Sunday, November 20, 2016

In him and through him

Scripture Lessons: Jeremiah 23: 1-6 and Colossians 1: 11-20, NT page 200 Sermon Title: In him and through him Preached on November 20, 2016 There is traffic in Columbia, TN. People have places to go, and they need to get there quickly and they’re usually running late. A couple weeks ago, I saw a man brushing his teeth while sitting in traffic. That’s strange isn’t it. But people do strange things while they’re sitting in traffic. Some people honk their horn, most people get irritated because they have places to go and things to do, but here’s the thing that I’m thankful for: people in Columbia still stop for funeral processions. Sometimes it’s hard to stop. People have places to go, and they need to get there quickly, and they’re usually running late and it seems like getting there is a matter of life and death, but then we see the lights of the sheriff or the police officer, then the hearse and our priorities shift. Suddenly, the meeting isn’t so important. Everything stops as we show our respect to the wife, the mother, the husband, the son, who is looking straight into the eyes of the real matter of life and death. Stopping for a funeral procession can be a moment where no matter how important we think the meeting or the errands or the appointment is, when we stop we see clearly again. The priorities shift. And the meeting that we were rushing to gets back to its proper place in the grand scheme of things, because you’ll have the chance to be on time again tomorrow, but for someone there will not be a tomorrow, at least not on this side of mortality. Coming to church should do the same thing. Six days of being busy. Six days of thinking about ourselves and what we must do and what we need and who all needs us, and then the clock strikes 10:30 and we stop. We stop to look up from whatever it was that seemed so important to focus on the giver and redeemer of life. Six days of focus on the world and this one hour to focus on the one who created it and the one who will take us from this world into the next. It’s in a moment like this that we see clearly. The priorities shift back to where they should be – with God right here and everything else below, but here’s the problem, while everyone in Columbia still stops for funeral processions, not everyone stops at 10:30. Not everyone stops to see the world clearly through the lens of hope that our Lord provides, so they go on looking through the lens of fear and anxiety. Not everyone stops so that their priorities settle back into the order they should, so they go on chasing after momentary contentment, they go on defining themselves by physical beauty or wealth or popularity. They go on dedicating themselves completely to their jobs, they go on rushing through life and wondering why they feel so empty. We were studying the book of Proverbs last Thursday and one in the group lifted up Proverbs 16: 25 – “Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death.” Not everyone stops to think about the way that seems to be right. Few stop to question the rat race because everyone else is doing it. Not everyone stops so that their priorities shift back to the order they should with God at the top, then family, then community; maybe most people think it’s normal to keep yourself right there at the top, so I’m thankful to Diane Messick who reminded us of a moment on the show Mama’s Family when a young man proclaimed: “I get to know God just fine from the comfort of my bed on Sunday morning. I don’t need the church to get through life.” Mama responded: “Well, you don’t need a parachute to jump out of an airplane either.” Today is an important day, and I’m glad that you’re here so that together we can stop, let our priorities shift back into the order that they should always have, and remember that we have been waiting for so long to hear who our president is going to be that we may have forgotten that we already have a King. Today is Christ the King Sunday, so this hour in the great scheme of things has great significance, for here comes from Scripture the reminder that among all the failed shepherds who have promised us the world while leading us nowhere, the Creator God raised up for us a righteous branch, the firstborn of all creation, and in him all things in heaven and on earth were created and in him all things hold together. Today is the day for us to pull over to the side of this busy life full of anxiety and false hope to recognize that we have a savior, and in him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins – but the world doesn’t stop you see, so some just keep on driving, and they are like those who drive by the funeral procession unable to recognize that something important is happening. You see, he is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but while some bow before him, others just keep on driving. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, but while some marvel at him, there are others who don’t have time to stop. And he has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, but some of us just keep on driving as though nothing new has happened. But to be rescued – that’s worth stopping the car, for to be rescued by him means something, it declares something about who you are and who I am. According to the author of Colossians, the Lord “has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.” What this would have meant in ancient times is that he has captured us, invaded our territory and taken us to a different place as though we were his captives. To be transferred into a different kingdom is something like what happened to the nation of Israel when Babylon invaded and took so many of the people to live in exile, but here it is Christ who has invaded the world, concurred it, and has taken us as his captives into a new kingdom – the Kingdom of Heaven – and here we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Here we are not subject to the powers of sin and death. Here all things visible: thrones, dominions, rulers, or powers – they are subject to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but too often we still bow before them. Sometimes we look to them for legitimacy. We celebrate the great movements for equal rights. We recognize the significance of the moment when an African-American became President of the United States of America because that meant something, but we must be careful about what it meant, for some hoped also that the glass ceiling would shatter and Hilary Clinton would become president sending a message to little girls everywhere that they can do anything that boys can do. When that didn’t happen, I was sad for my daughters, until Cece told me that when she grows up she is going to be a panda bear. I was sad until I found the words to a song that Lily wrote and left on the piano so she could compose the music to go with these words: “I can be anything when I grow up, like a teacher or a police officer. I will be great at it when I grow up.” Some have to see to believe – but truly, who can define what my children or your children will be? Who gets to decide who they are? Only the one who created them. Only the one who redeemed them. Only the one who concurred this earth and claims them as his own. Of course, not everyone values as Jesus values. There are many false shepherds in this world but not be deceived even for an instant. Stop. Pull over and let the truth wash over you. Let the messages of the world fall away and hear the truth – you matter because our savior has said you do. Forget what the false shepherds have said - You matter because the King, not only said you were worth dying for, he died so that you would know your worth in his eyes. “Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” so don’t let them fool you for an instant – you matter because the King said so, and woe to the shepherds who say otherwise. Woe to those who would scatter the sheep of God’s pasture, for our Lord will attend to them for their evil doings, but you will be gathered back to the fold. You shall not fear any longer or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord. Amen.

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