Monday, July 26, 2010

Ninth sunday after Pentecost 2010

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Colossians 2:6-14
Bror Erickson

[6] Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, [7] rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
[8] See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. [9] For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, [10] and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. [11] In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, [12] having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. [13] And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, [14] by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [15] He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Col. 2:6-15 (ESV)

Therefore as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

We sometimes get the impression that being a Christian is a chore a difficult and unpleasant chore. Some are under the impression that it should be. The other day I saw a Facebook post that said “anyone who thinks being a Christian is easy isn’t trying hard enough.” I did not click like. I suppose I understood a bit what he was getting at. We are given crosses in life. Crosses that are born normally in our various vocations. At times life is hard in General. Perhaps at times it would be easier to not be a Christian. Especially when your looking for a job around here, or would like a date to the prom. But I dare say these difficulties are not brought on because you aren’t trying hard enough. And being a Christian is not about creating your own personal purgatory on earth so you can escape punishment on the other side. It is about receiving Jesus, being forgiven in Christ. And far from being difficult this is supposed to be joyful. What is not to be joyful about? Jesus has forgiven you all your shortcomings. Jesus has forgiven you all your laziness and not trying hard enough. Jesus has forgiven you for being who you are, and with that forgiveness has made you someone else, a Christian, a forgiven sinner.

“Therefore as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving, abounding in it. This is the Christian life. But this presupposes that we have something to be thankful for. Thanksgiving cannot be artificially manufactured. It is the response to a gift. The gift for us Christians is salvation by Grace through faith, which too is a gift of God. This thanksgiving manifests itself then as we walk in him whom we have received, a byproduct of the faith that roots us to him, as we study his word, and cast our cares on him in prayer. Prayer and Devotion are both the result of our thanksgiving and that which produces thanksgiving. At least I find, that time spent in prayer, and study of God’s word, more often than not is rewarded with a feeling of gratitude. Oh what a vicious circle to get caught up in! First you learn that your sins are forgiven, in gratitude and joy you search the scriptures, in which you learn more about Christ, and then find yourself even more grateful, which sends you back to God’s word. It becomes an addiction hard to live without. Only with this addiction there is no reason to live without, it does nothing but good for you.

Paul, here, tells the Colossians why they should be grateful. He reminds them of the Gospel. He doesn’t say do all these things and you will receive salvation, receive the Lord Jesus Christ. No. He tells them they have received Jesus Christ. And that being the case to flee the people that are trying to enslave them with worldly and fleshly religions of works righteousness. Gnosticism, like Mormonism at least the Gnosticism that was encroaching upon the Colossians, was about turning Christianity from a religion of joy into a personal purgatory in order to achieve a higher status with God, and perhaps even escape punishment a bit. It was a mixture of Jewish and pagan beliefs that blasphemously threw the name of Jesus in for good measure. I don’t know of any equivalents to that today. O.K. Maybe a couple. Notice how this is all set up to deny the cross, so conspicuously missing from so many “church buildings” around here. Of all the places I have ever lived, I think Utah is the one place where a cross definitely identifies one as a Christian. It isn’t a piece of unnoticeable Jewelry around here.

Paul doesn’t avoid the cross, but brings the people right to it. Jesus Christ died for them. He took all of it and nailed it to the cross, this death sentence of the law, which this other religion would like to bind them to with circumcision and empty philosophies.
I don’t think any of us here are being tempted with circumcision. But what follows here is an absolute treasure trove of Grace as Paul explains the relationship of Baptism to the Old Testament Sacrament of Circumcision.
Circumcision in the Old Testament was first and foremost about the Grace of God adopting you into his family. It was commanded to be done at 8 days old. And so it was done for Christ. But becoming a member of God’s family, and with the gift of faith then came many laws that you were expected to live by. And this was a bit more than the Ten Commandments. There were laws about what you could and could not eat. When you should go to the temple, and when you should stay home. And the whole thing was not easily lived out. Those who thought it was, were probably not trying hard enough. Sinners as we are, and they were they all failed to live by this law. Paul saw that. And he understood that there were no brownie points for doing your best. Your best fell short, and you deserved death for it. Furthermore this circumcision of the flesh was supposed to be reflected by a circumcision of the heart. That is it was supposed to reflect an inward change of the heart. That heart that keeps leading us astray, that is filled with muderous and adulterous thoughts. It is infact our own hearts that lead us to sin.
But it is precisely this circumcision of the heart that Paul says we received with baptism. And this is the forgiveness of sins that we received on account of Christ’s Circumcision, death and resurrection.
See Christ, according to the law, was circumcised at 8 days old. It was there at 8 days old that he made a down payment for our sins, as his life, his blood first spilled on the ground for our sin. He had no sin. He had no reason to put himself under the law of God, with a covenant scripted into his flesh with a knife sealed with blood. But he did so for us. And then he lived his life perfectly according to that law to save all of those who had failed, and all of us who have never tried. He lived the covenant God made with man, saying do this and you will live. He did and so we live.
It was this Circumcision, this perfect obedience to the law of God, Christ’s circumcision that marked his life, that we were baptized into Christ. He lived the perfect life we could not. He lived it so that it could be ours. His blood shed at 8 days old was the down payment for our sin that would be paid in full when his perfect life was crucified, his holy and precious blood shed for us on the cross. And because his life was perfect, untarnished with sin, and because in him dwelt the fullness of the Deity, that is because this man who died is God, then his life became the perfect atonement for our sin. His death became the forgiveness of our sins. So that on the third day when he rose from the dead, we too were given new life in our baptisms, and a circumcision made without hands, a circumcision of the heart, a circumcision that is a forgiveness of sins manifesting itself in faith and love. And so our baptism replaces circumcision. Which then when you see it in this way, makes infant baptism so easily understood. Of course we baptize infants, If Jesus could save all those circumcised at 8 days old with his own circumcision, certainly he can also save us who receive the circumcision of the heart, made without hands, can be saved by Christ’s circumcision when we are baptized into it no matter our age! Because it isn’t about what we do or don’t do, but about what Christ has done for us. He died for our sins. God shed his blood for you that you might have life.
And it is this life we live now. It is the life he has given us. Eternal life in the forgiveness of sins. It is this life Paul admonishes us to live, not in guilt, not in misery, but in thanksgiving. It is this life Paul admonishes us not to allow to be enslaved by the elemental spirit’s the vain and empty philosophies of this world, whether Mormonism or Wicca, Buddhism or Islam. It is the life Christ has given us that we live in thanksgiving, walking in him, being rooted in him and built up by him established in the faith. The faith that despite our sin. Despite whatever our sins are they are forgiven in Christ and there is nothing we can do about it.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

No comments: