04/30/2017 – Philemon 1-25 – Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Slave and/or Sibling?”

Mark Wheeler

Philemon 1-25

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Slave and/or Sibling?”

04/30/2017

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.

 

When I asked my friend if she was planning to attend church, she just shook her head. “I haven’t gone in a long time,” she said.
“Besides, it’s too late for me. I’ve probably already broken all seven commandments.”

 

What’s wrong with that answer? [TEN, not seven Commandments; it is NEVERtoo late” (remember the thief on the cross next to Jesus?); WORKS righteousness is wrong (“saved by grace thru faith”); she was a slave to sin when she could be a child of God, a sister in Christ!]

 

Our last two months were spent in the New Testament book of Colossians, Paul’s Epistle to the Christian Community in Colossae, and in that letter we met a runaway slave named Onesimus. In today’s passage we are reading the one-page letter from Paul and Timothy to Onesimus’ master, a man named Philemon.

And, just to help us be aware, note that Philemon’s name means “Affectionate One” and his slave’s name, Onesimus, means “Useful”.

 

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to Philemon. Philemon 1-25 ….—-

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker — …   Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,  because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man (or does this mean “a church elder”?) and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.  He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me ….. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.         (NIV)

 

The meat of this epistle starts in verse 8 (where it says, “Therefore ….”), but the first seven verses are vital to its content. Why? Wherever there’s a “therefore” we have to ask what the “therefore” is there for. The “Thereforelinks the opening seven verses to the reason for the letter. The opening of the letter states Paul’s love for Philemon and his trust in him as a church leader and as a brother in Christ. Because the opening seven verses are true, Paul has the right to make a request of his Brother. So he does.

As an interesting side note, who remembers what Philemon’s name means? Can anyone parse the root word from the rest of the name? “Philemon” means “Affectionate One” (“phile” is the same root as in “pluviophile” which means “lover of rain”, a “bibliophileloves books, etc). Paul appeals to this “Affectionate One’ssense of forgiveness as he treats his slave who has runaway….

 

Onesimus was Philemon’s SLAVE. What is a slave? A piece of human property, with the job of doing what he’s told by his master. When a slave runs away, he is guilty of theft (he has stolen from his master), and the punishment could be severe. But,

Onesimus was also Paul’s spiritual SON. Being a spiritual son means that Onesimus had become a Christian under Paul’s personal tutelage. Therefore, Paul has a stake in Onesimus’ fate here.

In verse 8, Paul says that he could give orders (as an Apostle, with apostolic authority Paul’s directives carried some weight). But, he says, that he appeals to the affectionate One’s basis of love. As “an old man” (or, I believe the better understanding is “as  church leader” – the word is “presb[e]uteros”, from which our denomination gets its name, Presbyterians), he appeals for mercy and grace for his “son” Onesimus. This is where Paul tells a joke. Look at verse 11: “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” Did you get the joke? [CS Lewis, in three of the seven Chronicles of Narnia books, has a character that is introduced like this: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” A cousin of the Pevensie children who have been to the fantastic land of Narnia, Eustace mocks the Pevensies for their faith in Aslan and in the Narnia stories; so he gets nicknamedUseless Scrubb”. That’s the joke here, too. “Onesimus” is a name that means “Useful”; but when he ran away Philemon calls him “Useless”; so now Paul says, “He is not only notUseless’, he is ‘Useful’ to us all!”]

 

And here’s the kicker. Paul appeals to Philemon as a spiritual BROTHER, and he wants Philemon to see Onesimus as a BROTHER s well as a slave.

Paul does not say, ignore the wrong that’s been done to you. He does not say, pretend it’s all OK. And he does not abolish the institution of slavery! He does say, “Treat this slave as if he were your brother – because now he is!” (Some of you might remember that he said the same thing in his Epistle to the Colossians.)

 

Where is God’s hand at work in this story? At verse 15 Paul turns up the intention of the conversation. He recognizes that it was wrong what Onesimus did. He willingly chose to steal from Philemon by running away. But Paul’s eyes are on God and he sees the hands of God working through all of this. “Perhaps the reason he was separated from you [notice the passive voice, yes Onesimus ran away on his own accord, but perhaps it was God who took him from you] for a little while was that you might have him back forever 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” Was God’s sovereignty and providence behind this inconvenient and criminal activity?

