Proper 13

Pentecost--Focused  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:11
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Focus less on earthly things and instead, focus on where Christ is.

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A good summary of todays gospel reading is—Quite dead and hopeless is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God (Lk 12:21). Thus our Gospel reading sets the theme for the day. Things of this world, like the abundance of the one’s riches, ultimately avail nothing. But, the things above, the things of Christ, bless for eternity.
Solomon put it this way in the OT reading, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Ecc 1:2) of all those things for which man strives “after wind,” “under the sun” (1:14), things of this life.
Fifty-three years ago last Sunday, it was the biggest news on earth. I’d be willing to bet it slipped by without you even noticing. I know I forgot all about it, until I was reminded of it this week. As important as it was—and still is, really—it’s easy to forget.
On July 24, 1969, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins returned safely to earth after man’s first moon landing four days earlier, and they were the toast of the planet! A world tour with parades and speeches and endless television coverage awaited them. For a brief time, the entire human race was on the same page, together looking beyond the wars and distrust and economic worries down here to gaze at and dream about something way up above.
But how quickly we all come back to earth.
As Christians, though living in this fallen world, we have things above to which we can focus—and we’re not just talking about heaven. Unlike the world’s focus on the moon 53 years ago, our focus as Christians isn’t primarily on a place. Our focus on things above is looking to a person, Jesus Christ. That means we can focus on things above every day, not just for the then and there, but also for the here and now. When we forget that, we forfeit so much of the joy God intends for us already today. In our epistle reading this morning, therefore, St. Paul encourages us to
Keep Focusing on the Things Above—Where Christ Is.

Focus above on your glory to be revealed in Christ.

Colossians 3:1-4 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
The whole point of the Letter to the Colossians is that Christ is the whole point.
Heresies had been distracting the Church there from Christ-—to worldly things: Jewish legalism or empty human philosophies. Not much has changed in our day; heresies still abound, which continually distract. Holy Scripture has been twisted, or flat-out ignored, in order for people to do as they please.
Paul responds by putting Christ on the appropriate pedestal, above all such things (v 1).
Paul tells us to seek—or focus—things that emanate from where Christ is—at the right hand of God.
Christ came to be seated at God’s right hand after one giant leap for mankind.
First his leap from heaven to live among us down here on planet earth.
Then all those small steps as a man that included the perfect keeping of the Law to the tiniest degree, culminated in those pained, trudging, stumbling steps to the cross.
And finally that huge leap from the grave to his resurrection and ascension back to heaven, one man going where now every man and woman and child can go.
That is your destiny and mine—to be with God. This is how it was in the beginning, before humanity sinned.
By our Baptism, we died to this world and have been raised to heaven (v 3a). In Holy Baptism all earthly things, including your sinful flesh, have been drowned and that a new heavenly saint you are has risen from the water to a brand new life.
Baptism creates faith in Christ, and all who believe have a place in heaven without even the smallest step on their own parts.
The challenge is to remain focused above (Col. 3:2).
Neil Armstrong took his famous “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” back on July 20, 1969. I’ll bet some of you can remember where you were at that moment when Mr. Armstrong jumped from the ladder rung of the lunar module on to the moon for the very first time. Most of the world watched on television, holding its collective breath, understanding full well what a historic moment this was.
It’s easy for us to get so tied up in things down here on earth—jobs and school and romances and mortgages—that we forget about things above, the things that really matter. St. Paul encourages us instead to “set your minds [that is, FOCUS] on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:2) because Christ takes care of all things, both forever and now, both in heaven and on earth.
It’s easy to forget things above when so much here presses hard against us.
The economy is out of control with gas and food prices raising, we don’t feel very heavenly. It’s tough to think about the eternal future when you’ve got bills now.
When you’re sick, perhaps seriously, heaven isn’t necessarily what you want to think about.
When you’re young and prospering—the family’s growing, the career’s taking off—spiritual blessings don’t seem to glitter as brightly as earthly ones.
For now, the heavenly things are hidden. Col 3:3 “...your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
It’s easy to give up and give in to the earthly.
Paul reminds us that the things of this world are not what life is about.
Our life is Christ! Col 3:4 “When Christ who is our life...”
Even while in this world, it’s the things above, from where Christ is, that count, that are always good, always in rich supply.
But one day the glory of those things above will be revealed for us, just as they will be revealed for Christ: Col 3:4 “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
Now we are talking about heaven.
At that moment, everyone will see just how mundane have been the things we’ve been stressing about down here—how short have been the months of unemployment, the years of pain, how fleeting the material successes.
However the things of this earth treat us, we can always look forward to that greatest one above, going to be where Christ is.
Transition: Of course, some would say that’s just another moonshot. “Christianity offers some pie in the sky, but what’s it good for down here?” And you know, even 53 years ago, there were people who opposed the space program, saying it’s irrelevant to life on earth. Well, St. Paul certainly is pointing us to things above, but focusing our minds on things above has everything to do with the way we live now. The rest of our text encourages us today to

Focus above earthly things—where Christ isn’t.

Colossians 3:5-11 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”
Living the life of things above is something we do right now.
It’s like an unborn baby: It’s not a “potential life” or a “life-to-be.” He or she is a life in the fullest sense, but just can’t be seen yet.
We are living the life of things above right now, ever since our Baptism. We just can’t yet see them fully.
So we’re called to make that life as visible as possible, to be different from lives lived for things below.
Paul lists a host of sins that reflect what is earthly: “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. . . . Anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk. . . . Do not lie” (vv 5b, 8b, 9a).
Each of these is a gratification of some earthly desire—sex, greed, selfish ego. Our lesson reminds us—Col 3:6 “Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.”
We are not above such sins, but we are to abstain from them.
As Christians, we have wonderful reason to be different from a life of all these: Christ is above them! We are to focus on the things above, where Christ is.
Christ isn’t in that kind of behavior. Therefore, neither should we.
We are now in him, and are being renewed in his image (vv 9–10).
The life of things above, then, means living the very opposite of earthly, for-oneself desires, but rather living in harmony with and service to all others (v 11).
On earth we think about ourselves and all we can grab.
Above, we are joined together with people of all races, backgrounds, social strata—with all who also have been seeking the one from above, Christ Jesus.
Those on earth are self-centered and view all they have as “MINE”—”I worked hard for this”—“I earned this”— “My life . . . My time . . .” My, My, My — see the guy in the Gospel reading.
Focusing above, we recognize that everything we have doesn’t belong to me, but is a gift from God.
Living that life now, therefore, is about priorities in life. Our priorities in this life, and the conduct that follows, reflects our understanding of the direction life should take.
If life consists only in the current moment, then self-gratification is how we live life today.
But, if we have been granted a new life by Christ, through Holy Baptism and faith, then our focus is on those things that will equip and strengthen us for the life God has given to us.
Our Lord Jesus Himself walked the path that our readings outline today. In His walking, he has torn down the barrier of sin through His perfect life. He has opened the locked gate of death by His resurrection. He has cleared the way.
I certainly can’t pretend that I always set my mind on things above, any more than I consider every day what an amazing thing it was for us to put a man on the moon. As Christians, we’re destined to go farther than the moon. We’ve been raised with Christ.
Jesus has done all that is necessary in order that, when roll is called—when our Lord has all his faithful followers line up on His right—as His sheep on the Last Day, you and I will be there to say, “By the grace of God I am here.” What an amazing treasure.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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