Saturday, 24 August 2013

Going to church?

by Peter Lockhart

As a minister I am regularly confronted with a question or a comment which is “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, do you?”

I wonder how you feel about that question.  I wonder what motivated you to be here this morning.  Was it because you felt you had to keep the fourth commandment to honour the Sabbath?  Was it because Sunday is church day and that’s what you always do?  Was it because you wanted to catch up with someone? Was it because you wanted to give thanks to God?  Was it because you thought it might be good for your children to go to Sunday School?  Or did you simply come with someone else because either you were made to or because you wanted to?

Luke tells a story about how one day Jesus was teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath when a woman crippled over for 18 years with what we are told is a spirit comes in.  Jesus invites the woman forward and heals her at which point pandemonium breaks loose.  The woman sings Gods praise, people are amazed and the synagogue leaders become irate about people doing inappropriate things on the Sabbath.

This little story opens up to us quite a few issues to do with the Sabbath and its implications of how we relate to God and each other.  I want to pick up on just three.

The first has to do with acceptance and healing.
The second has to do with legalism and criticisms.
The third is to do with freedom in thanksgiving.

Going back to Jesus time a woman who had an affliction like being bent double would likely have found herself ostracised in the community.  The very fact that we are told that her ailment is caused by a spirit, presumably an unfriendly one, indicates the kind of attitude the society had towards those who had illness or disability.

Despite the probability that she was very much seen as an outsider this woman goes to the synagogue to listen to the teaching.  As we know on seeing her enter Jesus invites her over and heals her.  The thing that is striking here is that Jesus notices her presence and respond to it not simply accepting her but bring her healing. 

There is something very basic here in terms of Jesus ability to comprehend the needs of a person and to meet those needs.  Jesus does not judge her; he does not indicate that she has great faith; there is nothing to indicate that she sought healing – Jesus simply sees her predicament and his heart goes out to her to give her what she needed most.  This indicates to me that Jesus and therefore God has concern for our human situations, the challenges and difficulties we all face.  Jesus sees not simply a bent over woman but sees a person to be loved and cherished.   

Now if the Church is to be a sign of Jesus love in the world I believe this has implications for us.  In the last 30 years there has been a continually shift in the way that we have spoken as a community about people with disabilities.   The word handicapped is not longer deemed appropriate, the word disabled has been superseded, to say someone is physically challenged is not in vogue.  I believe the current politically correct phrase is differently abled.  This all may seem like playing with words but at its heart is the search for affirming the humanity of people who are different. 

Unfortunately the moment we use any kind of label for a group of people there is a point of differentiation and even segregation.  It strikes me how often in the scriptures people like the bent over woman are left nameless.  In knowing a name we begin to know a person and as we get to know a person labels become less relevant.

Yet at the same time acknowledging the pain and difficulties that people face also seems paramount.  Jesus accepted the woman as he invited her to come near to him but Jesus met her deepest need as he healed her.  The church should be a place of healing and hope and whilst we cannot be Jesus I do believe it is important that we seek to meet those basic human needs of the people who come into our community as we are enabled to.  There may be miraculous healings, there may not, but either way as the church we are called to show compassion and caring.

This leads me into the second point I wanted to raise.  The incident occurs on the Sabbath and this causes quite a deal of consternation among the leaders of the synagogue.  In their view Jesus doing the healing is akin to working on the Sabbath and so they attack the woman for creating this situation.

At the heart of the attack by the synagogue leaders is a rigid approach to the law and morality.  The fourth commandment was to honour the Sabbath and this including not working but Jesus had worked.  To be good meant obedience to the law.

If we go back to the question I asked at the beginning it arises out a challenge to just such an understanding of going to church. ‘Do you have to go to church on Sunday to be a Christian?’  A legal moral approach to being a Christian must answer yes – it is our Sabbath keeping.  Even though Sunday is not actually the Sabbath it is the day we set aside to honour and worship God.

The question around the issue for us then is how we approach our faith.  ‘Is being a Christian about moral behaviours and obedience to the letter of the law or is it something else?’

