SERMON JULY 31, 2016

RAISED WITH CHRIST: Taking the second step

A sermon by George R. Pasley at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church

Colossians 3:1-11

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

 

Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”

15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.

17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Last week, we said that prayer is a good place to start- if you want to get FROM a place of carrying all the load-

A place of anxiety and burden-

To a place of trust in God,

And carrying only love.

Start with prayer-

Thy will be done.

So that’s where we started.

But what comes next?

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that the Christian life was about “seeking the things that are above.”

In other words, set a goal.

Or is it?

Goals are concrete, measurable, verifiable, and tangible.

What Did Paul say- something vague, when it came to looking ahead- a “new self”, the “image of its creator”.

And Jesus talked about being “rich towards God.”

A better word for them would be vision.

Start with a vision, and the vision can change.

It will change.

Because as you move TOWARDS the vision, you’ll see that it becomes less and less your vision, and more and more God’s vision, for you.

But to reach a vision, you need stepping stones. Goals.

And Paul gives a nice, tangible, verifiable list of goals.

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature:

Sexual immorality

Impurity

lust

Evil desire

And greed.

And then he says something special about greed-

It’s idolatry.

So first, a word about Sexual immorality, impurity, lust and evil desire.

We are sexual beings, created by God, and we are not MEANT to put our passion to death.

Only our greed for it.

One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. Jesus said that 2000 years ago, and Americans have ignored it for about 400 years.

In every town I’ve lived in for the last 40 years, storage units have been a growth industry. Just try to rent one in Ketchikan.

You can’t- they’re all full.

We want stuff, and our barns are full.

We want all kinds of things, stuff and otherwise, and yet- yet, none of that stuff that we gain, or possess, or use- none of it satisfies.

And worse yet, it keeps us looking back, at what we have, at what we lost- and around, at what more we WANT- and we lose sight of the vision of the new self, the new life that we gained when Jesus rose from the dad.

So leave it behind, whatever it is, however you can do it.

And then fix your eyes on the qualities of the Christian character-

Love.

Forgiveness.

Faithfulness.

Generosity.

Wisdom.

If your read your bibles often enough, you’ll find an assortment of lists- especially in the New testament. Here, there and elsewhere, Paul describes those character traits as “new clothes”- a way of living that we put on, and then live into.

We don’t BECOME that way and then put on the clothes- we put on the clothes, and then become them.

Which means, we start out as a beginner, and we practice.

We stumble, and we get back up again.

Which I think is what Martha was doing, two weeks ago.

But we do them, and we learn, and maybe we master them, or maybe we just get better, but the doing of them changes us, IF…

If we have the image of our creator in mind.

If CHRIST is our vision.

Jesus, a flesh and blood human being who knew the sweat of toil,

The ache of muscles,

The sting of rejection, even the curse of failure.

 

He died, and he was raised up,

And in leaving some things behind,

And looking ahead to him,

We are re-enacting that horrible death

And that unbelievable resurrection.

And listen: the best witness we can give is our lives, lived in him. What does it say in Acts? Look at your bulletin, and read it with me:

“As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

Now, one of my friends said something snarky the other day. She said, “He said, ‘but people can change’ and then we all laughed real hard.”

People CAN change but, unless we’re children and our bodies and brains are still growing, we don’t JUST change.

When you get to be our age, change is hard work.

But because we have been raised with Christ,

We have to put some things BEHIND US

And we have to keep some things BEFORE US.

And because we HAVE BEEN RAISED with Christ,

We CAN DO each of those things.

Maybe not all at once,

And maybe not all the time,

But putting one foot in front of the other (no matter that we stumble),

We can learn to LET GO of what holds us back

And reach out for the grace that God extends.

Thursday night I went to a dance class, for Salsa.

Cuban Salsa.

I had taken a few salsa classes, back in June, which most certainly did not make me think I actually knew anything about dancing salsa!

But I knew less than the little I thought I knew, because the first thing our teacher had us do was shake our bodies loose, and start to swing with the music.

And she could swing her abs and shoulders without moving the rest of her body a fraction of an inch. It looked as if her abs were just sliding back and forth across her hips.

I didn’t even know a human body could do that, but I guess it can.

Just not mine.

And I thought, “this is NEVER going to work, because I am WAAAAAAAA-AY too stiff!”

And I might have accomplished just as much if I had left.

But I stayed, mainly because there were some really lovely women in that class, and only a couple of us guys.

And I’m not sure I learned anything that I can remember, when the next class comes around.

But something else happened: It was fun. I made friends. And even though I am WAAAAAAAAAAAA-AY too stiff, I think I began to learn how to relax.

So what If I mess up? Nobody else is getting it right either.

In fact, I think some of them were worse.

But we are ALL being renewed.

That class was a leveler. Because you see, we had to dance together.

Take risks, reveal our fallibilities, and laugh at ourselves.

And take joy- pure joy, in being renewed.

A man named Alan Watts talked about change, and this is how he said to handle it: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
So leave some stuff behind. Stuff that only holds you back, and start with this- you’re somehow different than everybody else.

You’re better, you’re worse, you’re odd, you’re special. Whatever, leave that notion behind- because you are unique, and wonderful, but just like everyone else, you are someone Jesus picked out, to be made new.

So practice being renewed, until Jesus is through.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.

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