When we are in the middle of suffering, any kind of suffering (from a stubbed toe to another two decades unjustly going back to prison, from losing a nickel bet to losing your home to foreclosure, from missing the green light to missing your loved one), when we are in the middle of suffering it is really difficult to see anything other than the pain. But might God use that “temporal” suffering to bring about an eternal consequence?

How did this change the relationship between Philemon and Onesimus? They became Siblings! Co-heirs with Christ! Children of God!

 

Where is God’s hand at work in OUR story? God can do that with us, too. The very last line of the letter says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.Paul writes this letter to one man, Philemon, “the Affectionate One”. But in this final sentence he uses a plural pronoun. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all-y’all’s spirit.

Paul writes this letter not only to his friend, colleague, brother in Christ, but he writes it to the entire Church. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is OURS also, to teach the same lesson of love, and to produce the same spirit of obedience.

 

“I haven’t gone in a long time,” she said. “Besides, it’s too late for me. I’ve probably already broken all seven commandments.”

Noooo. We are more than just slaves to sin – we are siblings in the Spirit, children of God, saved by grace through faith!

 

 

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means becoming a people who believe like that!!

 

We are 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 Philemon and Onesimus and be that kind of church together.

 

We serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;

we know that He is living, whatever Eustace may say;

we see His hand of mercy, we hear His voice of cheer,

and just the time we need Him He’s always near.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with us, and He talks with us along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

Let’s forsake our lives of sin, invite Him in our heart!  Amen.

 

Resources:

Ackley, Alfred H.; “He Lives!”; 1933

 

Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 102-112.

 

Lewis, C.S.; Book 3 in the Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader”; 1954; P. 1.

Advertisements

04/23/2017 – Colossians 4:7-18 – Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “We Are Family”

Mark Wheeler

Colossians 4:7-18

04/23/2017

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “We Are Family”

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.

 

WWII Private Desmond Doss volunteered with the Army as a Conscientious Objector – willing to go to the front lines, but not willing to even touch a rifle, or a grenade, or any weapon. After a Boot Camp of abuse and beatings and an almost-Court Marshal for disobeying a sergeant’s orders to train with a rifle Desmond Doss became a Medic and was sent to Okinawa to fight at Hacksaw Ridge.

Who here has seen the movie? I’m going to give a little spoiler now – so if you haven’t seen it and plan to, plug your ears until I wave my hands in the air (or stop reading until the next paragraph break).

Desmond Doss was a 7th Day Adventist, a Christian with some moral principles he stood strong for. We might not all agree with what he stood for, but that he did is extremely admirable. At the Hacksaw Ridge battle, Private Desmond Doss rescued over 75 wounded soldiers and brought them to safety, by himself!

At the 100ish minute mark of the 140 minute movie, after those rescues, his sergeant came to Doss and said, “I know tomorrow’s your Sabbath…. Most of these men don’t believe the same way you do…. But they believe so much in how much you believe!

          “And what you did on the Ridge, it’s nothing short of a miracle, and they want a piece of it; and they’re not going to go up there without you….”

The next scene is Saturday, Private Doss’ Sabbath, and won’t go up there – but he prayed with the whole platoon – and they went to battle with Doss’ prayer and faith infused into their collective conscience.

[Wave hands.]

Today is the last Sunday in this series looking at the New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Colossae. Paul writes to these Turkish Christians who lived with false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking overremind 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.

In this series we have learned some theological truths about the sovereignty of God and Jesus’ role in that sovereignty; and we have read some counsel about how people who follow Jesus might live.  Our last lesson, before Easter, concentrated on God’s faithfulness to us when we pray.

Today’s closing passage contains a list of names to whom Paul is sending reports about and greetings to. And this list shows us something of the way God works in our corporate Christian collective.

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 4:7-18 ….—-

           7 Tychicus [a close friend who is delivering this letter, as well as Paul’s letter to the Ephesians] will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus [we learn from Paul’s letter to Philemon, this was a runaway slave], our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

          10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus [was with Paul in Ephesus when a riot broke out, “fellow prisoner” probably refers to being in bondage to Christ] sends you his greetings, as does Mark [who knows who Mark was? The Gospel writer, and fellow missionary with Paul], the cousin of Barnabas [another fellow missionary with Paul]. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus [this everything we know about this man], also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras [listen to what we learn about Epaphras: what does this suggest about this friend?], who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor [besides being a doctor, what else do we know about Luke? He wrote the Gospel bearing his name, and the Acts of the Apostles, and he was a fellow missionary with Paul], and Demas [it appears that Demas was another fellow missionary with Paul, but that somewhere in their co-ministry Demas went astray – in Paul’s second letter to Timothy he mentions Demas as one who has been united with the world (that comes as a warning, but a sentence later Paul welcomes Mark who had also left Paul’s side earlier, so this comes as a word of hope – in this letter, Demas is simply named as one who sends greetings)] send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house [the identity of Nympha? No one really knows. Scholars don’t even know if that is a man or a woman. What it looks like, and what the NIV suggests, is that the Church in Laodicea met at Nympha’s house].

          16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

          17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the ministry you have received in the Lord.” [Archippus appears to have been ordained to some kind of ministry, probably in Laodicea.]

          18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.     (NIV)

Just a list of names? I don’t think so. Look at your Sermon Notes page. The first question asks how Paul describes Tychicus in verse 7: What do you see? [trusted, faithful, mature, enduring, “fellow servant”]

Now look at the description of Onesimus: What is different? [brand new believer]  This list of names contains people at every step of faith development, and in a variety of roles. This list describes every church – it certainly describes LPC.

This is where experiencing authentic ecclesia gets real. We Are Family. And we need each other – for accountability, to be challenged, to find solace and comfort, to provide sustenance.

But it does not stop with just us. This letter was to be read to the Christians in LAODICEA! Experiencing authentic ecclesia means being united with Christ-followers, fellow believers, from down the street and across the ocean!  It means joining in ministry with Fellowship Church of God in Hillyard and with Child Empowerment Outreach in Kiminini, Kenya!

And the last line of this epistle brings us right back to the main point of the letter. Paul closes with “Remember my chains.” In that simple phrase he is asking for their PRAYERS. But he is also asking them to recognize and SUBMIT to his apostolic authority…. Not as a prisoner of the Roman Emperor, but as one in bondage to Christ!

As such, Paul tells these believers in Colossae, and to we believers at LPC, “Most of these [people] don’t believe the same way you do…. But they believe so much in how much you believe!

          “And what you [do in ministry at LPC and in Spokane and in Kenya], it’s nothing short of a miracle, and they want a piece of it; and they’re not going to go [anywhere] without you….”

 

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means becoming a people who believe like that!!

We are 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.

Because He lives, we can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone;

Because we know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives!  Amen.

 

Resources:

Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 98-102.

Gaither, Gloria & William J.; “Because He Lives”; 1971.

Hacksaw Ridge”; 2016; LionsGate Production Co.; Mel Gibson director; Starring Andrew Garfield.

04/09/2017 – Colossians 4:2-6 – Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Praying Purposefully”

Mark Wheeler

Colossians 4:2-6

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Praying Purposefully”

04/09/2017

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.

 

The minister’s little six-year-old girl had been so naughty during the week that her mother decided to give her the worst kind of punishment. She told her she couldn’t go to the Sunday School Picnic on Saturday.

When the day came, her mother felt she had been too harsh and changed her mind. When she told the little girl she could go to the picnic, the child’s reaction was one of gloom and unhappiness.

“What’s the matter? I thought you’d be glad to go to the picnic,” her mother said.

“It’s too late!” the little girl said. “I’ve already prayed for rain!”

 

Today is the last Sunday in the Season of Lent, and it is the beginning of Holy Week.  We have been investing in this season by studying the New Testament letter from the Apostle Paul to the Christian Community in Colossae. Paul writes to these Turkish Christians who lived with false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking overremind 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.

We have seen that this means: we have to learn to discern fake news from Good News; we are given Jesus as the visible image of the invisible God; real Christians really suffer, and when we suffer on behalf of another we become more like Jesus; living into these truths makes us free to be who God wants us to be; and from a practical perspective we are asked to shed our old ways of living and become brand new beings, children, in His Kingdom; and last week we saw that God’s ways of creating Communion Community works in 2017 as well as it did in 2,000 earlier!

 

Today’s short passage offers some suggestions for praying purposefullypraying with expectation of an answer, praying in a way that demonstrates our trust and faith in the God who alone answers those prayers.

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 4:2-6 ….—-

     Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

 

The little 6-year-old girl prayed with a purpose: She devoted herself to prayer, she watched for and expected the answer, and she was … mad because she prayed for the wrong thing!

 

Paul says: Pray with devotion – with regularity. Pray with expectation, watching for the answer to come. Pray with thanksgiving – because God loves us and will always answer with the best answer (if not the “right” answer – please note the air-quotes)!

Paul is not afraid or ashamed to ask for prayers for himself! And he asks for specific, measurable prayers: that God will create an opportunity; that Paul will recognize that opportunity; and that Paul will step into that opportunity with confidence and wisdom.

But, praying is not the be-all and end-all. Especially in the context of this letter – his prayers are for success in sharing the Gospel (but the prayers really could be for anything), and so his advice is simple: Be wise in the ways you act with “outsiders” (people outside the faith), and be aware of every open door to bear witness of the Good News of Jesus. Be graceful, and be ready. Always.

 

This week, as we wander toward the cross of Jesus’ death, let’s wander with direction. Devote ourselves to prayerexpecting God to really and truly answer – and being thankful for God’s faithfulness to us, always.

 

I have, over the last month, introduced you to a few quotes from  Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch watch maker during the days of Nazi occupation in Europe, and Jewish annihilation. The ten Boom family hid Jews in their home until they were discovered, and then Corrie and her sister Betsie and their father were all captured and put in concentration camps where they all died except Corrie.

Your Sermon Notes page has a few more CtB quotesabout prayer. Listen to these quotes and see if any leave their mark on you.

 

The first quote describes how Corrie ten Boom learned to pray with purpose:

I prayed to dispel my fear, until suddenly, and I do not know how the idea came to me, I began to pray for OTHERS. I prayed for everyone who came into my thoughts – people with whom I had travelled, those who had been in prison with me, my school friends of years ago.  I do not know how long I continued my prayer, but this I do know – my fear was gone! Interceding for OTHERS had released ME!”

 

The second quote describes a reality about prayer:

The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something, and enter God’s realm where EVERYTHING  is possible.  He specializes in the impossible.  NOTHING  is too GREAT for His almighty power.  Nothing is too SMALL for His love.

Syria is killing its own people. America drops bombs on Syria. I have NO power to do anything to stop that! Wait. I can PRAY! In God’s realm EVERYTHING is possible! NOTHING is too GREAT for His almighty power.

And NOTHING is too SMALL for His love – so I can pray for even my least problematic concern!

 

The third quote asks a question about howdevoted to prayerwe are:

Is prayer your STEERING  wheel or your SPARE  tire?

Do we rely on God to guide our every move? Or do we only go to Him when nothing else has worked?

 

The fourth quote gives advice about HOW to be “devoted to prayer”:

Don’t pray when you FEEL  like it. Have an APPOINTMENT  with the Lord and KEEP  it.

 

The fifth quote is advice specifically stated for me:

To pray only when in PERIL  is to use safety belts only in heavy TRAFFIC.” … or only AFTER the accident….  or only when you see a POLICE officer watching you….

 

The sixth quote simply states a truth:

A man is powerful on his KNEES.

To assume that needing prayer is a sign of weakness is to not understand  that our strength is rooted in Jesus!

 

The last quote on our Sermon Notes page is Corrie ten Boom’s testimony of what she learned from her sister Betsie – and a condition she hoped for for herself, and that I strive for in my own life:

More and more the distinction between PRAYER  and the REST  of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

Paul says to pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks to God the Father, in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God!

 

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means becoming a people who pray like that!!

 

Let’s spend just a few minutes here. Someone tell us which of these quotes hit you the hardest; which one made you stop and reflect the deepest; which one convicted you into “devoting yourself to prayer” a little more diligently.