Jesus answer to the legalists is to point out that the law makes provision for compassion to be shown to animals on the Sabbath.  A Jew was allowed to feed and water animals on the Sabbath if necessary so if compassion can be shown to an animal then why not to a person.  It is a good question and does not necessarily undermine the Sabbath law but prioritises it.

Elsewhere, when Jesus is challenged for his behaviours on the Sabbath, Jesus points out that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  What this simply means is that the Sabbath is a gift to humanity which grounds them in their relationship with God.  The observance of the Sabbath is for the benefit of people it is not meant to cripple them.

In asking the question or making the statement that you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian I believe that the question of our participation in the community of faith has become conceptualised as a matter of law as opposed to a matter of faith, whereby we accept a gift from God.

This leads me into the third point which is about the freedom of giving thanks to God.  The healed woman stands straight and praise God.  The other people in the synagogue rejoice in what Jesus was doing, even though they personally may not have benefited from his actions.

In recognising that in Jesus God acts people praise God.  In coming to a point in our own lives where we want to praise God and give thanks our reasoning around coming to be the church on Sunday changes away from the legal imperative to observe the Sabbath.

Coming to church is about coming to a place with the people of God where we can give thanks for the real encounters we have had in our faith journey with Jesus healing and acceptance.  It is also in gathering together we share each others burdens and celebrate each others faith journeys.  In other words it’s not just about you.

I know as a minister that people come to church for all sorts of reasons and many people argue that you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.  For me it is not so much a question of having to go to church, or having to keep the Sabbath, it is a question of what gifts God has given us to assist to know and honour God. 

Jesus was not undermining the Sabbath in his actions simply prioritising needs and honouring God in a different way.  The question of how you and I find acceptance and healing and freely express our thanksgiving in this day and age is just as important as it was back then.   As we are drawn into community to know each others names, to accept each other and bring healing and hope let us also remember to come together to give thanks to God who gave to us these gifts.

I invite you to take a few moments of silence to listen for God speaking to you on this day.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Fire & Division: Not peace?!

By Peter Lockhart: A sermon on Luke 12:49-56

Jesus said:

I came to bring fire to the earth... Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

Really, Jesus said he came to bring fire and division.  I have to admit that this is one of those passages which are kind of uncomfortable.  A few months back I preached about God’s peace and this statement of Jesus on face value seems to be in direct conflict with what Is aid back then.

Is this what God’s will was in sending Jesus into the world?  Is it what we see at the heart of Jesus ministry?  If we read back a little further in Luke’s gospel these words do come at the end of a series of parables which do speak of judgement and the timing of the coming of God’s reign.

Despite this I do not believe that division is the end game for God or for Jesus for that matter.  So to make sense of Jesus words we need to take a look at the bigger picture, at least in shorthand.

If we look at the whole of Luke’s gospel we can find a few clues.  At the beginning of his account of Jesus’ life Luke records a story about shepherds and angels.  At the time of Jesus’ birth the angels sing of “Peace on earth and goodwill on earth”. 

Flipping through the gospel we find Jesus engaged in healing and restoring people to community.

Then after his resurrection when Jesus appears to his disciples and declares “Peace be with you!”

So from the beginning of Luke there is a declaration of God’s peace that was coming with Jesus by the angels whilst at the end of the gospel Jesus himself declares God’s peace to the disciples.

This peace is a pretty big concept for the Jewish people of the time and many of you would know the Jewish word for peace which is ‘shalom’.

God’s shalom, the ‘shalom’ declared by Jesus, was about an end to the division that lay between God and people and so was also about the end of division between people.  When we share the peace, God’s shalom, in church it is this reality we are meant to be remembering and encountering.

This brings me back to what Jesus may have been up to when he said:

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

I suspect what Jesus is doing is naming the reality that was occurring around him.  His presence in the world, God’s presence, was unsettling and the prophecies surrounding the coming of the Messiah emphasised it would be a time of disruption and division.  It was to be a time of upheaval.

By Jesus connecting his words about fire and division with the issue of reading the signs of the times Jesus is trying to drawn attention to the reality of the unrest that was caused by his presence.  He appears to be saying, “Now is the time of the coming of the Messiah and I am he!”

The end goal of God’s presence in the world in Jesus in not in the moments of division but in what the angels sang and what Jesus declared after his resurrection: Shalom!  Though he says he did not come to bring peace in the moment of his lifetime, the fulfilment of God’s promise in him is peace.

The imagery of ‘fire’ is used here by Jesus to hearken back to the Old Testament and the images of ‘fire’.  Some of these images point to a time of purification which was to come.  In this sense the image of ‘fire’ is not the hellfire of punishment but the fire of purification; the refiners fire.

If Jesus presence does bring the time of fire and purification and is the time of division prophesied it is because Jesus takes within himself this process of purification and through his life, through his death and through his resurrection he heals the division precipitated by his presence and the disruption in the relationship with God.

So it is that mingled within these words of Jesus he also speaks of his baptism to come.  This is clearly an allusion to his suffering and death.  The division that humanity constantly pursues in its relationship with God is ultimately played out as people hang God on a cross.  Paradoxically it is in this very act of violence that God pursues in love those who condemn God and provide for all people a reconciled relationship which is the way God establishes peace.

This is a vital story for us to hear in its fullness not just in isolation because it brings us to a place of better understanding of the verse we read today and points us forwards in how we are to behave as Christian people.

Sadly passages like this are easily abused.  During the week I heard the story of a Uni student who’s Pastor appears to be exerting unhealthy influence over.  The student is not fulfilling his study requirements because his Pastor is pressuring him to do more ‘Christian’ activities for the church and even more disturbingly the student is lying to his family about his involvement in the church.

Read out of context the passage can be manipulated to suggest Jesus affirms family breakdown and the disruption of relationships between children and their parents. 

Jesus is not affirming nor encouraging the division but naming the reality that was occurring around him.

We should not use Jesus words here to excuse poor behaviours toward one another in our families, our congregation, or across the universal church.  Yes, we may hear in Jesus words a statement of human fallibility and tendency to reject God but this is not God’s aim or will in Jesus presence in the world.

This leads me to make a further comment about the timing of Jesus coming.  I have this coffee mug which was given to me as a gift.  It has a picture of Jesus on it with the words, “Look busy, Jesus is coming.”

When Jesus was speaking about the signs of the time he was connecting what was happening 2000 years ago to his coming as the Messiah but there is constancy to these words as well.

Over the history of the church we have grown to understand that Jesus is present with us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  In Matthew’s gospel Jesus says that where two or three are gathered ‘I am there’.

The Uniting Church in its Basis of Union expresses the belief that Jesus is present when the Word is proclaimed.

We too can read the signs around us. Jesus is coming into the world, Jesus is always coming!  In his coming there may be an experience of fire and division but we remember that God’s peace is really the ultimate goal.

This is why Paul writing to the Hebrews encourages them with the words;  

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

As God’s people in this place we may experience the division borne of our human fallibility but as people renewed by the Holy Spirit we can also seek to run that race as people who seek to build bridges of hope and love in what we say and do.

During the week I read a good reflection by Stu Cameron the minister at New Life Uniting Church.  He reflected on the importance of honouring one another as Christians. 

Our honouring one another is one way of running the race and clinging to Christ rather than our sin.  It is a simply thing to say but a much more difficult thing to do. 

We honour one another as we weigh carefully the words we are about to say, or write in an email.  We honour one another as we act generously to each other in our thoughts and prayers and good deeds.  We honour one another as we thank the people each week who play our music, say our notices, work in St Lucy’s, come to prayer group or Bible Study, prepare morning tea or Sunday School prepare our notices, or work on the door.

In our acts of thanksgiving towards one another, as we honour each person, we help create a community of God’s peace which whilst not perfect pursues with ardour a faithful witness to God’s love.

I came to bring fire to the earth... Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

The good news is that Jesus is the purifying fire and the division caused by his presence is also healed by his presence.  Let us hold fast to this message and live as people of God’s shalom, receiving gratefully forgiveness when we fall short and celebrating God’s grace when God’s love is seen, heard and experiences in our midst.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Seeking a Better Country

by Rev Peter Lockhart 
A sermon on Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Chapter 11 of the letter to the Hebrews begins with that well known definition of ‘faith’.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” 

This definition of faith is a definition that reminds that having faith does not mean that we have arrived but I think unfortunately, especially in Churches like ours in the West, we have fallen into the trap of thinking exactly just that.

Our lives are very comfortable, we have great freedom in our culture, we can come to this property that we own and sit in our regular pews week by week to worship God.  All of these things point to the idea that we have settled down, we have made our home.  And to be frank the sentimentalism and over attachment that we have to our properties and bank balances is a sign of exactly this problem.

But when the author of the letter invites the Hebrews to reflect on Abraham he reminds them that these early proponents of faith “confessed they were strangers and foreigners on the earth” who were “seeking a homeland” and desired “a better country”.  These people were on a journey and so are we are.  As faith takes hold of us we are not being encouraged to settle down but to join the pilgrimage!

The question is then ‘what does it mean to be on this pilgrimage of faith?’  I want to address three aspects of this question for us to consider as a congregation that arise from the readings this morning.  The first is to do with the timing of our arrival.  The second and third are to do with what we are to be doing on the way.

In the readings that we heard from Luke’s gospel this morning spoke to us about our destination which is less about our destination and more about God’s will.  Jesus reminded his listeners that ‘the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’ 

Our destination as Christians is not so much a place that we reach but the timing of the fulfilment of God’s coming kingdom and we won’t know when that is going to occur. 

It’s like we are a bunch of kids whose parents have gone out.  Left with the responsibility of looking after the house while mum and dad are out we have choices to make.

Will we order pizzas and get a video; will we break into the drinks cupboard and invite some friends around for a party; will we do the chores we were asked to do?  What are we going to get up to and what will happen when we hear the crunch of our parent’s tyres in the driveway?

Jesus’ challenge is there for people to contemplate because he is inviting people to be prepared for his return.  We don’t know when we will arrive at our destination so the imperative is to live as people who do what we were asked to do while we wait for Jesus return, for our waiting is an active waiting not a passive thing.

The brings me to speak about the second point I wanted to raise from the readings and it has to do with the church in the Western world in general and so specifically our congregation as well. 

Between the Psalm and Isaiah there was some tension about the life and worship practices of the Israelites.  In the Psalm God declares “Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,” but then in Isaiah the Lord declares “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?... I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams… I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats… bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination.”

There is no doubt that we are called as God’s people to gather and offer worship to God, to offer our sacrifice of praise.  So why does God mount this tirade against the cultic practices of the Israelites.  The answer is that despite the worship practices there seems to be a disconnection between the worship and the daily life of the people.

Now I would point out that Christian worship is distinct in a number of ways to the worship that we find in the Old Testament.  Primarily in as much as we are now participants in God’s coming kingdom achieved in Jesus Christ. Despite this it is no less important that there is a connection between what we express in our gathered worship and our lived faith journey day by day.

So how the connection is going?  A few years ago I was at a breakfast with Tim Costello and Steve Chalke an English Baptist Pastor.  One of the things that Chalke said has stuck with me.

He told the gathered group that around 60 to 70 years ago in England the Church was very much the centre of the community.  The Church ran hospitals and schools and orphanages and helped the poor and basically provided much of the social infrastructure of the society.  Things changed though and the government started to develop welfare systems and provide the social infrastructure that had once been provided by the Church.  The consequence of which was that this task of the church in the community became either regulated or lost completely. Many Christians became detached from their sense of service.

The end result in Chalke’s opinion has been that Church people have become a bit like shut-ins who get together and sing songs that are largely irrelevant to most of the culture around them (modern ones or ancient ones!) and argue among themselves about things that no one else cares about.  Why? Because, he says, they have become bored.  Now whilst I think Chalke is probably overly harsh I believe he does have a bit of a point. 

When we lose the other out workings of our faith and disconnect the relationship with God that we celebrate on Sunday with our day to day life and the problems of the world we are missing the point.  What Chalke describes is not simply the problem that as congregations we have settled down but that in settling down we have ceased being interested in going out.

As congregations like ours struggle harder and harder to transform our worshipping life and make it more relevant, it has to be said that unless this is accompanied by a closer engagement with the world around us then I suspect we won’t get very far at all.  When we think about following Jesus and being the church and serving I believe we are called to think of our Christian service as far broader than greeting at the door or doing the readings or even leading a prayer.  Our pilgrimage of faith is a day by day thing and we are called to live our faith in every setting we find ourselves.

