August 15, 2021. Series on Colossians
Proverb 17:19-24, Colossians 2:6-7, 3:15-17; 4:2-18, Matthew 11:25-30
We have reached the last sermon of our series on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
The overarching theme is that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all! And because Jesus is Lord of all:
We need not fear, for Jesus has liberated us from all powers, He has set us free, He is all in all, and therefore we focus on things that are above. We forgive, for we have been forgiven. We love for we are loved. We have been transformed therefore we live with an openness that newness is possible for all. The letter to the Colossians is a powerful witness to Christ and God’s love shown to humankind. In spite that this letter was written about 1966 years ago, it still is remarkably relevant!
After reading this letter and discussing it for many Sundays, one could now ask the question: What now? What do we do with this message? What is our response to the truth that Christ is Lord of all?
The Colossians letter makes no secret about what our response ought to be: words like joy, gratitude, and thanksgiving capture the essence of a faithful response to God’s actions in Christ. Every single time that there is a reference to Jesus as Lord, it is followed by a call to the congregation to be thankful, to sing with joy, and to thank God for God’s work in Christ.
The old church-fathers understood that being thankful includes singing God’s praises. As a matter of fact, scholars agree that Colossians 1:15-20 is an ancient hymn to sing praises to Him who is Lord of all. In 2:6 the Apostle writes: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus as the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
People who really understand the essence of what Jesus did, are filled with peace, joy and gratitude. Chapter 4:2 adds that prayer and thanksgiving go together. One of the most important verses are Col. 3:15-17: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body”. You know this verse from our communion liturgy. This verse means that the peace that God gives takes care of our wellbeing, it quiets our worrying hearts, and it gives purpose to our lives. God’s peace and deep gratitude go hand in hand.
We know that grateful people want to do something in return to show their gratitude: They buy flowers when they are invited for dinner, we write a note to thank someone for a gift, we smile, we give a tip at a restaurant to thank the waiter for her good service.
We show our gratitude for God’s love, forgiveness and grace in many ways too: we study the Bible, we pray, we come to church, we give of our time, talents, and treasures, we serve others, we love our neighbor, we are compassionate. These and many other responses show that we understand and are grateful for what God did for us and continues to do for us.
According to this letter gratitude is expressed in one more way – singing of psalms, hymn and spiritual songs. Song and music are able to express emotions and feelings that are hard to express in words. Singing enables us as a congregation to praise God together! Yes, our faith journey is a journey that we travel together. We need each other, we strengthen, encourage, and support each other – and we sing God’s praises together.
I recently read an article in the NY Times about churches providing virtual worship services during the pandemic. It expresses appreciation but warns that worship is meant to be done together! We will continue to provide virtual services for our homebound people and those who are out of town. But I think that worshiping together, singing, praying, confessing our sins, and affirming our faith, these are meant to be done collectively and together. So, I am grateful to see that people, who are not homebound, are returning to in-person-worship services.
The Apostle Paul says that we should sing with “gratitude in our hearts”. This means a gratitude that is expressed with everything we are, with heart and soul, with our entire lives, our whole being.
It is fascinating that modern research confirms that people who live with gratitude are not only happier, they live longer, they have better relationships, they are healthier, and they are more pleasant to be with!
Harvard Medical School published an article about gratitude and points out that with gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process people recognize that the source of goodness lies, at least partially, outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power. The same article points out that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. The Proverbs 17:22 says the same in a slightly different way: “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.”
Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude). Here is an interesting observation: Our communion liturgy says this: “we come in remembrance (past), we have communion (present) and we come in hope (future)”. What an assurance of God’s trustworthiness? God who was faithful in the past, is so now and will be in the future!
In Colossians singing God’s praises is a way of showing our gratitude for God’s love of us. Singing jubilant hymns with a grateful heart is what we do as people who are in awe of God. Singing God’s praises is a way to witness to the world in order that everyone sees our joy and gratitude for God’s liberation from the power of darkness. It expresses gratitude that God in Christ transferred us into the Kingdom God.
It is a well-known fact that people were attracted to the early protestant worship services because they were fascinated by the joyfulness with which the people sang hymns and spiritual songs. They sensed their gratitude, their awe, their joy, and they wanted to be part of that communion.
We, at CCRC are blessed with gifted musicians and a rich music program. Our choirs and musicians help us to express our gratitude in song. And this is exactly how it should be – for God has done marvelous things.
It is fitting that we close this series on Colossians with communion. For communion of course helps us to not only hear the good news of God’s love of humankind shown in Christ; we now are able to see it, smell it and taste it in the form of bread and juice. So when we take the bread, and we taste the juice, they remind us that we may sing a new song for God has blessed us with God’s unimaginable love! May God gives us a deep sense of gratitude, joy, peace, for Jesus is the Lord of All. Amen.