Creekside Church
Sermon of October 6, 2019

"Whatever"
Colossians 3:12-17

Pastor
Rosanna McFadden

 

Good morning! Today is a special day in our life together at Creekside. That statement will take a little bit of unpacking, so I want to tell you a couple stories from my pastoral internship. I think I must have begun one of my early sermons in just that way, but saying, “Today is a special day . . .” and my supervisor mentioned later that he tries not to present any Sunday as “special,” because if every Sunday is special, than none of them are special: every Sunday is important. I didn’t push back against that sentiment at the time -- I figured it was his way of getting out of seasonal planning and decorating, which has always been meaningful to me, but was not particularly for him. What I have come to realize over the past ten years since that training is that he and I were really saying the same thing in different ways. Every worship experience deserves thoughtful and creative planning and preparation -- not just from those who are leading, but from those who are listening and praying and singing. Every Sunday should be filled with that level of Spirit-led attention. For my supervisor, that meant that every Sunday was subject to that routine: for me, it meant that every Sunday was special. We were really saying the same thing.

Of course, that does not mean that anything done with great enthusiasm is the right thing to say or do. I was reminded of that in this same congregation during the children’s story. This was a group blessed with some bright and uninhibited children, and with storytellers who had been taught to frame whatever responses the kids gave as a good answer. One week the story began with the question, “Do anybody know what today is?” I think the answer was supposed to be Valentine’s Day, but before the storyteller could get there, one of the kids shouted, “Thursday!” and there was just no way around the fact that that was the wrong answer.

Today is Sunday. Today is a service when you will be invited to the Lord’s table to share in the body and blood of Christ, and when Christians around the world will celebrate the service of communion. It may not be any more special than any other Sunday -- but every time we worship together as the body of Christ is special in its own way.

If you have read the Pastor’s Page of the October Connection, you know that I have been wrestling with what it means to be one in Christ. Whether you’ve read it or not, you’ll get to hear this morning what I believe Colossians 3 has to say about being one in Christ. I’m going to work through Colossians 3:12-17 chronologically, so if you want to follow along in your own Bible, I’d encourage you to do so. This letter was written to the church at Colossae, a group of Gentile believers in a congregation which was probably not planted by the Apostle Paul. Although this letter is written in Paul’s name, some scholars suspect that it was written by one of his followers after his death: Colossians addresses a dispute about what has already been accomplished in Christ, and whether believers have already been given access to new life in Christ, and if they have, what that ought to look like in their lives. Those are questions which are relevant to anyone who claims to believe in Christ as Lord.

Verse 12 addresses these believers (and us, by extension) as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,” and I would note that we are not chosen because we are holy and we are not beloved because we are better than other people. We who have accepted new life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ are called to leave behind our former selves and clothe ourselves in the characteristics we have seen in Christ. Holiness is a characteristic of God: we take on some of that character when we act the way that Christ acted: with kindness, humility, meekness and patience. We are not beloved because we always get this right. We strive to imitate Christ because we believe that God loves us, and will forgive us when we fall short. And because God forgives us, we are called to forgive other when they fall short. When we make a habit of kindness and patience and forgiveness -- when it becomes as much a part of our lives as getting dressed in the morning and is the attitude which we wear all day -- we can be at peace with ourselves and the people around us.

The key, says verse 14, is to clothe ourselves with love. Love is the wardrobe piece which goes with everything -- it’s better than a well-cut suit or a little black dress -- love is the basis of harmony in our relationships. Christ’s love for us, our love for Christ, and us extending that love to one another. That is how the fabric of Christian unity is woven together; if we are the body of Christ, that body should be clothed in the garment of love. And the end of verse 15 says, And be thankful. As the church, the body of Christ, we have been given the gospel, the word of Christ and the words of the law and the prophets to instruct us and guide us and give us wisdom; we have been given the opportunity to worship on this special day and on every occasion when we express our thanksgiving by singing psalms and spiritual songs.

As you have probably noted, this text does not reference the service of communion. Verse 15 says we are “called in the one body,” and that word called is the same as the word which was translated as chosen in verse 12. We are chosen by God to be part of the one body -- not the body of Creekside or the body of the Church of the Brethren, but the body of Christ. And verse 17 ends this section with the blanket statement which I’d like to leave you with us we prepare to come to the Lord’s table this morning. It says, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Brothers and sisters, “Whatever you do” is a lot of territory. It means everything we do -- including all our speech and all our actions. Which brings me back to my opening point: is this a special day in our life together at Creekside? I believe it is. But not because celebrating communion is a time when we should behave differently than we usually do. What we are celebrating is that Christ is the center of our lives -- individually and as a community of believers. We are celebrating that there are believers sitting next to us and in Elkhart County and all across the United States and in countries we’ve never heard of speaking languages which may not have a written form, people who don’t all look the same or sing the same songs or have the same economic opportunities. What we celebrate is that whatever we do, we have all been invited to clothe ourselves with love: love which does not originate with us, but comes from knowing that Christ loved us enough to die for our redemption. Christ loved us enough to invite us to become part of the one body by sharing in his body and blood, the bread and cup of communion. This is not an invitation to be taken lightly. It was given at tremendous cost. If everything we do is in the name of Jesus, it will have a tremendous impact on every part of our lives.

I have suggested that you each take some time this week to consider if you are in harmony with God and neighbor; to consider if whatever words or deeds you have shared are consistent with the love of Christ which binds everything together in perfect harmony. It’s a tall order, I know. I’d like to give you a few moments for self-reflection before I offer words of assurance and we prepare for communion. Let me begin with a word of caution: in these moments of reflection, you may find it tempting to contemplate how other people have wronged you, and how they ought to ask you for forgiveness -- and maybe even how gratifying it will be not to forgive them, because you know you are right. I hope you will resist tearing the fabric of love in that way. It is humility, not self-righteousness which strengthens the body of Christ. As we have some moments of reflection with quiet music, I invite you to prepare yourselves to come to the Lord’s table by considering the following:

  • How have I experienced God’s forgiveness or the grace of Jesus Christ?
  • Who might need to experience forgiveness from me?

Words of Assurance:
God, through these moments of reflection, lead us to love you more dearly. For the gift of grace through Jesus Christ, a gift which we did not earn and can never repay, we come with humble gratitude. For the forgiveness which we have experienced from family or friends or members of this church family, help us to accept that gift, because none of us are perfect, and we all stand in the need of repentance. For the opportunities we have to forgive one another, we pray that we would clothe ourselves with the love we have experienced from You. Whatever we do and say, may we do it in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

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