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.

1 comment:

  1. I came across this passage while studying for this weeks services (and commensurate readings) at my Roman Catholic Church. This phrase challenged me. Being an engineer, I couldn't wrap my brain around it. Thanks for your insight. YBiC