"Christ is All, and In All"
Luke 12:13-21 and Colossians 3:1-11
31 July 2016
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
West Walworth: Zion and East Rochester United Methodist Churches
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.
But 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. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Paul’s letter to the Colossians is especially inspiring to me this day.
Though it begins with “So if you have been raised with Christ …”
Biblical scholars suggest a better reading of the Greek would be
“Since you have been raised with Christ …”
It is a forgone conclusion for those who are baptized.
Though Christ has died,
Christ is risen.
All who have been baptized
Have been baptized with Christ
Are dead to the world and join in his resurrection.
You or I may not feel like we’ve risen
… especially until we’ve had that third cup of high test coffee in the morning …
But, I assure you;
Just as you are in Christ,
You are risen,
And when your body dies,
You will rise with Christ again.
“Seek the things that are above,” the Apostle Paul encourages
His fleeting, scatterbrained, uninformed, newly born Christians.
Reach higher, he is saying.
It’s the kind of inspirational speech one needs to hear
To remain motivated and focused
To take on the challenges of each new day.
Reach higher, because that is where Christ is.
Set your mind on higher things, because that is where Christ’s mind and will is.
Our baptism is our change of life
From a life of death
Into a life of eternal life with Christ.
I’ve had a recent change of life, as many of you know.
On June 22nd of this year, my friendly surgeon,
Removed most of my stomach
And rearranged my small intestines
In such a configuration that baffles my mind.
My old life is gone.
It is dead to me.
No more cheeseburgers and fries.
No more cookies, cake, and pie.
No more mashed potatoes, stuffing, or corn.
No more ice cream.
I am learning to put to death these earthly things,
As Paul stated it.
“The wrath of God is coming to those who are disobedient.”
This is certainly true for me.
I told my surgeon this past week
“The penalty for non-compliance is immediate and devastating.”
Paul, of course is speaking of amoral behavior.
He gives a grocery store list of examples:
· Fornication … in other words, live monogamously with the one God has given you.
· Impurity … in other words, live according to the rules God gave Moses.
· Passion … because our passion should only be directed to Christ. Anything else is a distraction from God’s will.
· Anger and wrath … because a disciplined behavior is a sign of God in you.
· Slander and abusive language … always speak kindly of others, especially those who hurt you. Take the high ground, always, everywhere, in every circumstance, without exception.
· Lying … it is a pitiful attempt to promote self-interests instead of the interests of others.
The final two sinful behaviors that the Apostle Paul lists in his curriculum
For Christian disciple development
Leads into a nice segue for our Gospel:
· Evil desire … stop planning and plotting about how to take advantage of others.
· Greed … God gives you enough, there is no need to want more. Taking more, takes it away from someone else
So, put to death these ways of the world, Paul teaches.
Since we have been baptized,
Since we have been raised with Christ,
We are to reach higher,
Leaving behind these despicable ways of the world
That leads to God’s judgment and death.
Christ is all, and in all
Who reach higher.
Let’s talk about the Gospel of Luke
And evil desire and greed.
Jesus is in a crowd of the curious, seekers, and supporters
When one asks Jesus a truly worldly question about the division of an inheritance.
The questioner is asking about his personal intra-family conflict
Hoping Jesus will rule in his favor.
This would not be uncommon,
Since people often sought the counsel of Rabbis,
For they were often the most educated
And the most holy and respected people in town.
One motivation for this petitioner was evil desire;
One of the items on the Apostle Paul’s laundry list of worldly sins.
At that time, and in that culture,
The eldest son received the inheritance of the father
The whole kit-and-kabuto.
But, with the acceptance of the inheritance came the responsibility of caring for the family tribe.
So asking for his older brother to share in the inheritance
Would be a breach in precedence and law.
It was evil.
The other motivation for this petitioner was greed;
Another of the items on the Apostle Paul’s laundry list of worldly sins.
He wanted more than he was getting.
Getting more from his elder brother
Would mean that everyone else received less.
Greed always comes at the expense of others.
In this case,
It comes at the expense of family.
At first glance, it would appear ironic that Jesus would respond with
“Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?”
Because Jesus is our final judge and arbitrator over our eternal life.
But, here, Jesus is being asked to reach down,
To reach down into the evil desires and sin
Of a greedy, worldly man.
Jesus was not going to take the bait.
Think for a moment
Of how frequently we go to Jesus,
Like this friend from the crowd,
With our evil desires and greedy petitions.
A purified heart is one that is cleansed of all
And personal gains.
Self-serving motives live in this world
Of winners and losers,
Of rich and poor,
Of abled and those with other abilities.
I’m guilty of this all the time.
How about you?
“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions,” Jesus says.
Possessions are so of this world.
Everyone who has assisted in the downsizing of a parent’s household
Or the distribution of property in an estate
Understand exactly what I mean.
Death simply redistributes the possessions of a person,
Even as the soul receives the Divine gift of everlasting life.
This is a teachable moment for Jesus.
When it comes to teaching,
Jesus turns to his favorite method of adult education:
Teaching by storytelling;
Telling a parable.
This carefully crafted parable
Has many notable characteristics that should not be overlooked.
· The land produced abundantly. That is to say, God provided abundantly, with the expectation that all of God’s children would be abundantly provided.
· The rich man plotted, but did not carry out, evil desires. That is, he thought to himself how to maximize his profit, not how to distribute God’s abundance. His mind was not set higher with Christ, rather, his mind was focused on worldly excess.
· The rich man’s motive was greed. The more I accumulate, the sooner I can retire and relax, eat, drink, and be merry. God’s will for an abundant harvest was to meet the needs of the world, not so that any one person can hoard the abundance and use it to make life easier for themselves.
· Fools plan and plot and scheme for personal gain. Fools dig their own graves, all the while, the world looks on with cold disdain, waiting for them to cover them over with six feet of dirt.
· The wise store up treasures in heaven, who reach up, who become one with Christ, and who become wealthy in the kingdom of heaven by following his will.
Evil desires and greedy petitions
Are the compost pile of this world.
They stink of sin,
The rot of evil behavior,
As outlined by the Apostle Paul.
Evil desires and greed comes at the expense of others.
Our neighbors are hurt,
Directly or indirectly,
By both our sins of omission and commission.
This man in the crowd went to Jesus with his evil desire and greed,
And Jesus taught him where to refocus his mind.
Reach up to God.
Don’t roll in the pig sty of this world.
Be of the mind of Christ.
Reject thoughts of impurity, passion and wrath.
Allow Christ to be in you,
Discipline you passions, sexuality, anger, and tongue
For lying and slander stink of the self-serving, self-interest ways of this world.
Let us be resolved to cleanse our hearts,
To purify them of all self-serving motives.
When we take our petitions to God,
May we be focused on being the best stewards of God’s abundance,
Storing up treasures in God’s heavenly kingdom.
Let us be resolved to share of God’s abundance
For it is God’s will and our responsibility
To ensure that all God’s children are cared for without exception.
Let us reach higher
And aspire to become of the mind of Christ
That Christ may become all and in all,
To the glory of God
And the benefit of his kingdom.