Sermon August 11th 2019-Colossians 3:1-11 and Luke 12:13-21

What does it mean to say that we have been ‘raised with Christ?’ Or, to put it another way, what does “new life in Christ” look like in our day to day lives? This is the question that is posed to us by the author of Colossians, as they seek to invite us on a journey of self-reflection. A journey that I believe we are all called to do from time to time. Because throughout life, we are called to take the time to reflect on ourselves and our choices, as we seek to deepen our relationship with God. And both of our readings help us to do this. Because we can see how these two readings are connected, even if they were written at different times, with different purposes in mind. The parable of the Rich Fool speaks to one of the things named in Colossians, Greed.. But first, I want us to begin with Colossians. It’s not an easy passage to listen to, let alone preach on. At first glance, it seems like a long list of “things not to do.” It also uses very strong, if not harsh language. As we are told to “put to death” a variety of things, including “fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed.” So what are we to make of this passage? Is it really a condemnation of all of these things? Or is there more to it? Lois Malcolm addresses this, and points out that this list is about inviting us to “ do away with abusive uses of sexuality, moral corruption, evil passions and desires, and greed.” That in becoming a new person in Christ, we are called to do away with those things that bring harm to us and others, that keep us apart from God. As the author of Colossians goes on to write, “now you must get rid of all such things–anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.” And so, I invite us, to see this passage not as a list of things to just plain avoid. But rather, as a reminder to be open to looking at ourselves, and naming the ways in which we are living life in ways that are abusive or harmful to ourselves, others, and God. Because as the author of Colossians invites us to consider, when we enter into relationship with Christ, we become a new creation. We are called to let go of all things that hold us back, so that we can be better versions of ourselves, as reflected in Christ. Which is why we are invited to “Set your minds on things that are above.” To ask ourselves, what is it that God desires for us? For our neighbour? Questions we should continuously ask ourselves, so that we might then do our best to live life in the way of Christ. Because ultimately, Christ came to share with us a new way of being in relationship with ourselves and one another. Christ came, so that we might find the harmony we so desperately seek. Where all are welcomed, all are encouraged, all have the necessities of life: food, shelter, love. Where all find their place in the world where they can live life to the fullest. For this is what harmony looks like. Not perfection. But where we seek to care for, and respect one another through our words and our actions. Where the way in which we live our lives, honours all life, and honours God. Which leads us to our Gospel reading, and the parable of the “rich fool.” Where a rich man finds himself with an abundance of crops, and not enough space to store it all. Speaking to himself, he decides that the best plan is to build bigger and more storage, so he can hold onto his abundance and take time to rest and enjoy life. But then, the unexpected happens, he dies before being able to enjoy his abundance. Leaving us with the question, what good was that abundance to him, in the end? But even more importantly, why does he feel the need to hang onto what we he has, so tightly? What is it that he is afraid of? What is it that we are afraid of? Because the truth is, we too, often feel this need to hang onto what we have. In North America, we live in a time and place where abundance is often the norm. Many of us have more than we could ever need. We have more than just the necessities, yet we keep desiring more, storing more, saving more. All while our neighbours, our friends, pray for enough money to bread to eat, and while people around the world go without a roof over their head. We say that we hang onto these things for security: to ensure we have enough, if circumstances change. But what happens when we use that more as an excuse than a truth? Where we are hanging onto things for it’s own sake, rather than for the purpose of our own well being? This is what our parable is inviting us to think about. And it leads us back to our reading from Colossians, where the author suggests that greed is in fact idolatry. That when we hang onto more than we need, it is in part because those things have become something we admire or love so much, that the though of parting with them, creates fear and anxiety. All disguised by security and well being. And so, although it is difficult to think about, this parable offers to us an image of what happens when we allow something healthy-sustenance-to become unhealthy-greed. It reminds us that although it is important to have enough for our own care and survival, there is a big difference between having enough to satisfy and having an over abundance. Which brings us back to Colossians, and our need to put to death earthly things, for the things that are of God. The things God desires for us: generosity and love, justice and peace, equality and freedom. This is what we’re meant to hold onto in life. What we’re called on to help create, as new creations in Christ. Which makes this reading from Colossians not one of condemnation, but an invitation to look inward. To take the time to look at ourselves and ask: what habits do I need to let go of? What do I need to let die, in order to embrace the new life that Christ offers? You may name something that Colossians suggests, but perhaps it’s something different. Whatever it might be, all of us have things we need to change about ourselves. All of us have habits that bring more harm than good to our lives. But it is up to us to open our eyes to them, and to be ready to seek new life. All while placing our trust in the one who reaches out to us. Christ. The one who is our beginning and our end. The one who gives life to all who seek it. For this is a part of seeking to walk the path of faith with Christ. When we choose to follow Christ, we are choosing a new way of living. We are choosing to live out what it is we believe in, which is that Christ came to bring about a new Kingdom. A Kingdom where love, peace, and equality reigns. And where all are welcomed and embraced into the gift of new life. But in choosing to follow Christ, we are also choosing to live it. To embrace this new way of being, so that it becomes a part of who we are. Transforming us as we seek to help transform the world. So as we celebrate Baptism today, and as we recall our own Baptisms and our own commitment to following Christ, may we see today as an opportunity to once again, be made new. To see this is an opportunity to look inwards so that we might open ourselves up to the transforming power of Christ. For Christ is our light and guide. The one who shines in and through us, seeking to help us be the best persons we can be. The persons Christ knows us to be. So let us journey together this day and always. Embracing one another, loving one another, and sharing with one another so that all might have abundant life.

Lois Malcolm WorkingPreacher

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