colossians. Paul wrote this book, which is really a letter, while he was in prison. Unlike other letters Paul wrote to churches where he had visited, he had never been to Colossae nor met the people there. Colossae was in Asia Minor, which is now Turkey, and that was about 100 miles from where he was probably inprisoned. However, Paul had heard the congregations in Colossae were troubled by false teachers. The people there were in fear, for they were not sure of what a believer in this Christ should do, or how they should behave. So Paul sets out in writing to offer assurance that they were not under the control of hostile powers, because they had their minds and hearts which were free to worship the one God and obey the teachings of Jesus, the anointed one. Paul strongly desired for the Colossians to become deeply rooted in Christ alone, who is preeminent. Knowing that Christ alone can teach the truth was especially important in view of false teachers who would lead them astray.
This particular part of Paul’s letter points to the centrality of Christ and tells Christians how they ought to behave as Christ’s people in their homes, at work, and in society at large.
Read the scripture: Colossians 3: 12-17
In this letter Paul urges the believers in that community to a live lives of virtue...of goodness. Early Christ followers knew it was essential for them to live at peace with one another so that pagans (any one not a believer in this risen spirit) could see how virtuous their relationship to Christ was, and hopefully that might lead others to their community of faith. To draw others’ attention to their way of life, they were instructed to live compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. If they chose to live with these virtures as priorities, then Christ would be the only one to control their hearts.
This concept of true, active living the way Jesus did is just as important today as it was in the time of Paul. Often we hear about people going to church but do not seem to live their faith on an everyday basis, especially in the way they treat their own family, or people different from themselves. Remember, in Christ we are all one...one God, one spirit, one church.
None of us can hope to fully practice our beliefs unless we are first filled with a sense of gratitude. Giving thanks always, rejoicing in our God always, is the virtue that reminds us how much we depend upon our Lord and our God...giver of life, author of love, creator of compassion and forgiveness. As believers we must encourage expressions of gratitude rather than complaint or criticism.
One way Paul taught the early believers in the way of Jesus live was to make sure they knew if they loved Jesus, then part of them died with him. But the good news, the gospel news, is that Christ was risen and we are too. In Christ we are new souls. Paul said it like this: put off the old person you were and put on the new person you are in Christ….having in your actions the same traits of love, compassion, and forgiveness that Christ shows us even today. Each one of us as a believer receives from God forgiving love, harmonious love and corrective love...which we in turn must share with others. By practicing our beliefs in the God of love, illustrated best through the life of Jesus, then we too help bring the Kingdom of God here and now, in this place. The Now-ism of Christ love is ever present.
Let us remember, Jesus’ divine nature is the image of the invisible God. And when we believe, and practice that belief, then we too are the images of the invisible God who lives within the temple of our physical bodies and speaks through our holy actions. That is a high calling for each of us….but what an incredibly joyous church and community this would be if we all did what our Lord and God asks us to do today and all our tomorrows. Let each one of us try with a courageous heart and a willing mind to tear down the barriers of hostility wherever we find them and to open the doors for love to flow, to flow especially to those people we tend to disregard. We are the visible images of the Living Lord.
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