Sermon – Pentecost 6 – July 21, 2019
Col. 1:21-29 ‘Hostile Takeover – Christ in you’
CT: Jesus was alienated for us that we would be reconciled to God by being made alive in Christ.
Intro: You’ve seen the movies where aliens invade earth bent on destroying the human race; War of the Worlds; Independence Day. In both cases it was a virus that saved the world; the 1st was the common cold and the 2nd was a computer virus. I enjoy a movie about human heroes saving the world, perhaps it’s because they’re far from real so it doesn’t prick the conscience, or cause tears to flow, and I can still sleep at night. No, I don’t live in fear of an alien invasion, and I don’t worry about secret government places like ‘Area 51’, or unexplained lights in the night sky.
Real Aliens: But far from fiction are the aliens that Paul wrote about in our Epistle lesson; the aliens are you and me—the whole human race. Apart from Christ, we are alienated from God and knowingly involved in a hostile takeover of His creation. We belong to the ‘prince of this world—the prince of darkness,’ who is bent on destroying our world and you with it. Like a Martian invasion, we have been swept up by it; we are helpless to stop it, and we, by the power of sin at work in us become hostile in mind—that is knowingly doing evil deeds. And this is not a movie; this is the reality of our human condition!
You might think I’ve painted too grim a picture; we can’t be that bad! That’s not me! But sin is insidious and always present that we don’t notice, especially in ourselves. A frog thrown into a pot of boiling water will jump out, but put him in a pot of cool water and slowly bring it to a boil and the frog remains calm, as death creeps in one degree at a time. We’re not thrown into a pot of boiling water, or suddenly thrust into sin; we’re born into it. Without God’s Word of Law we would barely know the danger we’re in, and without God’s Word of Gospel we would never know that there is hope.
Knowledge of Sin: All of us have been guilty of doing something that we know is wrong. When I counsel couples for marriage, young and old alike, 95% of who are already living together, I ask them, “Why do you want to get married? What difference will it make to your relationship?” Their answer is usually summed up by: “We want to do the right thing.” God has written His Law on our hearts so that we know we’re doing the wrong thing even as we’re doing it. No matter how hard a heart becomes toward God and sin, a twinge is still there.
God’s Response: We end up very uncertain about what a relationship with God is like or if one even possible, but we do know what it feels like to be alienated. Husbands alienate wives and visa versa, and we call it divorce. Brothers and sisters alienate each other over the care of an aging parent or the division of a will. In the church, Christians alienate each other over a hurtful word or action and pride keeps us from ever reconciling. Who’s going to make the first move? As painful as all these things are to us, God hurts so much more, because God’s love for us is perfect, steadfast, without limit, and unconditional.
Paul’s emphasis for the Colossians—for us—is that God has done something about what alienates us; now we are reconciled. Jesus reconciled us in His body. It’s a real, physical, tangible action on God’s part—and it’s done. Jesus took all our sin; everything that would alienate us from our heavenly Father into His own flesh on the cross so He could present us on that Last Day, holy and blameless and above reproach before God. All has been settled. We are no longer estranged from God; we are now aliens and strangers to the world, but friends and family in God’s house. Now that we are reconciled, we have the certainty of a heavenly home; the hope of glory, which brings a lasting joy into our living, even in suffering and hardship because we know the outcome. You carry this mystery of Christ in you! This mystery of God’s love and forgiveness permeates your relationship with others.
Baptism: All of this is why Baptism is so important to Christian parents. For every one of is “by nature,” not nurture, “children of wrath.” (cf Ephesians 2:5) Sin is not a learned behaviour; it’s what we are! Paul goes on to tell the Ephesians that “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5) This is God at work through Baptism in my life, your life, the life of my 93 year old mother, and in the life of a little baby brought by parents to receive God’s gifts and promise as is the case today.
The white robe is placed on the child to show that they have been clothed with robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all their sins. And so shall we stand without fear before the judgement seat of Christ to receive the inheritance prepared for us from the foundation of the world.
Important Words: Yet God’s work to make us alive in Christ is only met by another miracle; keeping us alive in Christ. As Paul put it: “If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the Gospel that you heard.” God’s work of faith in you is a living gift that needs His Word. Teaching a child about their Baptism and what God has given them through Jesus Christ is so important, as is the learning every adult believer gains from continuing in Jesus’ words. As you can see from our Gospel lesson there are many good things given to us and set out before us to do that can so easily distract us, “but one thing is necessary.” There is nothing wrong with fishing, or golfing, or sleeping in; these are good things given to us by God. But your faith needs to be fed. We too need to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen that He might feed us with the Bread from heaven. That’s why we’re here today.
Paul’s plea is for us to continue steadfast in the faith, not shifting from the hope of the gospel. Our believing and hoping is founded on the objective certainty of the Christian faith—the cross of Jesus—His life, death, and resurrection. I encourage you to read your Bible and use your small catechism as a guide to what you’re reading. Experience the powerful working of Christ’s energy in you and through you as you discover the stability and steadfastness of His foundation; God’s work for you. You and I have been and are reconciled to God in Jesus’ body of flesh. “He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the Day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)