Last Sunday of the Church Year, C. - Colossians 1:11-20

Colossians 1:11-20 (NIV)

11 being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of light. 13 For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

 

          When New Zealand declared war on Germany on the 3rd September in 1939 young men volunteered for active service – to wear the uniform and represent the King against his enemies. More broadly speaking, the young men wanted to represent the British Empire, their nation and families and stand up against the common oppressive enemy.

          My two uncles, on my mum’s side of the family, according to family tradition, volunteered to serve King, Empire and country in World War II by wearing the King’s uniform. They went to the recruiting office to undergo their medical examination – only healthy specimens of Kiwi male youth were accepted for military service.

          Neither of my uncles could meet the standard of medical health demanded. One had poor eyesight (you needed good eyesight to see the dangers on the battlefield and to aim your weapons).

The other uncle had a poisoned big toe (you needed to be able to march, charge and engage your enemy – you can’t do that with a crippled foot). Both were rejected, because they did not measure up to the standard of good health demanded, and were disqualified from active service.

          Jesus had said that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven one must, as we read in Matthew 5:48 (ESV), 48… be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

None of us would have been accepted into the Kingdom of heaven because none of us are perfect – we don’t, on our own, meet the requirements of the Kingdom of God. We were disqualified – that is until our Baptism – that is until Jesus intervened with God on our behalf.

My uncles were, however, accepted to help defend New Zealand when they were received into the uniform of the Home Guard when they were called to do so.

They wore the King’s uniform and represented New Zealand on home territory – not as “Dad’s Army” but as soldiers who would defend their families and community should they be threatened. They worked on the “home-front”.

          God calls us all to work on the “home-front”. None of us are qualified, none of us being perfect, to represent God before He opened the way for us to the possibilities He has in store for us through Jesus Christ.

Jesus gives us the uniform of righteousness, not counting our physical, spiritual and emotional inadequacies against us. Even the stains of sin are wiped clean by Jesus for us so that we can stand on parade in God’s presence and then too stand in the presence of opposition to the demonic forces arrayed against us and say, “Jesus is Lord!”

“Jesus is Lord” is stated in our actions and values expressed in the life choices we make and the love we share – love which challenges inappropriate attitudes and behaviours with gentleness and truth – God’s truth.

Our need for strength to meet the powers of evil which threaten from the world and from Satan's kingdom of darkness has been supplied.

We have a commanding officer whose been to the battle front and returned victorious. Jesus shows us the way. It’s all in His Word to us in the Bible – ready for us to volunteer, wear the uniform, even though we don’t always fit it properly and to be trained in righteousness.

          Jesus’ power and capability are given to us in His command with the power to endure. This power is joyfully experienced, and thanksgiving ensues from our radical rescue from the darkness of evil into the light shared by the saints.

When we who have not measured up to the perfection God demands are sought out and found by Jesus for service in His Kingdom there is great joy – as Jesus said in Luke 15:7 (ESV) Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

          The need you have for Jesus’ forgiveness is met by what Christ has done for you on the cross. He interceded with God for each of you. As Hanna Schulz says when she quotes Jesus in her devotion in ‘God’s Peace for each Day’ (LCA, Openbook, 2005) based on the alternative Gospel reading for today, ‘Forgive them, Father! They don’t know what they are doing.’ (Luke 23:32-34a)

Hanna says:

“As He was in agony on the cross, being ridiculed and mocked, Jesus still loved those around Him. Although dying physically, He had compassion for those around Him who were already spiritually dead and blind, as He cried out to His Father for their forgiveness.

In that cry is the essence of the cross – Jesus dying to give you life. When you are blind to your actions, inflicting pain on yourself and those around you, Jesus is right there, crying out for forgiveness on your behalf, paying the price for you. He also opens your eyes to see the death inside of you. As the criminal on the cross beside Jesus said, he was getting what he (and you) deserved. Jesus was not. Yet to you Jesus also turns when you cry ‘Remember me!’, and He promises that you will be with Him in paradise.”

          Christ on the cross accomplished this for you – your redemption and forgiveness. All because of God’s love - love for you and me.
This is the truth of it.

We cannot get around the righteousness God demands otherwise He is not true to His Word and His justice means nothing. That’s why the cross is essential for our salvation. We accept all or nothing of what God tells us is true and right.

Salvation is at stake if the Gospel is set aside for an altered belief system which doesn’t include the offence of the cross of Christ. St Paul brings this into focus in his letter to the Colossian Christians and to us. He cares deeply for the faith and wellbeing of those who follow Christ.

Unfortunately, there are false teachers who will lead us to look to ourselves instead of looking to Jesus. These false teachers compete for our attention tempting us to look outside of Jesus and His Word for our salvation.

Jesus is the only one who can overcome this evil which works against God’s Kingdom in the local congregation and individual hearts and lives of those who have been Baptised.

In the background, Paul prayed fervently for the Colossian Christians who were being tempted with false teachings. We we pray for each other too – in the Sunday Divine Service, in our prayer vigils and privately - for strength to resist the false teachers of today - praying that the truth of the salvation of Jesus will continue to be believed and lived out in daily life until Christ returns in glory.

          If you don’t think you are vulnerable to the false teachers check out with Luther’s Small Catechism how you stand on living the 10 commandments – what do you accept in your life which is not in accord with the standard of holiness Jesus died for and wants for you?

What have you accepted from the false teachers in the world today, who like those who tried to lead Colossian Christians into seeking 'fullness' through a range of spiritual thrones, dominions and powers that supposedly stretch between earth and heaven?

Read Colossians chapters three and four and examine your attitudes and values against what Paul says the attitudes and values of the Christian should be.

         St Paul always directs us back to the only understanding on which true faith can rest – Jesus!. 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

          Jesus is the “Truth” who meets all our needs. He was before the created order of the universe and active in the initial creation itself and ever since. '…all the fullness of God dwells in Him' and through Him alone reconciliation and peace was freely granted through the blood of the cross.

          This is why He wants you in His ‘home-guard’ the forefront of His mission here in your homes, workplaces and community – in Whitiora, in Hamilton and New Zealand.

          We, as church, may be a bit like the comical “Dad’s Army” of the Christian Home Guard with what appears to be inadequate resources, inadequate spiritual armour, somewhat doddery and incompetent but God has called each of us to train together for service in His Kingdom.

We all have a place in God’s creation and Kingdom here on earth and a place in His new creation, the Kingdom in Heaven, when Jesus declares the final victory.

          Amen.