Tag Archives: Colossians

The Church’s Do’s and Don’ts

Sermon given on Sunday, October 8, 2017

Opening scriptures: Colossians 1:15—20, NLT

15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,[a]
16 for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.[b]
So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

 

Reflection: The Church’s Do’s and Don’ts

            Weeks ago I began the process of reading Paul’s letters for advice that made sense to our own church now 2,000 years later. I could not predict what each letter was going to tell the church that made sense in our world today, yet the message always seems appropriate.

No one can ignore the horrific news that greeted us Monday morning about the insane shooting in Las Vegas, yet reading the letter Paul wrote to Colossians continues to be as important today as it was in those earliest days of The Church. We must be unified in Christ and determine what we as a church, as well as individuals, can do to tell the Good News to others.

In our opening scripture, we have a statement that summarizes The Church’s relationship to Jesus Christ. That opening verse reminds us that Christ was a real human being: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. . .

These opening verses emphasizes the very basic foundation of the church and its relationship to Jesus Christ. In a world filled with all types of evil and doubting thoughts, we need to hear Paul’s statement and know it to be the very basis of why The Church must do all it can to spread this truth in our world today. It is just as important as it was in Paul’s day or any time in human history since Jesus Christ walked the earth demonstrating and teaching how to love one another despite all the heretics yet today.

 

Scripture continues: Colossians 3:8, 12-17, NLT

But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. . . .

     12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

     16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

 

Reflection continues:

Admittedly I am a ‘newsaholic’ and could easily sit and work around the house with a news station running 24/7. I don’t because that is also mentally unhealthy. Living in a world that can feed all the events occurring anywhere around the globe instantly into our own homes, we are beaten up by negative input.

True, there is positive news that can be reported, too, it just does not meet what is considered newsworthy that must be shared immediately. While in Journalism School in the mid-1970s, students were taught that there is a responsibility to report news that is timely, that is geographically related, and that pertains to people who have name recognition in the area of publication.

The communication technology was beginning to effect society and studies in the 1970s included whether what was on television or movie screen would negatively effect viewers, especially young people. Now, 40 years later, the effects are evident. The Church can be an active element in society today if it can follow the guidelines that Paul provides in the letter to Colossians.

            Paul outlines the dos and don’ts for The Church and should also be the does and don’ts in our own individual lives. Christ is in us and it is in us as The Church. There is no excuse for not following these guidelines right now, especially in light of all the horrors that are broadcast at us at all times. Paul’s guidelines work and can be more powerful than anything broadcast at us through our media today.

The verse 3:8 lists the don’ts and they seem so obvious: . . . get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. . .  Sadly, the list seems to be the very themes of almost any entertainment program, movie or even video game. We are being flooded with such graphic images of these very don’ts Paul listed.

Defending ourselves from these is tough as adults, just imagine how tough it is for our young people who are growing up with them daily. There is no limiting the access to these very negative behaviors through the seemingly infinite sources that flood our lives today.

The skills to defend ourselves and our children and our communities are listed in Paul’s letter as the do’s for The Church trying to maintain Jesus’ teachings. The verses in 3:12-17 outline the do’s for The Church but also for each one of us:

  • . . . clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
  • Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
  • Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.14 
  • Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
  • 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.
  • And always be thankful.

Each one of these do’s are so practical. The cost is nothing other than our own willingness to demonstrate them.

The Church can work as a media element itself. It can do whatever it can to show people how to use the do’s that Paul lists in these verses. The Church must be a place where one can step in for a worship service and expect tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, peace, and love.

The Church is more than a building or a location in any form, the Church is the people of Jesus Christ. As humans, we are fallible. We come to church to fine-tune the do’s Paul teaches us. We come to church to find peace. We come to church to ask forgiveness. We come to church to learn and to counsel each other in how to live our beliefs in a world filled with evil and all forms of cynicism.

Paul’s letters from the first one to the Romans, through today’s verses to the Colossians and I am sure in the letters to the Thessalonians, continue to teach us how to combat false teachings, how to live in unity in Christ, how to tell the Good News, and how to pray.

