Monday, July 29, 2013

See to it that no one takes you captive

Colossians 2: 6-19, NT page 200-201 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from which the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God. Sermon On Monday morning I was on my way to meet with several members of the church staff to plan out the church’s calendar for the upcoming school year. It’s important that we do so, to work towards not scheduling too many events for the same day and to plan out the year so that as a staff we can be better organized, support each other better, and better serve and communicate with all of you. On the way to this calendar planning meeting I needed to stop at Office Depot to buy a nice big calendar that I’d use to list all the events for music, Christian Education, the youth group, and everything else. Monday was a good day to stop in to Office Depot too, because it was packed full of school supplies. Not having anyone to really buy new school supplies for, that’s something I had not been thinking about, but walking around and looking at all the three ring binders remind me of how exciting it was to get the list from my teacher and go out with my mom to buy everything that I would need for the coming year. Before the pencils are out of their box, before the first piece of loose leaf paper has been written on, it’s all potential. A new school year is kind of like a blank slate. Last year’s teacher might have gotten the idea that you were an underachiever, but with a brand new year, a brand new class, nothing has been decided, you’re a blank slate as your teacher and your classmates have yet to really know who you are. There are hints you give to yourself and others at the beginning – a well prepared girl will show her teacher that she has the makings of a straight “A” student, but a boy who comes in late with only half of the supplies needed for the first day of school may give his teacher the impression that this year will begin and end badly. That’s why I think the school supplies drive of the Family Center which supplied over 500 students matters so much – your supplies say something about you, both to yourself and to your teacher, but Office Depot has enabled students everywhere to make an even more specific statement about themselves with their new line of school supplies endorsed by the boy band “One Direction.” You can’t just pick up a notebook – no – students today will have to decide between five different notebooks, all exactly alike except that each notebook features a different member of “One Direction” on the front. Each member has his own three ring binder and tape as well, and each member also apparently makes a different statement about who you are to your teacher and your classmates – you see Zayn’s neon yellow notebook carries with it the slogan “unique,” apparently because Zayn is the unique member of the group and if he’s the one on the cover of your notebook you can let everyone in your class know that you are “unique” as well. Liam is “true” which matches his blue notebook, Harry is nice, Louis is “original,” and the fifth one whose name I can’t pronounce but its spelled N-I-A-L-L has purple notebooks with the word “confident.” What these notebooks do isn’t unique, they’re just a little more obvious, as everyone knows, if only subconsciously, that the clothes that we wear, the car that we drive, the restaurants that we frequent, and the homes that we live in all make a statement about who we are and what we stand for. It’s helpful to have a notebook with the word “confident” on it if your agenda is to show the world that you are confident – having the word there so blatantly can expedite the process of sending such a message, but dressing in the right suit communicates confidence just as well. So also a mini-van can be the outward sign of a parent who takes the care of her children seriously, a sports car is the outward sign of youth and speed and power, so also a Subaru that runs on vegetable oil tells the world that the driver is smugly serious about caring for the environment even if no one else is. However, while these outward signs, these objects, can be used by you and me to make a statement about who we are and what we hold dear, we all must be careful not to let the objects take us captive. No – let the iPhone make a statement about who you are but do not let the iPhone tell you who you are. I think it’s nice to wear nice clothes, the right clothes can make you feel good, can even make you feel important - but don’t rely on these clothes and begin to think that you aren’t important without them. And while I loved having all the right school supplies – I remember having them and feeling as though I were smart and capable and organized – do not be fooled into thinking that you can’t be smart without those school supplies because it’s not the cloths that make the man nor is it the supplies that make the student – it is God who made you both. We all must be careful you see. “See to it that no one takes you captive” and tricks you into believing that you are defined by anything but Christ Jesus. The author of Colossians warns us against being taken captive because he knows that it’s possible – that being defined by goods or philosophies, empty deceit or human tradition has been a problem for human beings since Adam and Eve bit the apple. Inanimate objects become a sign – a mark – that we can’t get rid of. Mistakes become defining detriments that we can’t live down. Ideas come into our heads, and they don’t just float around in there – they take up residency – they fill our minds and corrupt our hearts changing the way we see ourselves and our world. One of the most obvious examples to me recently has been a voice in my mind that I’m getting better and better at ignoring. This voice whispers to me soft doubts about my voice, it worries whether or not I’ve turned off this microphone, and it used to cause me to sing softly so that even I won’t hear and be offended. This appears to be a problem among Presbyterians in general – though I know that at least part of the problem comes from me when I ask you to sing hymns you’ve never seen before – but there is a chance that when we go to join the heavenly choir we’ll be asked to sing something besides Amazing Grace or Blessed Assurance and if we can’t all learn to sing with confidence songs that we don’t know we’ll all be in trouble. But the voice is there – a voice in my mind who tells me that singing is like spandex shorts – it is a privilege and not a right. And this voice is telling you that you can’t. It tells you that you can’t unless it’s beautiful by the standards of the world, that you can’t unless it’s done properly, but I tell you that while the world is saying that you can’t the Lord is telling that you can and you should, and it is the Lord who gave you your voice so who should you be listening to? What does the Lord desire – beauty? Sure. But what the Lord most truly desires is a joyful heart lifted in praise but you can’t lift your heart in praise if you’re always listening to the voice in your head who tells you that you’re not good enough. Criticism – self-criticism – is so natural a thing these days. I read the paper and listen to people talk and realize that all of Columbia is getting awfully good at looking for problems. As a matter of fact, I think that a good number of Maury County residents would willingly change our county motto to “Not as good as Williamson.” And maybe a little bit of criticism is healthy, but too much will take you captive, not only finding room for improvement but redefining everything until suddenly all anyone can think about is what’s wrong as though what’s wrong with this county were more important than what’s right. We don’t have the education that Williamson County has – we don’t have the tax base – we don’t have the jobs or the stores or the money. Let me tell you what else we don’t have that Williamson County has – the traffic. We also have the tight nit community that I will always choose over the Williamson County indifference. And we have history which I would choose any day over another shopping mall that could just as well be in Tokyo as Middle Tennessee. Do we have problems – of course – but do not let yourself be taken captive by envy lest you forget that we have much more going for us that cannot be ignored. You see – you will all be defined by something – but do not let your community, do not let yourself, be defined by any problem, any shortcoming, any philosophy or human tradition – no “See to it that no one takes you captive…for you have come to fullness in Christ.” The reality is that every day you are exposed to ideas and ways of living, so many of which will hurt you and cause you harm, and while no one can prevent being exposed to products on a store shelf, drugs on the street, violence, divorce, failure, consumerism, negativity, death, or self-doubt – while all of these things will fight to define you, you must not be taken captive by any of them. Tear off the Scarlet Letter. Christ has triumphed over all things – all earthly rulers and powers he has put to shame. And in your baptism he claimed you – in your baptism he called your name – in your baptism he defined who you are and who you will always be. Not only are you redeemed – you have been deemed worthy of redemption. Not only are you forgiven – you will not be defined by your mistakes or failures but only by the grace poured out upon you. And not only are you God’s – forever you will be called a child of the Lord. “God has made you alive” and do not forget it. Amen.

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