Col. 1:9-14 (ESV)
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Preaching on the Epistles can be a challenge. They are so straight forward, often times you read them and wonder what needs to be said. The epistles themselves are really sermons, they were meant to be read in the congregation, most of them predate the gospels. They leave little up for the imagination. In this way I think they are great for the young Christian, the novice reading scripture. They were meant for the novice, they were meant for the newly converted, they are preaching to them.
Yet the thing about the Epistles, this one included, is that what they have to say flies in the face of what so many believe, that often there is a tendency to miss what is said. There is a disconnect from the printed page and what it says, from what we think it is saying. Add to this the didactic straightforward style of the epistles, and it is easy for the brain to shut off while reading. Soon you have eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear.
This is the way it was for Luther before the reformation. This is the way it is for so many even today. They read almost without reading. They hear but do not listen. Or as a friend of mine observed earlier this week, today we read the Bible for what we think it says, or what we want it to say, we do not read it to hear at all what it says. I have found this to be true in my own life a few times. It is one reason I read it so much. I was in highschool when I first read it cover to cover. I found it challenging many notions concerning life, and right and wrong that I had held. I still find it doing that. I found it fascinating. I still find it fascinating. And as I get older I find it speaks new life, and nuances of meaning come out with age. Somehow, it says something new to me today that I am 36, something more than it said to me when I was 16. And yet what it said when I was sixteen was not wrong. It just says more. I find it is truly a fount of wisdom. I also find that often preaching on an epistle is a matter of pulling the plugs from stopped ears and simply explicating what it says.
So often there are nuances hidden even in the plainest didactic straightforward sounding texts. “Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. “ Qualified you. We have reason to give thanks to the Father, because he has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints. Paul himself gives thanks to the Father, not because of the things the Father has given him personally. But Paul is thankful that God has qualified others to share in the inheritance. There is a love for the fellow man here that is astonishing. He rejoices not in his own salvation, but in the salvation of others. The Father has qualified you. You haven’t qualified yourself, but the Father has qualified you to be a saint, to share in the inheritance of the saints. Do we do this? Are we thankful for this. One thing living in Utah has impressed upon me most, is to rejoice with the angels in heaven when one sinner repents. And I don’t care who it is, a two month old baby, a 36 year old adult, a senior citizen being baptized, we are watching a miracle. When this happens the Father is at work qualifying another person for the inheritance of the saints in light though his son. His Son Jesus Christ who died on the cross for each and every one of us.
It is there in baptism that he transfers us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom there is redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The domain of darkness, the domain of sin, of law, of death. This is the domain to which we as sinners belonged. Darkness. You can’t see in darkness, not clearly. In darkness sin seems good. In darkness you think no one else sees your sin. In darkness one is also led to believe there is salvation in the law. That if you follow the law you can erase your sins, and qualify yourself for the inheritance of saints. This proves a futile task. But it is the domain of darkness. You stumble around trying to climb. And the law kills you because you are a sinner. Even your attempts at qualification, your attempts to qualify yourself for redemption, are sin. But God transfers you from that domain, the father transfers you in baptism to see the light from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved son, the forgiveness of sins.
The forgiveness of sins is the kingdom, the domain of his son. Because it is through forgiveness that he reigns in his kingdom. It is a strange thing, in the English the forgiveness of sins could be read to define redemption, but in the Greek the appositive position of the phrase makes it define the kingdom of the Son in whom there is redemption. The kingdom of the Son, is the forgiveness of sins. And it is through the forgiveness of sins that he redeems, and qualifies you to be saints, to share in the inheritance of saints in the light.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen