Colossians 3 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. 7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life 8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
When was the last time you were around a teenager? I can speak to being around teenagers—but only this week. My teenager is in AZ with my other daughter and her mother. She will not hear this and there’s a good chance she will not read this sermon. So, I can get away with what I am going to talk about. I love my daughter and I worked with teenagers for 30 years. You see, there is a whole different world that teenagers live in than the rest of the world. Not only are they self-centered and narcissistic, but they are bound and determined to fit-in while being unique and individualistic. They are in essence a living, mouth-breathing, walking, knuckle dragging, oxymoron who refuses to acknowledge any adult existence as long as possible.
The eighth-grade year has to be the worst of them all. Especially for girls. There are fashionistas at every turn. They have specific styles of clothes and hair dos. They have a certain set of cool music and YouTube videos to follow. Their language has cool idioms and passé phrases. Social Media is a must. Getting dressed in the morning and getting the hair and make-up done correctly could be cause for a nuclear melt-down.
With the advent of cellphones, you could be caught on the modern version of candid camera at the drop of a hat, or food tray, books, pencils, falling down, slipping on ice and any other embarrassing moment. Speaking of embarrassing—being seen with parents is a major faux pas. Especially if they talk in front of other friends. Toys-R-us has been replaced by Over-Reactions-R-us. Drama is better than Prime Time TV and don’t forget that the show mean-girls is more than a reality show—it’s a way of life for some kids.
These poor kids have no way of knowing that things will get better, eventually. Their whole life is wrapped up in their local sphere of influences. Friends and styles, fashions and cool things will all change, but for them it is almost like life and death. Yet, the more I refelct on some of these issues for kids the more I sense that some people have never really grown up. We see it on social media and even in the news. The desire to fit in and be popular is as old as history itself. That was the purpose of the letter that Paul wrote to the people of Colosse.
The people of Colosse were an interesting group of people. They lived on a river that was filled with lots of chalk. But the fields that were away from the river had been exposed to earthquakes and volcanic activity so that there were very green pastures and there was a large wool industry there. There were three towns, Hierapolis and Laodicea which were across the River Lycus from each other and Colosse which was 12 miles upriver. The chalk in the river allowed for beautiful marble to be harvested from the banks and that was the glory of Hierapolis. Laodicea became the government center and for a time there was a Roman governor that resided there. Colosse, not so much. It was a small town that had many Gentiles living in the town and a few Jews who lorded the faith over the rest.
In the previous chapter Paul says, (2:20-23) “20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.”
The people who were of Jewish faith or who had the direct teachings of Paul were giving directions as to what should and should not be done. In our words today, they had the answers to what was cool and uncool. They new the right ways to eat and drink, the fashions to wear and the YouTube stations to watch. Paul said all those things were a part of this world. They were worldly things and not the way that Christians should act in celebrating the new life they have in their baptism and joining the followers of Jesus.
Today’s text Paul reminds the members of the church that “If you have been raised with Christ” which is a common theme in baptism and also “for you have died, and your life is hidden with God.” When we are baptized as believers as we go into the water (talking full immersion) we must stop breathing or we will die. Therefore, we must hold our breath. But when we are brought up out of the water we take in a new breath, a breath that is filled with a new life with the hope and promise of the resurrection. Now hang in there with me, if we get a new life then the old part of our life died when we were under the water. Now this new life should look differently than the old life did out of gratitude to being raised with Christ.
Paul says in verse 2 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” This is how we should view our actions. When we have an earthly view, we see regulations and rules that have nothing to do with what is important. The way that we share God’s love. The way that we treat one another. That is a view from heaven. It is counter to the popular culture. Paul gives us a list of things that should be put to death with our old self before we were baptized. “The earthly things are: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed which is idolatry.” (v. 5)
All of those things are popular on the show Entertainment Tonight or the station TMZ. This celebrity did XY and Z, it is worth this much and this is the new love of their life for the next week or so. We are just as guilty because we get caught up in the same rhetoric—“Did you see what so and so is driving or the new house or the clothes or the trip they took blah blah blah.” Sometimes we get that way when things are going good for us, we don’t need God that much in our lives. When we have food on the table, good health, happy dogs or cats, a good car to drive, dry home that has heat and a/c and electricity, a WIFI that is faster than dial-up we get cocky. Then we start looking across the fence to see what others have. We either want to or we decide we are better than what they have so they are less of a person than us.
We then have another list of things to stop doing because of our new lives in Christ. “We should get rid of anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.” (v. 8) It I interesting how much damage we can do with just our mouths. The thoughts that we have towards one another creates some of the worst situations we can get into. Yet at some point we know the pain of being treated poorly as well. We know how sharp the tongue can be, we have felt the jabs and the barbs from those we so wanted to impress and then seemed to fall short of their expectations. We have held the handle and we have felt the blade of that knife and neither is a reflection of the new self in Christ.
Paul says in v. 9 and 10, strip off the old self,… and clothe yourself with the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge according to the image of it’s creator.” Remember the teenagers I was talking about in the beginning of this sermon. The desire to fit perfectly into the mold of the icon of the day, we are called to not do the same. We are to seek the things from above or from the kingdom of heaven that refelct the love of Christ.
Paul then says the most radical thing in this passage, “In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all in all!” (v.11) In our mind we have an idea of who these are correct. Greek was a Gentile, and so on but the one we may not know is the Scythian. They were defined as ruffians or hillbillies or modern-day rednecks. They are all a part of Christ. No matter who we are or how many cool points we have accumulated we are all equal in Christ.
No matter the different groups of people that are portrayed in the media we are all equal in Christ. We should remember that it was just two years ago that we have racial tensions in Virginia. There is a group of people that are promoting torch bearing tours of Civil War veterans versus the candle light vigils calling for peace. Jill Duffield wrote this week, “When the world resounds with chants of “send her back,” Christians must remember that we follow the One who rebuked those who refused to welcome the children, care for the stranger, tend to the sick, forgive the sinner, bring home the marginalized or love those deemed “other.””
Two more shootings one in TX and the other in Ohio. The one in TX is racially motivated according to the news. The divide continues to grow in our nation among people who want to be divided. There are websites that fuel the hate mongering. The time of domestic terror is truly upon us in the form of hate for our enemies not love. We have an uphill battle as Christians because many of these shooters claim to be Christians. We know that is not the God we believe in. We know the Messiah came in peace and love, not with hate carrying an Ak-47. We have a message to proclaim. We have to change our wardrobes and put on new clothes.
Putting on the new clothes of Christ begins at our table—in which we are about to dine. We share the plate and the cup with all. It is the same bread and wine that was shared with people from all walks of life since the night Jesus gave it to the disciples. There is no more and no less for all who eat of this meal no matter their station in life. When we change our clothes and look to the kingdom, our wardrobes will never go out of style. When we seek the one who sits at the right hand of God the Father, there is only a way of love and grace. Amen.