Hope while We Settle into Christ
Rev. Kurt Lantz Proper 11 C Colossians 1:21-29
July 17, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear saints and faithful brothers in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father (Colossians 1:2).
Well now that you are all moved in, what will life be like in Christ? Yes, the heavenly Father has moved you into the family estate through the loving sacrifice His beloved Son and heir, Jesus Christ. “You who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him” (Colossians 1:21-22).
When you move into a new house in a strange neighbourhood in an unfamiliar city, it is natural that it takes some time to settle in. You have to get used to the changes even though they are good changes. A nice newly upgraded bathroom in the house can make you feel clean and calm, fresh and energized, but if it is not in the same location as the at old place it may cause a moment or more of distress when you get up sleepy and disoriented in the middle of the night. Your muscle memory, which we rely upon in the darkness of our domiciles, may turn you in the wrong direction.
And so it is with our new life in Christ. We have moved. Our heavenly Father has found us out wandering the wicked world and taken us from the disordered, dingy dwelling of our sinful flesh, to move us into His Son, into Christ. But the muscle memory of our sinful flesh keeps turning us in the wrong direction, back to where it is used to going, back to the evil deeds, back to the hostile world, back to alienation from our merciful and gracious God.
But Jesus has reconciled us to the Father. He has sacrificed Himself on the cross for our sins. He has paid our debt fully with the price of His holy body and precious blood. He has shown us the love of our heavenly Father and brought us back. He has washed us and cleansed us and purified us from every stain and spot and scab in order to bring us home in Him.
That is the key, the key to the entrance into our heavenly Father’s home. It is Christ Jesus Himself. He even once said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me he will be saved...” (John 10:9). Our only entrance to the home of our heavenly Father is through Jesus. It is only through Him that we are reconciled with the Father, from whom we alienated ourselves by sinning against Him and against His children.
We all know families and family members who are alienated from one another. Perhaps it is we ourselves that are so alienated. The problem is sin, horrible, terrible sins that have been unacceptable, hurtful, and destructive. Sometimes we don’t see how damaging the sin has been and wonder what the big deal might be. Why are they so upset? Why can’t they get over it? Other times we are all too aware of how much pain the sin has inflicted. How could they ever forgive me? How could I ever forgive them?
But our heavenly Father has desired and longed to be reconciled with us. He doesn’t want any sin to stand in the way of Him sharing His love and care and even His glory with you. He wants everything that stands between you and Him wiped out, washed away, stricken from the record. And so He sent His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become man and to take on our sin, all of it, and all the horror of it. All of the damage of it He suffered on the cross in His body of flesh, not absorbing it by some other-wordly energy, but actually suffering in human flesh right to the point where it took the life out of the divine Son of God.
That is what it took, and so that it is what was done for you. In our earthly families here we often don’t know what it will take to bring about reconciliation. It is often the case that nothing will be an acceptable payment, no amount of pain or suffering will be seen as enough to repair the relationships destroyed by our sins. But God our heavenly Father has had such great love that He was willing, not to pay for any sin on His own part (for He has never sinned against us), but to pay completely and entirely for our sins; not to tell us how much we must suffer in order to make it right, but to suffer Himself through the sacrifice that His Son made in His body of flesh.
In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians he wrote: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church” (Colossians 1:24). He isn’t there referring to some extra sufferings needed to reconcile us to the heavenly Father, as though Jesus did not suffer everything for us. Rather, St. Paul was writing about that disorientation that we experience as those whom the heavenly Father has moved into Christ.
Just like you might stub your toe on a table leg that is not in the same place you remember; or walk into a door frame instead of through the opening when you first move into a new house, so being new to our life in Christ we undergo suffering as we adjust to this new life. It is not suffering to pay for our sins, but pains and hurts that we feel as the wicked world reacts to our new life, not having its hold on us as it did before; and even as estranged family members might continue to inflict sufferings upon us, not seeing that everything for us and for them has been atoned for in Christ.
This is why our move into Christ remains a mystery. It is a reality that we cannot yet fully see, cannot yet fully comprehend, in which we are not yet fully oriented. It is a mystery how the love of God would reach out to sinners like us, and so we have difficulty living as the children of God. It is a mystery that Jesus suffered everything for us in His body of flesh. It is a mystery that Christ is in us and that we live in Him in a very real way (so that we have His holiness and righteousness, we are blameless and above reproach before God, we are safe and secure from a wicked world, we are forgiven for all of our evil deeds).
There is another picture of this new life adjustment in the Gospel reading for today (Luke 10:38-42). As Mary and Martha were adjusting to their new life in Christ, forgiven and cleansed and purified, there arose some contention between the two of them. Mary sat at Jesus feet living in the one thing needful, in Him. Martha was distracted with how things used to be in her old life whenever an honored guest came into their home.
Being in Christ through faith, Christians have both love for all the saints and hope for the promised things laid up in heaven. It is this hope that is at work in us even through the sufferings and pains of adjusting to life in Christ. We are in Him. We are safe and secure. We are forgiven and holy. And our hope is for the day when Christ comes again, when we will see the things that we hope for, the hope of glory, our maturity in Christ.
Jesus has reconciled you with the Father in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before Him. Through the preaching of this Gospel and the giving of the gifts of Jesus, He is at work to settle you into life in Him. Like becoming at home in a new house, or the adolescent getting used to his increasing height and bigger feet, Jesus is at work in every one of us that every one of us might be presented mature in Christ, complete, fulfilled, having reached the end goal. This is our hope.
Think of that day, when the heavenly Father and you come face to face, having been reconciled through Jesus Christ. This is what we hope for. This is the mystery, already revealed yet not fully comprehended. We know it is a wonderful and glorious thing, but we have no idea how wonderful and glorious it will be.
It is as if suddenly everything was okay between you and the estranged family. I mean, absolutely everything has been worked out. There is nothing standing between you anymore, and there is a day coming when you will see each other in that fully restored relationship. You will excitedly drive up their street, and anxiously get out of the car and go to the front door. And suddenly it will open wide and a great embrace will overwhelm you and take your breath away.
That is our hope of the things laid up in heaven which is ours only in Christ, only because we now live in Christ. Our alienated life is no more. The love of the Father has wiped everything out and cleansed and perfected us through Christ, in the body of His flesh. The hope laid up for us in heaven is to be at home with the Father, resting in His love forever.
Grace be with you.