Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sermon -- 10th Sunday after Pentecost (August 2, 2015)



In the name + of Jesus. 

     St. Paul wrote: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7)  In this short sentence, St. Paul reminds us how everything about the Christian faith is God's working, God's grace, and God keeping us in the faith.  We have been rooted in Christ.  We are being built up in Christ.  We have been established in the faith.  The Lord Jesus Christ has restored us to the kingdom of God, and Jesus continues to work through the Gospel to strengthen and preserve us in the one true faith until life everlasting.  Now, if you are going to remain rooted, built, and established in the faith, St. Paul urges you to walk in Christ—that is, to hear his word and keep it.  If you are giving Christ the opportunity to strengthen and keep you in the faith, he surely will.  If you walk another way or simply neglect Christ, you will eventually be uprooted and your faith will die.  
     When we visited Sequoia National Park, we learned why we had to travel all the way to California to see them and why there are no sequoias growing in Michigan.  All the conditions have to be just right for sequoias to grow—the soil, the elevation, the climate, the amount of rainfall, and so on.  If you don't have all of those conditions lined up, sequoias cannot grow.  Likewise, if everything in your life is going to be rooted in Christ, you ought to know if Christ is able to support and sustain you.  It is important to know into what you have been rooted.  It is important to know who Jesus Christ is so that you are not trusting in someone who is doomed to fail you or disappoint you.
     St. Paul testifies that in Christ, “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)  St. Paul is saying in the strongest terms possible that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  It is not that Jesus teaches us about God.  It is not that Jesus gives us a glimpse of what God is like.  It is that Jesus of Nazareth is God Almighty—the whole fullness of God.  Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.  Therefore, your faith is rooted in one who does not lie or deceive.  Your Christian life is grounded in one who does not change with the times or culture.  Your salvation has been established in one who is immutable and immortal.  Money runs out.  Your health will fail you.  Leaders will disappoint you.  The world does not care about you.  But in Christ, yo have a Savior who is intently interested in you and desires you to dwell with him forever.  Jesus Christ is the only unshakable, indestructible foundation there is for your life, your faith, and your salvation. 
     Everything in your life is rooted in Christ.  Not even Satan can uproot you from him.  Jesus taught, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)  Christ has established you in his kingdom and has put you under his care.  As long as you are listening to Jesus' voice, you are safe.  You will remain rooted.  Nevertheless, Satan speaks with a seductive voice, just as he did in the Garden of Eden.  If Satan can deceive holy people, then surely you should beware of him.  That is why St. Paul warned, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)  
     The ways in which Satan attempts to deceive you are too many to go through in a sermon.  Satan cannot snatch you away, but he tries to lure you away.  His arguments sound appealing, which is why they are deceptive.  That is why it is essential to study the Scriptures and to hear sound preaching so that you will not be led astray by fine-sounding arguments.  No matter how Satan tries to deceive you, the end goal is always the same: To take your focus off of Jesus Christ and to have you walk a different way.
     Now, when I speak about walking in a different way, you probably think of things like debauchery, theft, violence, or some criminal activity.  And some Christians have wondered off in that direction to their own destruction.  But most simply neglect devotion to Jesus' word and sacraments.  Instead, they devote themselves to a comfortable life with nice possessions, up north vacations, Little League tournaments, and a respectable 401k.  They have bought the lie that being nice and staying out of trouble is the same as being a Christian.  Or they believe that since they have been confirmed and still remember enough about Jesus to zip through the “Bible” category on Jeopardy, they have saving faith.  Such people are captives to empty deceit.  Remember what Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)  God's people continue to listen to him.  The sheep devote themselves to their shepherd's voice so that they will not be led astray by a different voice.  Satan's words will always sound alluring, but only Jesus has the words of eternal life.  Be alert so that you will not be deceived.  Be devoted to preaching and his word so that everything in your life is rooted in Christ.  
     St. Paul writes, “You, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)  You have been united with Jesus in your baptism—crucified with him in your sins, but raised up again with him renewed and redeemed.  Your sins are taken away.  Your guilt has been cut off, circumcised from you.  And even the Commandments which had condemned you are now fulfilled in Jesus.  They still guide you in godly living.  They still direct you in what is good and evil.  They still remind you that you need Jesus.  But the Commandments no longer condemn you.  For, you are rooted in Christ, and there is no condemnation in him.  Sin does not condemn you.  Death does not own you.  Satan cannot claim you.  Christ has overcome them.  He has put them to open shame, rendering them utterly powerless.  And since you are rooted in Christ, you overcome them as well.
     Everything in your life is rooted in Christ, and that brings comfort and relief that cannot be measured.  You don't have to find ways to try to minimize your sins.  If you have sinned against God, be honest.  Confess your sins and then take God at his word: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)  Everything in your life is rooted in Christ.  That means you don't have to pretend to be what you are not.  You don't have to play games trying to convince the world or God or yourself that you are better than you are.  Instead, you get to take God at his word that, though you aren't perfect, you are forgiven.  You are unworthy?  So what!  You are a child of God and an heir of his kingdom, because God has said so.  In fact, God calls you blameless because you are rooted in Christ.  Jesus' righteousness is now yours.  Everything in your life is rooted in Christ.  Even your daily tasks are sanctified by him.  Though your work and your words may not seem like a big deal to you, Christ works in you and through you to do good to your fellowman.  You never have to end a day wondering if you did enough to please God.  You are in Christ, and therefore, you are always pleasing to God.  Whether your deeds are amazing or anonymous, God receives all of them as praise.
      Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught.... (Colossians 2:6-7)  And as you continue to be taught, you continue to become more firmly rooted in Christ.  Since he is God in the flesh, your Savior will never fail you or fool you.  

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.