Trinity's Sermon from Sunday

Redemption a sermon on Colossians 3:12-17
Joe Cailles, pastor Trinity UMC
March 18, 2018, The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Colossians 3:12-17
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.
And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I hadn’t been here in Lexington for too long before I noticed the “Righteous and Rascals of Rockbridge” pavers set in the sidewalks up and down Main Street and Washington and Nelson Streets. The Rockbridge Historical Society put these story stones in place to celebrate the “iconic and eccentric lives which shaped four centuries of Rockbridge History.” Each brick has a name, a date and a short description of what made that person righteous or a rascal. The Historical society says they are “artists and educator, generals and governors, saviors and streakers, businesswoman and con men, preachers,” and 2 famous hometown horses: Little Sorrell and Traveller.
My favorite person on the pavers is both righteous and a rascal: Mary McDowell Greenlee who was: the first white woman settler in the area, a tavern keeper, a feisty and eccentric lady, and she was also thought to be a witch. Using her crazy reputation for the cause of righteousness, she rescued a young girl who had been abducted by Native Americans. When she died at age 102, it was written of her: “Mary Greenlee died of late; straight she went to heaven’s gate. But Abram met her with a club and knocked her back to Beelzebub.”
Righteous and a rascal, if that’s the qualification for getting a name on one of those bricks, then I certainly qualify. There is plenty of evidence in my life story to mark me both as righteous and a rascal.
These Sundays in Lent we have been exploring what our faith and our Bible show us of God’s redemption, which is God’s gracious act of drawing us out of the darkness and back into the righteous light. Last week we explored forgiveness and how the forgiveness God offers each one of s fill us so that we can extend forgiveness to those who trespass against us. Forgiveness is never meant to diminish the harm done, nor to put our relationship back to the status quo. Forgiveness from God and for one another resurrects us and recreates us so that the pain and the power of sin is dead, and we have an entirely new way of being with God and with one another. We are reconciled to God and to one another.
And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could say, I am redeemed and forgiven by God. I am forgiving of others. Done and done! All is well, and all will be well forever and ever. What our faith and our scriptures remind us is that our redemption, our lives with Jesus Christ, are journeys with plenty of righteousness and victories and “I once was lost but now I’m found” moments but also our lives have missed opportunities, back sliding, “I once was found but now I’m lost again” moments. Like Mary Greenlee and me, we are all both righteous and sinful rascals.
The good news is that God’s redemption is a steady river in our lives. We will often swim against, we will fight it, but then we can also let the river of redemption carry us back to God and back to God’s beloved community.
Our passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians today gives us some solid guidance on what a redeemed, reconciled life looks like. As best we can tell today, Paul never visited the churches of the Colossians. He’s writing as a Christian believer to other Christians about how to better live as a Christian person and in a Christian community.
Paul writes, clothe yourselves with compassion and kindness and humility and meekness and patience. Be thankful to God, and bear with one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you.
Paul doesn’t really go into specifics about what the Colossians need to forgive one another. But in just about all his letters to all the different churches forgiveness and reconciliation come up. A lot. In his letter to the Christians in Rom, Paul reminds both the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians that though their Christian faith began in different ways, they are to be united in their Christian faith now. Within the churches in Corinth, the wealthy Christians and the poor Christians are at odds. Paul reminds them that though they have economic differences, they are now all of them together united in the Body of Christ.
It would seem that since the beginning of our Christian faith we Christians need to be reminded that we will disagree with each other, and we will trespass against each other, and though we fall short in living the ways we want to live, and the ways God would have us live, God is willing and able to bring us back together with each other and back with God. Within the Christian church community, God lets us begin again with each other and with God and that’s the key to our faith and to our lives together and with God. We’re going to make mistakes and then we’re goin to let God heal us and redeem us and reconcile us.
I said a few weeks ago that one of the characteristics others have of us church folks is that we’re too judgmental and hypocritical. We talk about following Christ and loving everyone but in practice we don’t do that consistently, some of us don’t do that at all. Perhaps we in the church get caught up in that too, those misguided assumptions that in order to be here, we have to be practically perfect people, like some super Christian Mary Poppins. Let’s confess it, so many find going to church such a problem because we have to put on the “church” clothes and “church” faces and “church” attitudes that all is well. Too many folks think the price of admission here is that we don’t really have to be here because we’re already living our best lives. “My life is great. My family is great. My faith is great.”
But this we know, just below the surface of the superficial “church” clothes, life is hard. We’re messy and uncertain and often times we’re unhappy. We say stupid stuff; we hurt ourselves and one another, and we let pride prevent us from making reconciling with those around us. On the surface we present as happy clappy, but in our souls in our real lives, not so much.
The great good news of Jesus Christ is that he genuinely welcomed each and every person he met where they were in life: imperfect, broken, messy, and alienated from God and from each other, and from their better selves. Jesus Christ offered them redemption: a new life and a better way of being.
And the great good news is that the Holy Spirit of Jesus does the same for all of us today. We can be real and genuine with Christ. We don’t have to deny the darkness we’re wrestling with. Just the opposite because just as soon as we name our sin and name our trespasses, and name all the stuff we’re dealing with then that’s when Christ begins to heal us, That’s when redemption begins.
And as we are real and genuine with Christ about what we need, then we can be genuine and real with each other about our faith, our joys and our struggles, our victories and our setbacks. That’s where the real church, true, authentic church begins.
I have a good life here. I love my family and love my ministry here with you all. But I worry about my kids and how to be a good father to them. And I do not always get it right. Same with being a husband and a son and a friend. And I know there are days when I’m a pretty good pastor and days when I am not. I see “perfect” parents and “perfect” pastors and I compare myself to them all the time, mostly coming up way short. Mostly, not always! We all do that; it’s real and genuine.
Our faith and our lives with each other are meant to be real and genuine for good and for bad. That means we celebrate our victories together, and we share our burdens together. To be real and genuine in the faith is also to risk hurting one another and being hurt by each other. That feels awful on all sides. Through the years and years this congregation spent planning and deciding about our building, there have been hurt feelings and disagreements about what was the best way forward for us. And some of us still have that hurt. As our denomination continues our 46 year old discussion on LGBTQ people, there are trespasses and arrogance and pride on all sides.
What Christ invites us to do, Trinity and United Methodists, is to do what Paul writes: clothe ourselves not in the practically perfect, superficial, artificial church clothes but to clothe ourselves with compassion and kindness and humility and meekness and patience. What Christ invites us to do is to bear with one another, forgive one another, and let real genuine love flow from God to each of our souls and from our souls to one another and together let the redeeming love flow out into world.
During this season of Lent we have considered all the wonderful ways Christ draws us out of the darkness and into the light. Most all of us go back and forth throughout our life.
Fear not, hear the good news, Christ is with us, his redeeming love surrounds us always, clothing us in his love and mercy and patience and humility so that we can love God, love one another, and love the world around us.  Thanks be to God.