Sunday’s Sermon July 10, 2022

“A Church Worth Hearing About!”

Colossians 1:1-14

 

It is thought that Paul probably never visited Colossae. Colossians 1:4 states, “for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,…” The implication is that Paul had heard of them, but never quite made it to this location.

 

Epaphras is mentioned in 1:7 as being one who shared the gospel with the people of Colossae. Which suggest that Paul did not start this church. Also, Onesimus is mentioned in 4:9. Onesimus was the slave of Philemon who ran away and allied himself to Paul. We read about this in the book of Philemon. This is significant because Philemon was written toward the latter end of Paul’s life while he was imprisoned probably in Rome. In this book Paul mentions his desire to visit Philemon. It is thought that Philemon and Onesimus were from Colossae. The implication is that Paul never made it to this small city.

 

In fact, Colossians is usually regarded as not being written by Paul, even though it bears his name. The difference in vocabulary, style, and theological images make for the argument that Paul did not directly write the letter. It was not uncommon for someone wanting to honor and represent a person to write in the other’s name, with the implication that the letter is meant to carry the spirit and thought of the one. This was not an attempt to dupe anyone, but common in those times. As it is Colossians has long been regarded as an authentic expression of the truth about our faith.

 

It begins with the author lifting up the faith of the church. Colossians 1:3-5


3  In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4  for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5  because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6  that has come to you.”

 

Therefore, Colossae was perhaps not visited or started by Paul, but it was as church worth hearing about, its: faith, love, and hope.

  • Faith in Christ Jesus.
  • Love for all the saints.
  • Hope laid up for you in Heaven.

These three points that remind us of 1 Corinthians 13. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” This is what made the church worth hearing about. They were a people steeped in the riches of the Spirit and blessed according to the good news of Christ that they had received. Once again, the miracle of new life in Christ was seen again in them because of their belief and trust in God.

Has our world ever needed these truths and attributes more? As I watch the news, once again we find ourselves mired in the story of another mass shooting. Parents who were killed saving their child, a child who is now orphaned. A GoFundMe page that has raised 3 million dollars and counting, but still the money will never replace what the child has lost. Another shooting only serves to temporarily quiet the violence and tragedy of Russia’s war against Ukraine. What a mess our world continues to be. Is there not a need, a demand, for something more, something greater?

Robert Frost once wrote a poem titled, “West Running Brook.” It is philosophical piece about a husband and wife viewing a stream and while the stream rushes to the West, due to a rock jutting out, there is a small wave running contrary to the stream, aimed back to the source. Toward the end the poem says:

It is this backward motion toward the source,

Against the stream, that most we see ourselves in,

The tribute of the current to the source.

It is from this in nature we are from.

It is most us.’

In other words, the stream is the metaphysical reality of life moving in one direction to its end, but in this movement is the acknowledgement and reflection of the greater source from which it came. In that contrary movement back to the source is seen the greater reality of our nature and truth about life.

    To put it simply we as a nation, a people, a church, must find our strength and reality not in where we are heading, but from whom we have come. If we are to offer strength against the weakness and sorrow of our day, then we must move not toward the inevitable of the future, but toward our God from whom our hope comes. If we are to be a church that is worth hearing about then we also must be caught up in our:

  • Faith in Christ Jesus.
  • Love for all the saints.
  • Hope laid up for us in Heaven.

 

These are the enduring definition of the church from early on. This is the right stuff of tomorrow’s church. To be a church worth hearing about first, we need to have a faith in Jesus.

    

This is the reality of our unseen connection and relationship with God. This is about a person speaking out into the darkness of this life and discovering that God is there and wants to place His light within and around your life. Colossians is celebrated for having heard the message of life within Christ and for having believed in it, thus becoming part of this growing truth within their world. This spiritual growth was the work of God among them as each person found that personal relationship with God for themselves. Colossians talks about the idea of bearing fruit. There may be one vine, but individual fruit. One tomato plant, but individual tomatoes. The question is, “Are you a tomato on God’s vine?” Have you absorbed the spiritual strength God has poured into this life so as to grow individually according to this grace.

        In all the world I think perhaps God has spoken but one story to us. There is only one story that matters. That story is about the life, death, and resurrection of God’s son, to bring us life. The gospel of John puts it this way John 1:1-3 (NRSV)

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

 

Ephesians 1 puts it this way:

3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4  just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

 

In Christ is the beginning and end of all things. In Christ is the summation of life. In Christ is our origin and our hope. Outside of Christ is but the briefest momentary span of consciousness and then the darkness of endless loss. So how important it is for a church to realize the reality of Christ in our lives today. Jesus is not a metaphor, not a construct that needs to be retheologized, not a human philosophy to be made accessible to the masses, not a mystical presence that needs to be manufactured.

    Life in Christ is the gift of grace given by God that brings real life into our lives as we turn to God and believe in what God has done for us. This is what the church needs –that which is beyond us, and comes to us because of an honest prayer to God.

    Secondly Colossae was a church to hear about because of their love for all the Saints. Not only did they believe in and experience new life in Christ, but they were doers as well. They were motivated toward good works to prove God’s work within them and among them. They sought for ways to share God’s love with others.

    The old illustration is that of a boat with two oars. One is faith and the other is works. If one rows with just one side or the other what happens to the boat? Well, it will go in circles and never get anywhere. There is a necessity for having both oars in the water and working at that same time. When a person is rowing with both faith and works, what happens to the boat? It moves forward. It transports us to where we need and want to be. Faith and works are not separate realities, but dependent on one another. Our works should be the outcome or product of our faith. I believe that Colossae was

bold enough to act in such a way that others had to ask, why are you doing this, and they were ready to tell them. So to their must be an amalgamation of our faith and our works, so that whatever we do might become a proclamation and invitation to others to know Jesus better, and to join us in the work and proclamation of gospel. There is not one thing worth doing if we are not telling the one story first. Colossae was busy making Christ known and that made them a church worth hearing about.

    Finally, both their faith and their works were driven by the hope they had laid up in heaven for them. Heaven is a compelling reason for how we are to live today. I remember when I was a child, my Mom, taught us the prayer: ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray my soul the Lord to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my sol to take.” In some ways that is sort of a dark prayer. You mean I might go to sleep and not wake up? But then again, against that fear was the belief that no matter what, God will take care of me. I don’t have to worry because God is there, so sleep well. There may be the uncertainty of life, but there is also the assurance of God.

    It is this hope that should fill our present moments. When the New Testament Bible speaks about hope, invariably that hope is of eternal life and heaven. However that hope is not meant for the hereafter, but the certainty of heaven should influence how we live today. Heaven has an immediate impact on the chooses we make and our viewpoint about what is important. If you believe that this life is but a beginning and not an impending end, how will you live? If you know everything you are and everything you touch will one day turn to dust, but there is an eternity waiting for you that will never fail how will you treat the things of a temporary nature? Will you hoard them and stockpile your wealth while someone around you is in great need or will you practice generosity knowing that God is generous to you? What of people? If you know everyone you meet is meant by God to be an eternal being, is there anyone you should simply ignore or dismiss as being insignificant? Believing in heaven means that we allow it to influence and affect us -our present-day priorities, and decisions. It means that we are living for something more, beyond what the world has and can give. Heaven is not just pie in the sky, but it is the substance that grounds us in our daily actions. It is the hope we have when the world fades away and those we love are separated from us. It is the driving certainty of what someday will be. In all things because of God there is life. believe in this and we shall be a church worth hearing about.

    In all of this Colossians closes this passage out with a prayer:

Colossians 1:9-14 (NRSV):

…may (you) be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10  so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11  May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12  giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.

 

Faith, Love, and Hope, leads us towards living in a way that is spiritually empower and driven to please God, and witness to the eternal glory that has been poured out into our world. Live according to this and we will be a church worth hearing about. Amen.


 

Published by Rev. Russell

Pastor at the Lake City United Methodist Church in Lake City, Michigan.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: