Over the last two weeks in worship, we have talked extensively about how we should give thanks for one another…
Because of our differences, we give thanks.
We gave thanks as we broke bread together.
We gave thanks around the waters of baptism.
We should give thanks always and everywhere for the people of this world who help us claim our inheritance, who help us overcome division, and who teach us how to practice what is true and holy, just and pure.
Today, we explore one more of Paul’s letters.
Today, we are reminded to give thanks to God who is the reason we all share in the Kingdom.
Let us pray:
This past week, the annual Bucksbaum Lecture at Drake University was given by Krista Tippet.
Many of my Sunday mornings, as I drive in to church, I listen to her broadcast, “On Being,” and I listen as she asks people from all sorts of traditions and backgrounds what it means to be human.
Recently, I picked up a copy of her book, “Becoming Wise,” and like she starts so many of her interviews, she starts by exploring her own background and faith tradition.
One of the interesting things about Tippet’s story is that she served as an aide to the American ambassador in Germany while it was divided.
More riveting to me in the end than the politics of Berlin was the vast social experiment its division had become. One people, one language and history and culture, were split into two radically opposing worldviews and realities, decades entrenched by the time I arrived. I loved people on both sides of the Wall that wound through the heart of the city.
I keep thinking about the division of Berlin… the division of Germany after WWII… and the division of our own nation in this moment.
Especially in regards to our letter from Paul this morning.
As Paul writes to the Colossians, Gentiles who lived in what is now modern-day Turkey, he writes to encourage them in their faith… to help them grow into this new relationship they have found with Jesus.
And as Paul talks about the transition, the shift they have experienced in their life by accepting Jesus, he uses this really interesting phrase.
God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son. (1:13)
Transferred us into the Kingdom.
As Neta Pringle describes this word – transferred, she writes that:
His image conjures up pictures of refugees, rounded up after battle and taken to the victor’s land, of Israelites marched far from home to live in Babylon – a kingdom so different, so far from home in both geography and style. Here the rules are different, the ruler is different. All assumptions about the way in which life goes on – indeed about its very meaning- are different. (Feasting on the Word)
Transferred into the Kingdom… much like those who found themselves on the eastern side of the wall in Berlin suddenly found themselves living in a different country, under different rules.
Transferred into the Kingdom… much like after an election a nation wakes up to a world where different people are in charge and different priorities come to the front.
You don’t always have to physically shift your location to feel like the world has changed all around you. For better or for worse.
Except, Paul is not writing here about a temporary shift in power that comes and goes with various political leaders and world events.
Paul is writing about a cosmic shift…
God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son.
And not just the people of Paul’s day and time. Not just the Colossians, or the Ephesians, the Philippians, or the Romans.
All of us.
We have been rescued from the powers of evil, sin, and death.
We all have been transferred into the kingdom of forgiveness, redemption, and life.
Thanks be to God.
Today in worship, we celebrate that Christ is King. That he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.
We celebrate that through his death on the cross, the blood of Jesus rescued humanity from its captivity to the powers of this world.
In the cross, in the resurrection, Jesus declared victory over the powers over evil, injustice, and oppression.
And friends, in that great and glorious act, we have been transferred into God’s kingdom.
We have been transferred into the Rule and the Reign of God.
We are no longer merely citizens of this place, of Iowa, of the United States… Jesus is Lord.
Thanks be to God!
To emphasize this new reality, Paul continues his letter by breaking out into song.
While we don’t know the melody, while it isn’t a familiar tune to our ears, these lyrics in Paul’s letter would have been as familiar to the Colossians as Amazing Grace is to us.
They might have even started singing along.
And this song reminds the people in familiar words that when we look at Jesus, we see God.
They remind the people that in Christ all things in heaven and on earth were made.
They remind these new citizens of God’s kingdom that everything… every nation, every King or President, every Prime Minister or Governor, every Mayor and every Councilperson… everything is from God and finds purpose in God.
From the clouds in the sky to the microorganisms in the dirt beneath our feet, God in Christ holds everything together.
And Jesus is in charge of it all.
From beginning to end, Alpha and Omega, this kingdom will never end.
Thanks be to God!
And like any change in leadership… whether temporal or heavenly… the rules under which we live change a bit.
So this letter to the Colossians is a reminder that them and us that we are called to grow in love and faith.
Paul encourages us to bear fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God.
And we are reminded that just because Christ has already won, does not mean that evil death and sin are forever gone. Paul’s letter, in fact, is full of the reminder that we will be made strong in Christ and is meant to help us endure with patience the trials and tribulations that will come.
That is why when we gather around the baptismal font and we welcome new ones into our midst we make these familiar pledges:
We pledge to renounce the spiritual forced of wickedness and evil powers of this world.
We repent of our sin.
We accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression, in whatever forms they present themselves.
And we must hold one another accountable to the rules of God’s kingdom.
All because we confess Jesus Christ as our Savior.
All because we promise to serve him as our Lord.
When Krista Tippett talks about life in Berlin, she also talks about the day the wall came down. It was her twenty-ninth birthday.
She writes that “no one imagined that it could fall or the Iron Curtain crumble…. The wall finally collapsed with a whimper, not a bang, as fear lifted all at once from an entire nation. I had walked through Checkpoint Charlie hundreds of times, respecting its absurdity as authority. On the night the Wall fell… the entire city walked joyfully through it. The border guards joined them. It was truly nearly that simple.”
While we live under the rule and the reign of Jesus Christ, we work and pray for the day when all people will joyfully walk through the walls of division and hatred.
We work and pray for the day when fear is lifted for all people.
We work and pray for the moment when the powers of this world that keep us apart let go of their last grasp upon our hearts and we are finally free to simply be in Christ.
And until then… we live as people who see all things and all people in their true light… as the ones who already belong to Jesus.
Thanks be to God.