Eighth Weekend after Pentecost
August 04, 2019 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Colossians 3:1-11
I want to focus on the letter to Colossians this morning and the parable from the gospel feeds right into it too so well, we'll cover two birds here. Normally, we build up to these things, but I figure we'll just we'll just tackle it right away. The most difficult question in this passage, that I'm sure many of you have out there, that is who in the heck are the Scythians? So we'll tackle that right away and just get it out of the way, how does that sound? Okay, maybe it's not the most important question. In the Greek world barbarians were basically just non-Greek people. They have not yet come to the conclusion that the Greek way of life is the best way of life. And so they can be forgiven for that. But our modern day understanding of barbarian--dumb, brutish, aggressive, that actually is more of the Scythian in this text. And of course, it was the Greeks were the ones that talked about the Scythians. So that's that's the moniker they got. But think of Vikings, right? And they were a war-like like people that were brutish, dumb and aggressive. Right? They're the real barbarians. In fact, some even speculate that Scythians are the Vikings. And I don't know if that's true or not. But it's fun to think about. So we got that outta the way now. So, now we get out of the sermon, I suppose, and we read this text. And a lot of times when we read scripture in general, I think we get kind of caught up and caught up in this notion that the Bible is somehow this great instruction manual for life. It'll just teach me how to live and I can do the right thing and then get rewarded at the end. In fact, there's some Bibles out there that actually are sold under that title, right? God's instruction book, life's instruction manual, things like that.
The danger in that is that it kind of misses the point of what Christianity is and what it is for you and me and what it means to follow Jesus Christ, whose life, death and resurrection is the foundation of the world.
So when I read a text like this and it says put to death, therefore whatever in you as earthly fornication, in purity, passion, evil, desire and greed, which is idolatry and says you really of such things anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie. So if we just do those things, we're OK, right?
Not exactly. It's more difficult than that. Unfortunately. It's more difficult than that because if we were able to do all those things from the first place, we wouldn't need Jesus Christ in our lives anyway. Luther was against such things. It's this idea of works in order to gain salvation and sometimes we trick ourselves and we'd say, yeah, but we need to do the works anyway so that we can stay saved. Luther was against such things. He was definitely against setting your mind on the things of heaven and setting your mind up where Christ is, as though that's to the neglect of the rest of the world and to be fully sequestered and closed off with Christ only. So he was against the idea of monks and nuns that just focus inward and serve themselves and then take this spiritual path.
To the neglect of the world.
Because indeed, it is not the works that save you. So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is seated, at the right hand of God.
The statement remains true. Just not in that way.
Around this time of year, I think about my kids in school starting up again and I especially think Logan's going into high school this year, and I think about those middle school and high school years especially. How difficult those can be for a lot of people.
You're trying to figure out who am I, what am I? How am I seen by other people? So you try different things, you try different hairstyles, different clothes, maybe different friends, different tastes in music--just to see who you are, what you like, how the world sees you. And you end up in different cliques. Whether you're with the athletes, or you're with the music people, or you're with people that didn't really do a lot of extracurriculars, or maybe the extracurricular was something we shouldn't mention here.
But, the world starts to define you in a particular way. And you carry this into adulthood as well. Even after you start to kind of firm up on these things, and you think you know who you are and you head on into the adult world--and the adult world tells you a different story and it'll say, "I'm going to tell you who you are." But we carry some of these identities with us into our lives. Whether it's sports affiliations, political ideologies, whether we're a man or a woman in society, our wealth status, or social status, as we climb that ladder in corporate world, right?
We take on these identities and I'm a Vikings fan and Pastor Ryan is a Bears fan. Yeah, I'm going to give it to him! Sometimes people can take these identities too far. Sometimes the Vikings are playing, I don't want to hear from anybody until they're done.
Sometimes we take our other identities to heart. And we can't think outside of them to the detriment of the world. Because after all, these are earthly identities that we are living by. And that is what this text was getting at. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things of Earth. Mary's heard this sermon already--she can go! Set your mind on the things of heaven. Things that are above, not on this earth. Why?
You have died. You have died. All of us who have been baptized have been put to death in Christ so that we may rise anew with him. Things of heaven, that lofty goal is not just a destination to try to get to. It is who we are in Christ, and if we set our mind on the things that have happened, if that becomes our identity, it becomes something beyond this world. We are children of God, saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, living into the promise of eternal life. By the one who loves us.
And if our mind is set on these things, if we live truly into our eternal identity in Christ then these things naturally get put to death with us. For these things that are out of a selfish heart, out of a heart of self- gratification, self-serving, fornication, impurity, passion, evil, desire and greed, which is idolatry.
Not one of us is immune to taking on our earthly identities, in making that the most important thing. Not one of us is immune to anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive language from our mouths. Because we are falling, we are sinful. Even though our identity is in Christ, we don't always live into that identity.
But the beautiful thing is that identity remains with us. Baptized into Christ, we are dead already to rise anew in Christ each and every day, When we come to worship, we are reminded of that here. And we go to this meal and we share in the fellowship of the table, taking Christ's body and blood for that very forgiveness--strengthened from the inside out to continue our worship out in the world.
We don't just worship in here, we serve God outside. And that is our worship. Because when we live out our identity in Christ, we see a world in need. We see a world that we can serve. We see people that we can help. For when we recognize Christ as in us, we see the Christ in them--and we want to serve our Lord and Savior.
Because there is no more differentiation. There is no Greek or Jew circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian or Scythian, slave and free. And I hate to say it, Ryan, there is no more Vikings fan or Bears fan!
We are all one in Christ, and we serve together. That is our goal. That is what we strive to do each and every day. And we're terrible at it. Which is why we come back here each and every week to return to the table, to return to the message. To be reminded of who we are in Christ, because this world will continue to try to define us else-ways.
You are loved by God. You are forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You were promised eternal life in a love that never dies. In that identity, may you share that good news. And may the anger and wrath and malice melt away from you, as your mind is set on the things above. For the things above are set down here. For Christ saw a world worth dying for.
Let us sacrifice too. Amen.