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Gospel centred sermons, based on the lectionary often in advance.

Dec 28, 2012

My actual sermon text for this Sunday [30 Dec 2012] (Different to the podcast.) UPDATE:Audio file added 5 Jan 2013

Focus Reding Colossians 3:12-17

For those of us who believe in the incarnation, that Jesus truly was God amongst us, fully God and fully human, central to our faith is the notion that we need a saviour. Human beings by themselves can not find God and can not be godlike, or even Godly, without God coming to us. We believe there is a gulf, a huge gap between us and God that we can not bridge, or get across. For we are sinners and God is holy. The Good News for us is that Jesus bridges that gap. God has become one with us, has come to us in Jesus and now we are with God, not because we have made the journey to heaven, to God and the uncreated realm but because God has made the journey to us. We can now do things like call the Son of God, Jesus, our brother and call the first person of the Trinity the source of all that is Our Father, our Dad, and we can call the Spirit our friend. It is in the light of all of this our lives begin to transform. If humanity has been claimed by God and flesh and blood has been declared holy, then that changes who we are. We are no longer sinners alone in the universe we are the Children, the brothers and sisters and the friends of God.

If this is true it should change who we are. Our behaviour, our attitudes and the way we are and feel with other people. This is what Paul is getting at in our reading from Colossians when he says “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NRSV) It was so we could become Christlike, more Godly that God became one of us in Jesus Christ.

To understand our reading from Colossians we need to go back to the start of the chapter and put it in some context.  The Chapter begins with these words: “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1–3, NRSV)

The story of the birth of Jesus is nowhere recorded in Paul’s letters but for Paul probably the point where we see him saying that God truly became one of us is in Jesus, is in Jesus’ death on the cross. All of us are born but we all die too. If God was truly human in Jesus then God had to do what we do - God had to be born and God had to die. The story of Jesus though ends not in his death but in his being brought back to life, raised from the dead. And the classic Christian belief, the belief of Paul and my belief is that Jesus is still alive and is with God the Father, in Heaven, in the uncreated realm, but through the Spirit he is also here - with us now. Paul’s reasoning is like this. Jesus the eternal Son of God shared birth with us and death with us, if that is true then surely he also shares new life with us and takes us into the very presence of God the Father. Our life is joined with Jesus’ life and so we too are taken into the very presence of God. We share in the relationship between God the Father God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Our life is hidden in Christ as Paul puts it.

If this is true, if we really share with Jesus in the relationship of the Trinity - What does this mean? It means we are the Children of God. It means that although we will grow old and die and suffer in this life (as well as experiencing many joys)  death and suffering do not have the final say. Life and love have the final say, and it also means that we do not have to make our own meaning. Our life and meaning are a gift from God. This is what we declared when we baptised Catherine this morning. For every person from the wisest adult, to a helpless new born, potentially is a Child of God. As the service says to Catherine and to us For us Jesus was born and died and raised and sits at God’s right hand. All for you little child even though you do not know it. For you grown adult even though you know it only dimly. I believe as adults we have to claim that promise. There is a sense in which we can reject it, but if we accept it, if we believe it is true, it means, as Paul says, we are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”. 

As I said just a few minutes ago “If humanity has been claimed by God and flesh and blood has been declared holy, then that changes who we are. We are no longer sinners alone in the universe we are the Children, the brothers and sisters and the friends of God.” We are forgiven, loved, and free! If God has done all this then surely this should change who we are and how we behave toward others.

In Christ God was kind, compassionate, humble, forgiving, and loving. As people who are chosen, holy and beloved, Paul urges us to clothe ourselves with these attributes and to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us. The best analogy or illustration of this I can think of is marriage. When Heather married me she promised to give herself to me, to stick with me through thick and thin, through all the trials of life, for better and for worse. If that is true, if another human being is prepared to do that for me then how should it affect the way I live? What should I be prepared to do in response? This has profoundly changed my life! Now I won’t lie, I was a bachelor for 39 years. I had lived by myself as a minister for 9 years when I married Heather. There are times when I forget that another human being has pledged herself to me and I fall back into old habits and behaving as if I am still a bachelor. None the less, because Heather has given herself to me it has changed my view and attitude to life, and has altered my behaviour. Unlike God Heather and I are imperfect, we do not fully keep our marriage vows and many marriages break down because one or other person does not take their vows seriously, but for those of us who do take them seriously life is never the same again, and although not perfectly, our life ad attitudes do change.

If God really became one of us in Jesus, however then we have an example of someone who really saw it through. God really did give everything in order that we might receive everything. Just as in marriage, as sinners in a sinful world we will never get our response to God’s incredible gift to us in Christ 100% right. To use Biblical imagery we are the imperfect bride of Christ.  But if we hear the word, hear this story of how God has patiently been faithful to us down through history and ultimately even giving himself in Jesus then this must change our attitude and behaviour toward others. If this word, this story dwells in us richly then our lives should be lives of greater compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and forgiveness. Christ should rule in our hearts bringing peace and our churches should be places of unity filled with songs of thanksgiving and praise for all that God has done in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen