Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sermon -- 11th Sunday after Pentecost (August 9, 2015)

COLOSSIANS 3:1-11
YOUR LIFE IS HIDDEN WITH CHRIST.  

In the name + of Jesus. 

     Christians are not chameleons.  We do not adapt to our surroundings, changing who we are and how we act depending upon what company we are in.  If you are a child of God, that's not just in church, but wherever you go.  We do not say, “I am going to Vegas, so I am putting my Christian faith and life on the shelf this weekend.”  Nor do we say, “I'm at college.  I will behave myself when I get home.  But while I am on campus, I will do whatever the frat boys do.”  Nor do we say, “When I'm around my fellow church members, I will say the right things; but when I am with my colleagues from work, I will be as raunchy and obscene as anyone.”  If you profess to be a child of God, then you are child of God wherever you go.  And that may very well mean that you will not blend in like a chameleon, but that you will stand out.
     In the reading from Colossians, St. Paul reminds you of you who are.  You have been crucified and raised with Christ.  Your sinful nature has been put to death.  No longer are you a person who is owned and ruled by sin.  You have been redeemed.  You are now a child of God.  Just as Jesus' mercy upon you is not limited to specific times and places, neither are you a child of God for only a specific time and place.  You are a child of God no matter what day or age or place you are at.  That means your salvation is certain no matter what day or age or place you are at.
     It does not always look like you are a child of God.  It probably does not feel like it either.  Daily, you see evidence that says otherwise.  It is no accident that we have a confession of sins every week.  We do not forget that we still need a Savior.  Every week, we hear the absolution by which God forgives all your sins.  When he absolves you, he is assuring you that you are still a child of God.  It is no accident that we invoke God's name at the beginning of every service.  It is a worthy practice to begin and end each day by invoking God's name, too.  By this, we remember that the very name which marked us in baptism marks us still.  You are a child of God—even if it does not look like or feel like it.  That is because your life is hidden with Christ.
     Your life is hidden with Christ, which means that Jesus covers you with his blood and righteousness.  He has rescued you from a world of sin and death and has set you apart as his redeemed.  This is not only your eternal destiny, it is your place now.  And since you bear the status as a child of God, you are also set apart to live like it.
     St. Paul urges you: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  On account of these the wrath of God is coming.  In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.  But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. (Colossians 3:5-8)  As a child of God, you are set apart for godly living.  You are to put behind you all wicked deeds which can be observed by anyone, such as sexual impurity.  But you are also to put to death wicked desires, such as passions and covetousness.  These may be able to be kept hidden before friends, but not before God.
     Though coveting cannot be witnessed, St. Paul equates it with idolatry because covetousness craves what God does not give.  Just as Adam and Eve coveted God's place, so we still do it today.  We are not content with what God has chosen to give to us.  This is idolatry; for we do not believe that God gets it right.  We think we are wiser and that we would do better if we had the authority, if we had the power, if we were God.
     We all covet someone else's blessings.  And so the single man covets another man's wife.  The married man covets the single person's freedom.  Since we envy someone else's popularity, we try to destroy that popularity with slander.  We even covet the sins of the godless, wishing that we could get away with what they do.  We forget that on account of these things the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:6)  Repent.
     Such evil deeds and desires still plague us all.  But now you must put them all away....   Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:8-10)  Your life is hidden with Christ.  Although he has declared you holy and blameless—for you are cleansed by his holy and precious blood—you are still being renewed.  Jesus slowly, continually transforms you so that you become more Christ-like.  The sins are taken off like a filthy garment, and you put on Christ with his godly deeds and desires.  Jesus continues to restore you to the creation he intended you to be—free from sin and wickedness.
     Your life is hidden with Christ.  You are a child of God, and even if you don't think you look like it, the world will take notice.  Though our Constitution tells us that we have the free exercise of religion, society tells us, “You are free to believe whatever you want.  You can go to church and hear your pastor preach whatever he likes.  But don't bring that stuff out here in the real world.  It has no place here.”  But that is impossible for us.  How can we be children of God in this building but nowhere else?  That's like telling a lighthouse-keeper, “I don't care how many lumens you crank out of your Fresnel lens, I just don't want to see it out on the ocean.”  That would make the lighthouse useless.  The Lord Jesus Christ calls on you to let your light shine before men so that they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)  You cannot suppress that light any more than you can stop being a child of God.
     Your life is hidden with Christ.  Chances are, you don't see your life as anything spectacular.  Maybe you don't feel there is anything special about taking care of your family, showing up for work, and doing what is expected of you day after day.  That doesn't sound like glory, but drudgery.  And maybe it seems that there is nothing special about being patient and polite, honest and decent and chaste.  That doesn't sound like glory, but like setting yourself up to be a target.  But your life is hidden in Christ who—even though he was merciful and compassionate—was despised, rejected, and crucified for it.  Though you may think your life is nothing special, others see the light of Christ which shines from you.  Some may respect you for it; others may mock you for it.  But chances are, no one will think it is glorious, not even you.
     Your life is hidden with Christ.  But when Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)  At the resurrection, your life will no longer be hidden with Christ.  You, who are called children of God, will actually appear and act like children of God.  You will shine in glory.  You will no longer do battle with temptations or fall into sin.  You will never think about what it will cost you to do what is good and right.  You will never get frustrated that it is so hard to do what is right, and you will never feel guilty that you did not do it.  Rather, you will find unending joy in looking and acting like a child of God..  You will finally be the holy creation that God intended you to be.
     A Christians are not a chameleon.  You are a child of God.  For now, that status is hidden under your frail flesh, just as Jesus' glory was hidden under his battered body and crucified corpse.  Soon, your glory will no longer be hidden.  Just as Jesus' glory was seen at his resurrection, so your will be revealed at last when Jesus returns.  Jesus will reveal you to the world as sons and daughters of God, and he will bring you to eternal life and everlasting glory.

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

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