 

We are 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.

 

O how the world to evil ensnares me! O how my heart is tempted to sin!

I must tell Jesus, and He will help me over the world the victory to win.   Amen.

 

Resources:

http://www.azquotes.com/author/1659-Corrie_Ten_Boom?

 

Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 95-98.

 

Hoffman, Elisha A.; “I Must Tell Jesus”; 1894.

04/02/2017 – Colossians 3:8-4:1 – Experiencing Authentic Eclessia: “Then and Now”

Mark Wheeler

Colossians 3:18-4:1

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia: “Then and Now”

04/02/2017

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.

 

After watching sales falling off for three straight months at Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Colonel calls up the Pope and asks for a favor.

The Pope says, “What can I do? “The Colonel says, “I need you to change the daily prayer from, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ to ‘Give us this day our daily chicken’. If you do it, I’ll donate 10 Million Dollars to the Vatican.”

The Pope replies, “I am sorry. That is the Lord’s Prayer and I cannot change the words.” So the Colonel  hangs up.

After another month of dismal sales, the Colonel panics, and calls again. “Listen Holy Father. I really need your help. I’ll donate $50 million if you change the words of the daily prayer from ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ to ‘Give us this day our daily chicken.’

And the Pope responds, “It is very tempting, Colonel Sanders. The church could do a lot of good with that much money. It would help us to support many charities. But, again, I must decline. It is the Lord’s Prayer, and I can’t change the words.”

So the Colonel gives up again. After two more months of terrible sales, the Colonel gets desperate. “This is my final offer, your Holiness. If you change the words of the daily prayer from, ‘Give us our daily bread’ to ‘Give us this day our daily chicken’ I will donate $100 million to the Vatican.”

The Pope replies, “Let me get back to you .”

So the next day, the Pope calls together all of his bishops and he says, “I have some good news and I have some bad news. The good news is that KFC is going to donate $100 million to the Vatican.”

The bishops rejoice at the news. Then one asks about the bad news. The Pope replies, “The bad news is that we lost the Wonder Bread account.

Sorry – that was to explain today’s bulletin cover – what the bulletin cover actually displays is the truth that while the building has changed on the outside, what happens inside that Wonder Bread Bakery is the same Now as it was Then!

 

Today we begin our fifth 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. Paul writes to these Turkish Christians who lived with false teachers and worldly temptations and threats against humanity and fear of domineering governments were all taking overremind 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.

We have seen that this means: we have to learn to discern fake news from Good News; we are given Jesus as the visible image of the invisible God; real Christians really suffer, and when we suffer on behalf of another we become more like Jesus; living into these truths makes us free to be who God wants us to be; and last week we saw the beginning of the practical application of these theological truths that when we live like we believe what we say believe, God gives us the ability to shed our old ways of living and become brand new beings, children, in His Kingdom.

 

Today’s passage provides some evidence of how our relationships with each other effect our relationship with God, and vice versa. And this is just as true today as it was 2,000 years ago when Paul wrote this letter. How we treat each other creates a Communion Community, then and now.

Listen with me to God’s Word from Paul’s Letter to the Church in Colossae. Colossians 3:18-4:1 ….—-  Before we get started, take a glance at the passage. There are six short paragraphs about six different people-groups, and they are set up in three groups of pairs: wives and husbands, children and fathers, slaves and masters. Now, let’s listen to this as if we believed it was God’s Word to us, because it is:

3: 18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

     19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

     20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

     21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

     22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor,    

       but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working

       for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a

       reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is

       no favoritism.

4: Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. 

 

Before we start talking about how uncomfortable some of us in this room are with instructions like: wives, submit; children, obey; or slaves, obey; let’s remember how the paragraph immediately preceding these instructions ended: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts; let the Word of Christ dwell among you; and everything you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

 

Yeah, OK, 2,000 years ago, in an utterly patriarchal society, telling wives to submit to their husbands made sense! But we live in America in the 21st Century AD! No longer applies!

Children obey your fathers/parents – OK, that one’s alright.

