First Congregational Church
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Colossians 3:1-14 The Message
1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective.
3-4 Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life. When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you’ll show up, too—the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ.
5-8 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk.
9-11 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.
12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
I like Eugene Peterson’s translation called The Message - for so many reasons - and this passage is another one of those reasons. Traditional Ash Wednesday services often focus on the brevity of life, reminding us that we come from dust and will soon enough return back to the earth, dust once more. There is a profound reminder in that aspect of this day, but our worship as post-resurrection people is not without hope. As earthly, human beings, ours is a heritage where dust and ashes symbolized repentance and mortality and sometimes we need a process or procedure to enable confession of sins and asking forgiveness.
Ironically, we spent a good part of our lives trying to avoid dust and ash. Dust is the homes (and not just the homes where we live) we have failed to clean and broken dreams long abandoned. Ash is the world engulfed in flames and ancient bodies in unmarked graves. All year we try to avoid dust and ash, and yet, here we are. And it is Wednesday.
And sometimes, as much as we try to bear up and hold on, the dust can feel too heavy. Or the ash slips from your hands as you are pouring them into the Cool Whip container onto your back steps, the ashes that you just burned, just enough for today, and you have your good coat on. And that is when God whispers into our ears true things that are also sweet: “It was into dust and ash I breathed and you awoke.” Today we are reminded that God whispers again, not just with self-denial or reminders of our human errors. We are also reminded that God calls us to that wardrobe that God always intended us to wear, our real lounging around home duds of compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline, even-tempered-ness, content with second place, forgiveness and love.
Let us continue our journey to the cross in prayer. Gracious, heavenly God, thank you for not only breathing life into us, but for the clothing you give us to wear, to chose to wear. Enable us to take off that which is not flattering to us or you. Help us to see how well the wardrobe of Christ looks on us, and enables us to feel so much closer to him, not unlike a suit or a beautiful outfit can cause us to feel special. For all that we need to don and need to take off, we do so in the quiet of our hearts.
Let us be assured of God’s forgiveness and loving kindness. God so loved you, that God gave Christ to you - for you. Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.