Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (August 1, 2010)

Wordle: Untitled

“Raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1-11)

“If then you have been raised with Christ…” IF. Little word. Big uncertainties. IF it is the case that I have been raised with Christ, then what do I do with all this earthly stuff in me? Immorality. Impurity. Passion. Evil desire. Covetousness, which is simply idolatry, putting other things before God, not being content with what he has given me. IF this is in me, then God’s wrath is coming upon me. I’m doomed.

IF it is the case that I have been raised with Christ, then why do I still get angry to the point that I wish ill of someone? Why do I still gossip and lie? Why does filthy language still come out of my mouth? IF this is the case, then maybe I haven’t really been raised with Christ after all.

That little word “IF” in our text can be deceiving. You see, the point Paul is making in Colossians is that you have indeed been raised with Christ. You were reconciled to God through the blood of the cross. Jesus took your place there. He paid what we owe … dying for every single one of our sins. He gives what he earned … life, forgiveness, and salvation. “You have been raised with Christ.” That’s not an “iffy” thing. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so too are you. A new life has begun for you.

But our circumstances often speak otherwise. Raised with Christ? New life? It sure doesn’t feel like it. Our lives don’t feel like they are raised up. More often than not, we’re sunk down in the pits. Just when things seem like they’re going good, things take a turn for the worse. You were doing better in school, and then things got tough again. Your cancer treatments were going well, you were feeling pretty good, and then the doctor says the tumor has grown and spread. You were enjoying that renewed family relationship, when all of a sudden somebody took something you said the wrong way, and feelings were hurt again. You were ready to leave on vacation to get refreshed and revitalized, until an unexpected bill arrived in the mail and you had to cancel your trip. You thought you were being a good provider for your family, but maybe you’re just kidding yourself. You were doing better with that particular sin that was really bothering you, and you really felt the Lord helping you in your struggle against temptation, but then, all of sudden, you found yourself slipping back into old habits.

Whether you feel like it or not, dear friends, believe God’s sure word. “You have been raised with Christ.” This is a reality no matter what your circumstances are. You have died and you have been raised with Christ.

Earlier in the letter, Paul explains how we have been raised with Christ. In chapter 2, he writes that you were “buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh [this refers to that spiritually dead sinful nature with which we are all born], God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling out the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Through Baptism and by faith in Jesus Christ, we are truly alive. We have been raised to have new spiritual life in spite of what things look like around you…and even within you.

St. Paul also says “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Of course, you haven’t literally died. But in Christ, you have figuratively died to certain things.

You have died to the things of this world. Paul might have said, “you were entombed.” A person who is entombed is dead and cares nothing for earthly things. The things of this world no longer have the number one priority in our lives as God’s new creations.

You have died to any threats or claims made upon you because of your sin. You are forgiven and set free from the guilt and the shame that your sin brings upon you, because Jesus suffered and died with your guilt and shame upon him at the cross.

You have died to the devil’s power or ability to reach you. Your life is hidden with Christ. You are “tucked away” among God’s chosen ones. Were you afraid of monsters at night as a child? You were convinced that there were monsters in your closet. But as long as you were “tucked away” safely under the blankets … as long as the blankets were over you … you were safe. You were invisible! The monsters couldn’t even see that big lump in the bed. Likewise, we are “tucked away” in Christ, hidden from the devil’s view and beyond his reach to harm us. Nothing can take away the peace you have in Christ, even when things seem to be falling apart around you.

Now that you are raised with Christ in Baptism and by faith, you can now set your hearts and your minds on things above. Your thoughts and your desires are also made new in Christ. You can look heavenward and think about things far above, far removed from the sins and sorrows of our world. You can reflect on and rest in the forgiveness that comes from heaven. You can draw strength and comfort for daily living that comes from heaven. You can rejoice in the fact that you are God’s baptized children. Luther, in the Small Catechism, said to do this daily. Remember your baptism. He encourages us first thing in the morning to make the sign of the holy cross and say, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” … the same words and the same sign of the cross that was made over you when we were baptized. As you make that sign, you are recalling that “the Old Adam in us [our old sinful nature] should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” Each day as you remember your Baptism, you are once again putting on the “new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Made in the image of God, mankind lost that image when Adam fell into sin. Adam was no longer in a perfect, loving relationship with God. But now, Christ has restored that relationship. You have a daily resurrection of sorts as you wake from sleep and start each new day remembering who you are in Christ Jesus … forgiven, loved by God, in a new and right relationship with him.

Paul also urges us to set our minds on things above “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” This means that Jesus Christ rules and reigns for the good of His Church with all power and authority. He is not far away. He is present with us. We are in the company of our King. Our God has power over our depression, our despair, our death. He gives us new hearts that now are concerned about our neighbor’s well-being. Lives that were previously incapable of doing anything pleasing to God now are willing to do what pleases Him.

The death and resurrection of Jesus informs and shapes our life now, the new life we have today in him. It also informs and shapes the new life that is promised to us in the future. Our text says, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” We are raised now, but we also look forward to a future resurrection … our real bodily resurrection.

In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin penned his own epitaph. He didn't profess to be a Christian, but it seems he must have been influenced by Paul's teaching on the resurrection of the body. Here's what Franklin wrote: “The Body of B. Franklin, Printer, Like the Cover of an old Book Its contents torn out, And stript of its Lettering and Guilding, Lies here, Food for Worms, But the Work shall not be wholly lost: For it will, as he believ'd, Appear once more In a new & more perfect Edition, Corrected and amended by the Author. (Found at Sermon under “Resurrection”)

Our glorious body will be like Christ’s glorious body on the Last Day, immortal, never to die again. Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee of our future resurrection, as Romans 6 teaches, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

The resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of the resurrection of all who have been baptized into his Name and who trust in Him as the one who died and rose to take away their sins. It’s the guarantee of new life now and the promise of eternal life in heaven. It’s the guarantee of a body one day and once and for all free from aches and breaks and cancers and comas and sagging and SIN!

So rejoice! Set your minds on things that are above! You have been raised with Christ! This is not an “iffy” thing. It’s as certain and true as the Name that was placed upon you in Baptism, the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


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