Today, we must remember the do’s and don’ts that Paul lists in his letter to the Colossians as though they are written to us today. We must not fail because we have a responsibility to God that we accepted upon our baptism. We are to do all we can to be The Church so that others may learn the Good News of Christ’s life, death and resurrection so that we may be forgiven of our sins and join him in life eternal. We are God’s representatives and we must forgive one another as well as encourage one another to continue living as God’s messengers to all.

Closing prayer:

Dear loving and forgiving Father,

We ask you to speak to us through the words of Paul.

We ask you to forgive us for our anger, rage, malicious behaviors,

            slander and dirty language.

We thank you for giving us the strength to demonstrate tenderhearted

            mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

We thank you that Paul guides us in how to forgive others,

            and how to love one another.

May we continue to learn from Paul’s letters and scriptures

            from the books of Old and New Testaments, especially the Gospel.

May we find wisdom while we teach and learn from each other,

            and through our worship.

May we know the joy of living our lives giving thanks to You for the gift

            of your son Jesus Christ, so that our lives are transformed.

In the name of You, God the father,

            Your Son, Jesus Christ,

                        And the Holy Spirit which is you within us. Amen

 

Closing scriptures: Colossians 4:5-6, NLT

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive[a] so that you will have the right response for everyone.

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God’s words, not mine

given on Sunday, July 31, 2016

Scripture connections:

Matthew 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

 

Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”(NIV)

 

Galatians 2: 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

 

Galatians 3: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 5: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. . . . 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 6: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Colossians 1: For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

Colossians 1: 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 2: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 3: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

 

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

 

 

Reflection:

 

I apologize. I am not Paul nor do I ever presume that I have all the answers. Yet, I do try to pray, read, study, and listen for God’s word in order to lead others to Christ. I have failed.

After walking away from last Sunday’s service, I realized that somehow, some way a breakdown of God’s church was developing and I needed help. First, I had to clear my head and that took a couple of days and those days were filled with everything but a divine inspiration.

  • Conversations were replayed in my head.
  • Textbooks readings surround my living spaces.
  • The calendar keeps filling up.

In the center of it all, I felt lost. My mind simply could not process anything and I knew I had to regroup quickly. Life was not going to slow down for me. If God was going to have a chance, I had to change something.

Once I had processed what was cluttering my brain, I began seeking sage advice. I read the lectionary, the commentary, and a few more odds and ends from the stacks of books surrounding me. Then I started sorting out questions. Slowly, a major line of thought—a God inspiration—began emerging: What does the Bible tell me? What does the Bible tell the church?

The answer lies in scripture, not only this week but over and over and over. Return to the Bible.   Read. Listen. Study. Read again. Pray. The Bible is holy literature that has withstood the test of time for thousands and thousands of years. The answer is not always easy to locate and sometimes the answer is pretty difficult to acknowledge. Still, the answer is buried in those words and the words of theologians and translators who have done the very same thing as we do today—read, study, pray, and listen.

I apologize if I have failed to communicate God’s timeless message in a manner that leads us to fulfill the commission Jesus issued to his disciples:

Matthew 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

 

Reading the lectionary reminds us that human nature has a tendency to repeat the same behaviors and every three years the theologians guide readers through the entire Bible three times never repeating the same verses within that time frame. The theory is that by following the lectionary for three years, readers will have read the entire Bible once.

The lectionary is a tool. The study notes of our Bibles are supplementary tools. Add to that the textbooks or additional materials available provide more opportunities to hear God speak to us. I have struggled with the daily discipline needed to combat my human character and personality and to follow God’s calling to serve. How does one quiet the babbling in one’s head to hear God talk? Much less, how does one find what is God telling his church to do?

During the past couple of months, the assigned readings from the lectionary have included selections from Paul’s letters to the Galatians and the Colossians. In my Life Application Study Bible, each chapter begins with a sidebar “Vital Statistics” and it begins with the purpose of each book. Looking at the purpose of Paul’s letter written to the church communities, one sees that today’s challenges are really no different than challenges to churches throughout time:

  • Romans: To introduce Paul to the Romans and to give a sample of the message before he arrives in Rome.
  • I Corinthians: To identify problems in the Corinthian church, to offer solutions, and to teach the believers how to live for Christ in a corrupt society.
  • 2 Corinthians: To affirm Paul’s ministry, defend his authority as an apostle, and refute the false teachers in Corinth.
  • Galatians: To refute the Judaizers (who taught that Gentile believers must obey the Jewish Law in order to be saved), and to call Christians to faith and freedom in Christ.
  • Ephesians: To strengthen the believers in Ephesus in their Christian faith by explaining the nature and purpose of the church, the body of Christ.
  • Philippians: To thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent Paul and to strengthen these believers by showing them that true joy comes from Jesus Christ alone.
  • Colossians: To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ.
  • I Thessalonians: To strengthen the Thessalonian Christians in their faith and give them the assurance of Christ’s return.
  • 2 Thessalonians: To clear up the confusion about the second coming of Christ.

 

Seven different churches all were sent letters to communicate Paul’s messages. Each different congregation had its own issues and as Bible readers/students learn, these problems appear in churches repeatedly. Paul’s letters continue to guide today’s congregations and that means our own right here, right now.

Beginning the last Sunday in May, the weekend before Annual Conference, the lectionary included the first reading from Galatians and that, remember, is the letter Paul wrote to clarify the application of the New Law to the Jewish traditionalist wanting to force the Gentiles to follow the Old Law.

Do we, in our own church need the same reminder? Of course we do. Reading through Galatians during the remaining weeks of June, churches are reminded that the stringent laws are not required, that the church is open to all people. There is no closed door in a church that is following God’s call to serve all the people in all the ways that they possibly can. God’s words overrule my words or any other person’s words:

Galatians 2: 15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles 16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in[a] Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

 

Galatians 3: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 5: 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. . . . 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 6: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

 

These words send red flags to today’s churches that are struggling to survive in a corrupt culture that seems to creep into our lives as silently and stealthily as the fog we have seen these past few days. The sun burns the fog off, and God’s Son should burn the fog off in today’s churches.

And again, I apologize. God’s message is not getting communicated well. I continue to read and to study, but life gets into the middle of my own calling and I fail.

The lectionary does not fail, though, and as July began Paul’s letter to Galatians continued to explain how the Old Law did not apply once Christ delivered the New Law, was crucified, died, and arose. Does our church need Paul’s words to guide us to opening our doors to others?

Then the lectionary shifts into Colossians and Paul tries:

 

To combat errors in the church and to show that believers have everything they need in Christ.

 

As the month continued—and now ends—with the readings from Colossians:

Colossians 1: For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,[e] 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you[f] to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

Colossians 1: 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 2: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 3: Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

 

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

 

How can we ignore the words written so many years ago but still apply today? We are living in a corrupt society. We are still trying to preserve the way things were rather than adapting our methods to a world that has raced ahead filling our communities with so many temptations that our churches cannot ‘combat evil’ successfully.

John Wesley lived in a corrupt world, as did so many Christian theologians. We live in a corrupt world, too, but there is no reason to give up trying to make a difference. My high school graduating class selected a quote that continues to be a driving force in my own life:

Take the world as you see it,

but leave it better.

 

I googled those words and I could not find the original source, but I certainly remember the work we put into selecting that quote and the value it has provided me in my life. When you add that quote to Wesley’s quote:

“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

How can one go wrong following God’s New Law found in Matthew 22 when Jesus was asked:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”(NIV)

 

Let’s put these words into action. Let’s work together. Let’s study together. Let’s pray together.

Join together in conversation. The second week of the challenge to meet on Tuesday morning, 10 am, at the church to read and to discuss the small book, I am a church member, is open to each and every one in our community. We have just five more weeks to prepare for the fair and our doors are literally wide open. There can be no better opportunity to open the hearts of our neighbors to the love of Christ who offers hope in a world filled with corruption.

Closing prayer:

Dear Guiding Father,

Your servant Paul has guided the church for centuries,

We read his words but struggle to understand.

Use the words to open our hearts.

Use the words to guide us in the very principles of love.

Help us to work together to change our world.

Help us to demonstrate service in all the ways we can.

May we love one another as you have loved us.

May we serve one another as you served us.

Keep us focused on your message of compassion.

Keep us focused on the promises of life eternal

As we live our Christian faith out loud in our community

So others may find grace and hope in your love. –Amen

 

Benediction from Scripture:

Colossians 3: 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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