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.
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 over, 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.
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. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 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.
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.