Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Falsehood, Fullness, and Freedom”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Set free, O Lord, any tension or anxiety which may keep us from fulfilling Your vision of what we can be. Fill us with the strength of Christ, the power of Your Holy Spirit, and the faithfulness of all true saints, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This week I was given a list of official Emergency Room medical charts – that seemed a bit off the mark. See if you can catch what might have been “wrong”:
- Patient is numb from her toes down.
- While in ER, she was examined, x-rated and sent home. [This probably was not far from the truth!! Those gowns are probably put under the classification of ‘x-rated!!!!]
- Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.
- Patient was alert and unresponsive.
- She stated that she had been constipated for most of her life, until she got a divorce.
- I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.
- Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.
Maybe some of you have seen the reports about the British newspaper, The Guardian’s article – highlighting Gonzaga University’s basketball reign in the WCC and Coach Mark Few’s leadership in that endeavor? This article was meant to be just that, but to emphasize how amazing the team is it also said this: “As the coach of the Gonzaga men’s basketball team, he is the central – perhaps the only – source of hope for a struggling city.” The article then invested another several paragraphs about how bad Spokane is as a place to live.
Today we begin our third full week of the Season of Lent in which we are studying the New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Colossae, Asia Minor (today’s Turkey). These Colossians, while living across the planet, 2,000 years ago, in the Roman Empire, weren’t all that different from we Lidgerwoodians.
Colossae was on the decline, in the midst of a thriving Greco-Roman world – and false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking over!
Paul writes to remind them who they were, to encourage their discouraged souls, to tell them again of who God is and what God had accomplished in Christ Jesus. In this letter we are invited to experience authentic ecclesia – to practice genuine Christian faith.
I read that list of Medical Charts as an intro to something every Colossian Christian, and every Lidgerwoodian Christian faces every day: verifying Falsehood from Truth; finding Fullness of Christ in a world of emptiness; and determining Freedom in God’s power while facing spiritual bondage in our own circumstances.
Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 2:6-23 ….—-
2: 6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Those ER medical Charts and that The Guardian sports article, and the religious teaching surrounding the people in Colossae, and the overall understanding of the Christian faith in today’s main-stream media, and frankly, in many of our pews, is filled with False info – which produce false expectations, and foster false hope.
Paul writes to 1st Century Colossian Christians (and to 21st Century American Presbyterians), verse 8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” He has said this in several ways now – There is only ONE God; Jesus Christ is the visible image of that God and He is supreme; and therefore it is only in Him that we find real hope, the hope of glory, hope that is guaranteed and that becomes an honest relationship with Almighty God, Creator of everything that exists!
Some of you, I know, are looking at your Sermon Notes page, and you want to know how to fill in that quote by Corrie ten Boom. Ms. Ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker before and during the Nazi reign of terror in Europe. Her father and sister and she hid Jews from the Gestapo and as a result they were all put in Concentration Camps, where her elderly father died, and after a few years her sickly sister also died. But the Ten Booms never lost their faith – and in the end several people who were held in prison with Corrie ten Boom, and even some of the guards that held them captive, gave their lives to Christ. Corrie ten Boom eventually left Europe and moved to Placentia, CA, where she died on her 91st birthday as a patient of my mom in a nursing home.
Corrie ten Boom has been an inspiration to millions of people, with dozens of quotable quotes. This one, reads: “If You look at the World, you’ll be DISTRESSED. If You look within, you’ll Be DEPRESSED. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at REST …”
In verse 9, Paul continues, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” In Christ, we are invited, you are invited, to experience Fullness of true reality – which nurtures Fullness of new reality, and even Fullness of fueled reality. That means our lives can express the power of God, even when we are unable to feel the strength of faith in our own souls. As CTB has said, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” And, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
Beware of Falsehood, and be open the Fullness of God’s presence.
Because God’s presence always leads to Freedom! Jesus said, in John 8:32, that when we “know the Truth (faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior), that Truth shall set [us] free!” And that’s when we experience Freedom in Christ’s grace – which leads to Freedom in Christ’s mercy, and complete Freedom in the Way, the Truth, the Life.
This evening, you will be blessed by what we experience as our own brother, Jack Hewson, shares his heart, his experience, his faith, and his hope, his fears, even his Freedom, regardless of which side of the bars he finds himself.
Jack is learning the truth of Paul’s word in II Corinthians 3:16-18: “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Today, I invite you to experience the Freedom that only Christ can offer. Freedom from fear, freedom from anxiety, freedom from doubt, freedom from anger, freedom from revenge …. Do you want that? Do you, like me, need that? Let’s give ourselves, a little more deeply, to Jesus.
“If You look at the World, you’ll be DISTRESSED. If You look within, you’ll Be DEPRESSED. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at REST …”
And, yeah, The Guardian, after yesterday’s game, Gonzaga basketball does give Spokane a lift, but Gonzaga is not what gives any of us ultimate hope! That comes through God’s grace, by faith – and that alone!
Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means knowing that we can go from Falsehood to Fullness to complete Freedom! This is a Church on the very verge of truly experiencing all of that – and we are blessed, privileged to be in on the ground floor! Let’s join the Colossian Christians and be that kind of church together.
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!— My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live: If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 59-79.
Crosswalk.com; 40 Powerful Quotes from Corrie Ten Boom; May 21, 2015.
Delistraty, Cody; “How Gonzaga Became the Central Hope for the Struggling City of Spokane”; The Guardian; March 14, 2017.
Spafford, Horatio G.; “It Is Well with My Soul”; 1873.