This brings me to make a third point about how we are to live on this pilgrimage of faith.  I want to raise for us a couple of issues here.

Firstly to say that at the beginning of Isaiah we hear that Isaiah saw the vision in the days of the kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.  Isaiah then speaks the word of the Lord to the rulers.  In other words religion and politics do mix.

Going back to the reading from Hebrews if we are seeking a better country or if we are seeking to bring signs of the coming kingdom into reality in the world this means engaging seriously with the social and political issues.  This is particularly pertinent as e weigh up how to vote.  Whilst different church groups and individuals may have different agendas in their engagement with politicians the idea that our faith is lived politically is an important one.

Now as we are aware we are approaching a federal election and I am aware that many of you have particular political allegiances.  I do not believe it is the place of the church to support a particular party, despite some comments to the contrary, I do not believe that the Uniting Church has a particular political allegiance.  What we are called to do though is to weigh up what we are being told by any party with the good news of our faith.  This means remembering that our first allegiance as Christians is to Jesus Christ not the political party to which we may belong.  More than that as we listen for the prophets in our midst we should listen for what they might be saying to those in power.  Just as Isaiah spoke to the kings long ago so too there are people who bring the Christian message in confronting ways before our political leaders.

The second issue I want to raise here is that our pilgrimage of faith calls us to do what the Lord challenges the people with in Isaiah.  In the prophecy God is less concerned about sacrifices and more concerned that the people “learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.”  These groupings come up often in the scripture and they represent to us all those in society who are disadvantaged and ostracised.  This is where the rubber hits the road – being the people of God means helping these people and this as Jesus points out is a personal thing.  Jesus said to his audience “See your possessions and give alms.”  The call to serve those who have less than us is a gospel imperative and just as much an expression of our faith as coming to worship on a Sunday.

As a congregation we do this in small ways and I am aware that many of you as individuals also engage in issues of social justice and serving others.  The question remains before us constantly as to how we might continually connect in relevant and real ways with the community around us and the world at large in our faith journey.

Ultimately we cannot see the fullness of God’s kingdom yet, we hope for something that is yet to come, this is what drives and inspires us.  As you consider God’s goodness in giving you a foretaste and share in the coming kingdom I want to invite you to think about your own faith and our faith as a congregation.  Are you feeling that you have arrived?  Have you settled in and become too comfortable in this building and in your favourite pew?  How is God calling us to be his people here and now and how will respond?

I think that there are exciting signs of God’s faithfulness in our midst and that rather than slowing down we are being challenged and called to do more. 

In the silence I want to invite you to listen for Gods challenging Word to you on this day.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Colossians 3: Get a 'hidden' life!

I am not sure whether you have ever been told to ‘get a life’.  I know that on more than one occasion I have.

But what is our life defined by.  What is this life that we are supposed to be getting?  And more to the point can we actually get it?

From a Christian perspective one might say a life, and our new life in Christ, is not something we get, rather it is something we are given.

This means that as Christians our life is not defined by many of the things the world tries to tell us that life is.  Life is not defined, for example, by the food we eat.   It is not defined by the family we come from, or who are parents are or how many children we have.  It is not defined by the house we live in, or by the clothes we wear.  It is not defined by the music we like, or the things that we own.  It is not defined by the team we support, the political allegiance we might have, nor even dare I say the denomination we belong to.  Our life is not defined by the job we have or the achievements of our life.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians we are told that the source and meaning of our very existence, our life, is hidden with Christ in God.  The truth of your life and my life is not about all of the trappings of this world but is the truth of a right relationship with God in and through Jesus Christ.  We are tied to his life, Jesus life, somewhat mysteriously through the power of the Holy Spirit.

So it is that Paul says, ‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.’

This is a mind blowing statement.  We have died and we are now connected to Jesus, the incarnate Word, God made flesh, who came among us who lived, who died, who was raised from the dead is now in heaven!

Think on that staggering claim, Jesus’ human risen body, with the scars that Thomas was invited to touch, is seated at the right hand of God.  The created human form of Jesus Christ has entered into the inner sanctuary of God’s existence and we, through the Holy Spirit, are united with him.  Our human created lives are hidden with Christ in God.  This is indeed a mysterious and liberating union of the divine and the created!