But wives submit to your husbands, and slaves, obey your masters?! What?! No one would argue that rules about slaves obeying still applies, why would we listen to rules about wives submitting?

 

And their counterparts? Husbands, love; fathers, be nice; and masters, be fair. How are those equal counterparts to submit and obey?

OK, so is some of your blood starting to boil, or are your nerve synapses collapsing under the strain? Remember that thing about the Peace of Christ ruling? And the Word of Christ dwelling?

 

To help us see how these instructions still create Communion Community, now just as well as then, look at the number of times the phrasein/for the Lord” is used in these teachings.

I do not mean that Paul uses this phrase as a panaceathat if he says “in the Lord” then he can say whatever he wants and get away with it. Rather, it refers directly back to allowing the peace of Christ to rule our hearts and the Word of Christ to dwell among us.

 

And those “easy” instructions to the husbands, fathers, and  masters? Look again.

Husbands, love your wives” means far more than merelydon’t be harsh”! If this is done “in the Lord”, then the love of Christ is what Paul is talking about – look at I Corinthians 13: patient, kind, rejoices with truth, protects, trusts, hopes, endures all things. Husbands, when we love our wives with that kind of Christ-like love, everyone will want to have what we have! Admittedly, I Corinthians 13 is not limited to marital love – in fact that describes what all love should look like – it describes, perfectly, what Christ’s love for us looks like! If husbands actually loved their wives like this, the “submitting” would never be a burden! It, in fact, would not even be considered subservientWe submit to Christ as His co-heirs!

Fathers, don’t embitter” again takes us to I Corinthians 13: no envy, no boasting, no un-due pride, no rudeness, no self-seeking, no easy anger, no keeping score. When we fathers, or parents, love like this, our children will want to obey and honor!

The “slaves” paragraph is way longer! Toward the end of this letter we see that a run-away slave is helping to deliver this epistle, and that may be the reason for the longer treatment here. Paul neither condemns nor condones the fact of slavery. I really do wish he had. That would have made the Civil War of 150 years ago more difficult to defend from the Confederate side. It might also have made the Civil Rights movement of 50 years ago easier to accomplish. And give stronger grounds for current day slave trade (yes, it still happens, globally).

But look at what Paul does do! He demonstratively treats the slaves as human beings! He declares that they are not just things (chattel), they are fully human beings, men and women, people. And as such they deserve the same love and respect and care as everyone else! While that may not condemn the economy of slavery, it does utterly condemn the way masters have always considered their slaves as mere things!

 

And in all of these relationships the overriding consideration is always the LORDSHIP of JESUS CHRIST! Did you hear that? Treat each other the way Jesus treats you! He went to the cross for you! And He offered forgiveness to you while on His way, and again while hanging on that cross of condemnation!

 

Being “moral” is never enough! Conforming to conventional morality is NOT enough! Our lives are not meant to simply please our ourselves, not our neighbor, not our society at large! Our lives are meant to please GOD! That may mean that sometimes we have to go against the grain of our culture-at-large! It might mean we need to invest more of ourselves in prayer so that we can discern God’s ways from human ways! It also means that if we are going to live like we believe what we say we believe, we need to actually know what our Bible says we’re supposed to believe!….

 

So, as we approach the Lord’s Table this morning, let’s realize the truth that, just like 2,000 years ago, we still form Communion Community when we LOVE with God’s love!

 

And, if you’re anything like me, you know your own limits, and you realize how impossible that feels. But the truth is, as Corrie ten Boom once said, “The AMOUNT of God’s love is UNLIMITED, but we only receive as much as we USE.” Let’s use a little more today than we did yesterday, and allow God to fill our love reservoir a little more tomorrow!

 

Experiencing Authentic Ecclesia means living like we believe what we say we believe!! 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.

 

Lord of past ages, Lord of this morning, Lord of the future, help us, we pray:

Teach us to trust You, to love and obey You, and to crown You each moment Lord of today!   Amen.

 

Resources:

http://www.azquotes.com/author/1659-Corrie_Ten_Boom?

 

Carson, H.M.; Colossians and Philemon; Tyndale new testament Commentaries; 1984; Pp. 92-95.

 

Clarkson, Margaret; “God of the Ages”; 1982.