Lectionary Sermon for Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Colossians 1:15-28    In Just Four Words

There is a classic book, a novel, with the title Jane Eyre.  It is a novel that is still often read today and upon which several films have been made.  It is a story of a young girl’s life journey through trial and tribulation.  It is a story that is filled with overcoming all kinds of suffering and hardship.  However, after the reader has gone through Jane’s agonies and struggles, her torturous wrestling between heart and conscience the readers of this novel must be satisfied with the final resolution summed up in words, “And I married him.”

Yet, in those four words, we find how Jane views the future with joy and the fulfillment of life.  A simple sentence, four simple words indicating an action that gives the reader confidence in Jane’s future happiness.

It is really amazing what putting four words together in a sentence can do. As I was preparing this sermon, I tried to think of some other four-word sentences: The shock in Star wars, “I am your father.”  The sarcasm of the great coach Vince Lombardi when he told his team they must get back to basics, “This is a football.”  The ignorant arrogance of some who says, “What could go wrong?” The fear that comes when someone answers the phone and hears the words, “This is the IRS.”  Yes, four short words put together can be quite expressive.

Are there four words that could sum capture the future hopes you might have in our unstable world?  Four words that would indicate that you will have happiness, you will have fulfillment.  I do not know about you, but I have.  And what four words are those?  “And I found Him.” 

Of course, that begs the question who?  The answer is Jesus, another short four-letter sentence.  Because I met Jesus I know where my future lies.  Because I met Jesus, I do have hope.  Because of Jesus, I know God is with me.  Because I met Jesus my life has been changed.  I have been forgiven.  I have been called.  I have been blessed.  I have been helped.  I have been lifted.  But most of all, I have been loved.  Four words put together that says so much about what Jesus has done for me. 

I was sinking deep in sin far from the peaceful shore, very deeply stained within sinking to rise no more.  But the master of the sea heard my despairing cry, and from the waters lifted me now safe am I. Hymns also can be used to tell our story.

This passage today is a hymn and a commentary.  Scholars pretty much universally agree that verses 15 through 20 are the words of one of the earliest hymns in the church.  Paul uses these verses to speak to a church that needs to be called back to the reason they exist, back for the purpose of their being called, back to the basics which remind us that everything they are or ever can come from one source, one person, one God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Listen to what this hymn tells us, “He is the First, He is the creator, He is the power.”  Verse 17, literally Jesus is the will, the energy, the reason that holds our molecules in place, He is one who is not limited by time but time exists only because He wills.  It is His church, not mine, not yours, even the term ours needs qualifying in terms of the ultimate head.

Verse 19 tells us He was God, not just a skin covering hiding God, not just a supreme being that morphed into a human-type visage but God, God incarnate, God who came to serve rather than to be served.  Verse 20, this hymn tells us why we can hope.  It tells us what we know.  It speaks to us about reconciliation, about peace God offers through his death on the cross.

Do I like it that Jesus died for me?  No, I do not.  I do not like the fact that I was so ignorant, so arrogant, so selfish, so foolish, so deceived that I would violate the very law of God written on my heart and so became a child of the devil rather than a child of the Light.  No, I do not like knowing that Jesus died on the cross for me, that he went through the suffering he endured for me, the darkness and separation He took upon Himself for me, and that He, my Lord, and my God descended into Hell to the taunts of the demons and the laughter of the deceiver for me.  No, I do not like that, but that does not change the fact that it is true.

How do we describe such reality?  What words could possibly capture what has been communicated through this hymn?  What is being said?  What can explain why Jesus did this?  A four-letter sentence, “Because I love you.”  Jesus tells me time and time again, I love you.  I love you. 

In verses 21-28 we have a commentary given to us by Paul about this hymn.  He writes to us about what God desires for us.  He writes to us about his own suffering, his own pain.  Paul was doing this for himself.  Oh, what was he going to get?  Would this behavior make him rich?  No, but telling people it was a hoax would have.  Did it give him power?  No, in every church there were those who worked to undermine his influence, and even as he writes this letter he does so from within the chains and walls of a prison.  Why did Paul go through what he went through? 

Paul did what he did because the gospel he preached was the truth.  He did so because the resurrected Jesus came to him and called him. The same Jesus who spoke to Paul is in this room right now.  He comes to us and calls to us if we will but listen with our hearts.  He speaks to us through his word, through his messengers, through this world.  He speaks to our soul.  He speaks to everyone.  He gives us all the opportunity to know him. 

The problem is not with Jesus’s communication skills.  The problem is with our listening.  Do you want Jesus to talk to you as he did with Paul, then ask Him?  I stand as a witness and with the promise of Scripture if you ask and really do want to hear you will.  Jesus said: Revelation 3:20 Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.  And he says in: Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.  So if you don’t find Jesus it is not because He is not trying to be heard or found.  Maybe the problem lies elsewhere!

An old man was wondering if his wife had a hearing problem. So one night, he stood behind her while she was sitting in her lounge chair. He spoke softly to her, “Honey, can you hear me?” There was no response.  He moved a little closer and said again, “Honey, can you hear me?” Still, there was no response.  Finally, he moved right behind her and said, “Honey, can you hear me?”  She replied, “For the third time, Yes!”  Sometimes we let our doubts-desires, as well as delusions-deceptions, make so much noise in our lives they drown out the still small voice of God speaking to us. 

Look if you would at verses 27 & 28.  Verse 27 speaks of what God wants.  Verse 28 is what God expects.  What God wants is for us to have hope for hope is the mind of faith.  What God expects: we may present everyone perfect in Christ (NIV).  CEB translation of the Bible has the word mature.  Word is teleos.  It’s the goal, the end, the ability to say at life’s close, “And I found Him.”