Yet despite this union so often Christians throw around the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ It is as if he had finished his work back 2000 years ago and was no longer doing for us.  However, remembering his continuing risen life with God we remember that Christ continues to do and be for us what could not do and be for ourselves.  It is in him and through him that we are drawn back into the fullness of relationship with God and what it means to be truly human.

God’s will for humanity seen in the life of Christ is that God loves and cares for humanity at great cost to Godself.  God has been faithful to a faithless people.  We heard something of the drama of this reality for God in the reading from Hosea.

The prophet uses an analogy of God being like a parent caring for a young child.  Israel was a child and I called out to my son because I loved him.  There is great tenderness in God’s care for this child, ‘I took them in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them; I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love; I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them.’

But what response has God’s love wrought, ‘The more I called to them, the more they went away from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols.’  ‘My people are bent on turning away from me.’  We hear in the prophet the pain and anguish of God rejected and righteously angered at this rejection but God chooses to go on loving, ‘How can I give you up Ephraim?...  My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm.’

The warmth of God’s compassion, the faithfulness of God finds its pinnacle and its outworking in the sending of the Son into our world.  He alone can stand before God perfect in his obedience and he offers us to God through his perfection.  We do not all have to do what Jesus did.  Rather, we are incorporated and hidden in his life seated at God’s right hand.  We are already resurrected in him.

So Paul rightly challenges the Colossians with where their focus lies.  Seek the things above!  Now we know that heaven is not necessarily up there (point up).  Yet metaphorically we do know that God is over and above us.  So when in the communion we are called to ‘lift our hearts to the Lord’ ‘We lift them to the Lord’ who is in the presence of the Father offering praise and worship to God.  We do this in and through the power of the Holy Spirit

And so as we lift our hearts we are called to give thanks and praise to God for as we say ‘it is right to give our thanks and praise’.  It is not good, or fun, or emotionally satisfying, it is right to give our thanks and praise to God!  Coming to worship God is the right thing to do, not an optional extra in the smorgasbord of spiritual activities in which we can engage.  It is the right thing to do.

Focussing above, lifting our hearts to where Jesus is we are transformed by our heavenly encounter as Jesus sends the Spirit upon us and our lives.  We are a resurrection people, we have died with Christ and we have already been raised with him.  We are called to live in the presence of the coming kingdom now.

What does this mean?  It means, according to Paul, putting to death whatever is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).  Get rid of ‘anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouths’.  We hear in these words echoes of Jesus’ teaching in the gospel reading.  Do not focus on this world and the desires of this world, of wealth and money and power but focus on the treasures in heaven.

The difficulty is that we participate in the world and its ways.  We are so imbued with our culture that we are blind to the way that culture entices us and seduces us away from God.  We measure our lives by achievements, by jobs, by families, by possession, by political affiliations almost without a thought.  And as churches we lose faith and worry about numbers and money in the plate and relevance and forget that ultimately all things are in God’s hands and our lives are hidden with Christ in God.

As Christians we are clothed with a new self, we are given to be a new creation! We have been renewed in the image of our creator.  And in this we know that we travel towards a time when God’s kingdom will come in all its fullness, yet as we wait we know that Christ is all and is in all and we can share in that future now. Paul goes on to challenge the Colossians with some positive attributes:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

As a congregation we are called to live out what we have become in Christ and what are to become in the fullness of time, resurrection people renewed in the image of God.  We are to love one another, to serve one another, to be slaves to one another.  We pray to for each other and with each other, we worship together, we serve this world for which Christ died and as people we focus on things that are above, not the things of earth.  Whilst we do not do this perfectly we celebrate what God has done for us at so great a cost so that we might be found renewed and reunited with God as God’s people.

This week ask yourself if you have been raised with Christ are you setting your mind on the things which are above or are your eyes focussed so firmly on the things of this earth.  Pray that the Holy Spirit might give you the strength to look above where your life is hidden with Christ in God.  And remember if anyone tells you to get a life, say that you’ve got one and it is a gift from God hidden with Christ in heaven.

And unto God be all the glory, honour and power now and forevermore. Amen.