Archive for November 22nd, 2010

Created for Christ–Colossians 1: 11-20

What follows is the sermon from this past Christ the King Sunday.  Grace and peace, everyone.

“Created for Christ”

Colossians 1: 11-20

Rev. Dr. Teri McDowell Ott

November 21st, 2010

Don Postema, a campus minister and spiritual writer, shares an experience he had when speaking at a religious service for a nursing home. He says, “I wanted to present something comforting to the aging patients.  So I began by saying, “You belong.”  I was about to continue when a ninety-year-old woman sitting near me in a wheelchair startled me by shouting in a high wheezy voice with both distress and longing, “TO WHOM?”

To whom do you belong?  This is a question every Christian needs to ask and answer for themselves throughout their journey of faith.  It is a question of allegiance and commitment.  It is also a question of trust and acceptance.  It is a question of both challenge and of comfort for those of us who claim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

At the writing of this letter, Paul implies that the Colossians’ loyalty was divided.  They belonged to Christ.  But they were also turning to the stars and to certain ascetic practices for spiritual direction.  So Paul writes them a letter about the Lordship of Jesus Christ, reminding them that it is Jesus Christ alone whom they worship and serve, that it is Jesus Christ alone who claims them and calls them his own.  In our passage for today we read that “all things have been created through [Christ] and for [Christ].”  Jesus Christ is the reason we are here and the reason we exist at all.  We were created for Christ and we belong to Christ.

For some of us, these may be the most challenging words we have ever heard because it means that our lives are not our own.  We cannot do whatever we please.  Instead, we are obligated to do what pleases Christ.  And this is terribly difficult in today’s world.  So much of this world clamors for a piece of us and seeks to steer us away from who we are as followers of Christ.  We are asked to set our Christian faith aside when we are at work or at school.  We are sucked into our culture of consumerism so that we can only see what we don’t have rather than being grateful for what we do. We are blinded by the idea of the American dream that we fail to recognize how the rest of the world suffers for the sake of our ambitions and success.  To whom do we belong?  We must ask ourselves this question again and again.  Do we belong to Christ?  Or do we belong to the pursuit of wealth and success?  Do we belong to Christ?  Or do we belong to our employers?  Do we belong to Christ?  Or do we belong to our own selfish desires?

The fact that we were created for Christ, that we belong to Christ, is perhaps the greatest challenge for us Christians in a world that is so seductive in its temptations.  But understanding that belonging to Christ is also the greatest blessing and comfort we have as Christians will help us stay on the path of righteousness.

What is your only comfort in life and in death? Asks the Heidelberg Catechism.

And the answer…

That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

To whom?  To whom do I belong?  The question asked by the elderly woman in the nursing home rings of distress and longing.  Loneliness, isolation, and rejection are feelings we have all known or will know at some point in our lives.  We may belong to a neighborhood, a company, a club, a school, or a church that gives us some sense of identity, but there also may be times when no matter what you do, your family seems distant.  None of your friends seem to like you.  Nobody calls you on the phone.  You get ignored at school, in your church, at your club.  Yes, there will be times when it seems like no one cares what you do or who you are, when it seems like you are a complete nobody!  These are the times when you realize how much your identity depends on other people: how they praise you, respect you, react to you, or like you.[1]

I think we are perhaps never more aware of this than in high school or middle school.  When you are a teenager it’s like you are hyper-aware of other people, especially your peers, and how they react to you.  I moved around quite a bit when I was a teenager and whenever I started at a new school I always remember wondering, “Will people like me?  What will people think of me here?  Will I make any friends?  Will I ever not feel so new and so out of place?”  Nothing else mattered in those moments except what others’ thought of me.  My identity, my happiness, my ability to function in the world, all depended on other people.

Our relationships in life define us, they give us our identity.  Without good relationships, or meaningful connections with other people, one begins to wonder, “Why am I really here?  What difference does my life make to anyone?  To whom do I really matter?”

But now thus says the Lord,

He who created you, O Jacob,

He who formed you, O Israel:

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

Isaiah 43:1

To whom do we belong?  To whom do we matter?  We belong to God.  We belong to Christ.  We belong to the One who created us and redeemed us and who continues a relationship with us no matter what we do or no matter where we stray.

Again, some of the most comforting words we will ever hear are that we belong to Jesus Christ and that we were created for him.  We were created for a purpose.  We are here for a reason.  As Paul reminds us in today’s passage Christ is the head of the church.  And we are his body in this world.  We are to live for him so that he might come to have first place in everything.  We are to live spreading the good and comforting and life-inspiring news of the Gospel that we belong to Jesus Christ.  We belong.  There is no greater message of hope that we could share with God’s people.

A couple of weeks ago I heard Isaac singing a song that sounded somewhat familiar.  Glory be to the Father…he sang.  The tune was a little off, but I recognized the words, so I asked him, “Isaac, what are you singing?”  He said, “I’m singing Daddy’s song.”  Dan got a real kick out of that…out of the fact that Isaac thinks we’re all singing Glory be to his father, Dan, rather than our Father, God.  But, it did please me that Isaac knew the tune and he knew the words…even if he got the meaning a tad wrong.  It pleased me because by learning our Christian rituals, by learning the language of our faith–when all this becomes familiar, when he knows our ways and our words–Isaac knows that he belongs.  And this, this is one of the greatest gifts this church has given him.  Isaac knows he belongs here and he will know he belongs in our future churches when the people of faith gather to sing and pray and listen to words and songs that are familiar.  Isaac will know that he belongs…he might not know yet to what or to whom…but someday, again with the help of the church, he will know that he belongs in body and in soul, in life and in death to his faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

We have been created for Christ.  We are not our own.  We belong to Christ.  This is our greatest challenge and our greatest hope as Christians.  As the church of Jesus Christ, may we share this challenging and comforting message with all those who are hungry for a place, and a people, and a meaningful relationship with the Divine.  May we share this message and this hope that we belong.

Now to this great God to whom we belong, be all honor and glory, thanksgiving and power, now and forevermore.  Amen.

[1] Postema, Don, Space for God, page 36.

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