Sermon Four: …COMES TO LIFE
Small Worship, Sunday March 22, 2020.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
I was glad to hear the Prime Minister name the selfishness apparent in the hoarding at supermarkets across the country in his speech during this week. I hope people stop that. It reminded me of that self-orientation living inside all of us, even those of us already made new by the Spirit by water and Word.
We too struggle daily with this self-orientation. As Luther rightly put it, we tend to ‘curve in on ourselves’ and that causes no end of relationship breakdown, unfairness and pain.
Even our longing for love and belonging can be very self-centred. “All I need is for someone to love me!” is a selfish cry too! It’s still “all about me”; very individually centred.
We in the West have been steeped in this individualistic kind of way of life. We tend to transfer this individualism into our hearing of God’s Word. We often hear that being a Christian person is all about “Jesus and Me” way more than “Jesus and US”.
But even in our self-orientated individualistic world, we recognise that love still counts. We somehow know that love is more valuable than anything else. We look for love. We long for that sense of belonging that makes us matter. We ache for true, faithful, irreversible affection. Just put your attention on the world of the Arts!
God says that he IS love; agape; self-giving, self-sacrificing love. It is the fullest love and it is communal by nature. God’s love is never just for him and never all about me. Only. It is always for me and others around me. God’s love is communal because God is communal in nature.
The great jewel at the centre of Christian faith is this: God is Community; perfect community; Three Persons in One Person.
God’s Communal Love
The Father loves the Son, the Spirit loves the Father; the Father gives honour to the Son, the Son glorifies the Father; the Spirit glorifies the Father and the Son…and so on. You get the picture and can see that that’s the way it is.
In other words, the love of God is not an abstract idea. It is personal, divine communal self-giving, self-sacrificing love.
But how do we know this communal love? How do we experience it? How does it comes to us and make love a reality among us and in God’s world?
Gods Open Circle
God loves in every possible way. He creates (he enters into relationships outside of himself), he sustains (he commits himself to that set of relationships eternally), in his Son, Jesus, he redeems (he opens himself to the pain of rejection, entering into death itself to redeem the creation he’s brought into being).
And he glorifies. Not just redeems us then leaves us to our own social distancing and self isolation! He glorifies. He brings us into the divine family. He adopts us his own kids in baptism and places us in his holy community of self-giving, self-sacrificing love. He makes us his family. He unites us with Jesus.
He gives his life for living today, no matter the virus, the threat the size of the group. He bestows his Spirit on us, and in us, to call him “Abba, Father”. He spreads his table before us in the presence of all enemies of love in love (Psalm 23).
Look at that set place and know it is your place in the church with Jesus!
God’s love comes to life in communities
God’s love comes to life in communities. God’s love produces new expressions of human fellowship. It breaks down dividing walls, drowning old hostilities under the flood of his grace.
This is not just some future ‘heavenly’ thing. This is for now. What I’m describing is the very thing that marked the New Testament churches. They needed a new vocabulary to describe the love they experienced (agape) and a new way of expressing their self-emptied devotion to one another (koinonia).
That’s why the gospel was—and is—so radical. It made previously divided and often hostile groups into one. Jews and Gentiles, slave and free, male and female; “here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col. 3:11).
When Paul speaks like this he’s not describing what might be one day. He’s giving voice to what the gospel actually did. It created a community that had never existed before. Christians had a new citizenship, a new family. And the whole of the New Testament is devoted to proclaiming and sharing this this miracle of love. That’s what Paul is so red-hot in his opposition to any form of so-called ‘gospel’ which would undermine it. Just read Galatians, for example!
Because that community had God’s communal love coming to life in people, it was very open to the outsider. No closed club, but a flowing embrace of grace.
Yes. To be like this is risky. As we said, to love it to risk. But would we rather be totally alone, totally disconnected without any love? That would kill us. That would be ‘hell’.
Better to be involved in God’s love coming to life in our deadness, God’s belonging creating new community in our social distancing, God’s mission to love our enemies that breaks down our hoarding. That is what the world needs. It is what I need. It is what you need.
Friends, as you spend time alone or in smaller groups in these days, trust that the loving Spirit is at work among us. His ways are not our ways. This testing time is also his growing time.
The love of God never leaves you where you were, or where you are! He is moving you along the journey into his communal life. Hed is opening us to life you or we never imagined.
Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.