Putting Down Roots

July 24, 2022; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
Proper 12 C. Parable of Friend at Midnight.jpg

Putting Down Roots in Christ

 

Rev. Kurt Lantz Proper 12 C Colossians 2:6-19

July 24, 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).

 

 

This is the third Sunday in a row when our Epistle Reading has come from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. It is not a very long letter and it would be beneficial for you to sit down and read it all the way through a few times this month. Two Sundays ago you heard that God has brought your life into Christ through faith, as if He moved you from one house to another, from life in your sinful flesh and the wicked world, to life in Christ. And living in Christ has its effect on you, just as the neighbourhood where you live and the state of your house have their effect on your life.

 

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). He has moved us into a new home. This life that we have in Christ is a move up. “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” (vv. 21-22).

 

Having been moved into Christ, it is now time to put down roots. When we move our family into new community (perhaps because we have to be relocated for work, or find a larger house for our growing family, or find a more affordable place because of the changing economy), everything feels a little strange and foreign and not quite at home until, as they say, we put down some roots. Like a transplanted tree has to send down roots into the new soil if it is going to thrive, we need to put down roots in our community if we our life there is going to feel like home. We do that when we find a regular place to do our shopping, when we take walks through the neighbourhood and chat with the neighbours, when we go to community events, find a local doctor and dentist and school, instead of driving back to the old neighbourhood for those things.

 

In our life in Christ, St. Paul also encourages us to put down roots in Him. We have moved. There is no changing that fact. The heavenly Father has relocated us from the domain of the darkness of sin and death and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. Now its time to put down roots in Christ and not be drawn back to the old evil neighbourhood, pining away for our former lusts and sinful desires, and occasionally sneaking a trip back, trying to keep an attachment to the old familiar.

 

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (2:6-7). You can hear the sense of permanence and stability in the use of Paul’s words: rooted, built up, established. This isn’t an occasional trip as if going to church on Sunday is your habitual time to visit the heavenly Father. That has it backward. You don’t live at the old home and come to visit the new place every once in a while. You have moved. Put down some roots.

 

For the danger, Paul says, is that someone from the old neighbourhood will take you captive. One day when you go back for a visit to the old haunts, you’re going to be abducted and put into the slavery of human trafficking. That is the devil’s operation in his domain of darkness. He will hold you captive in your sins, coercing you with guilt, blackmailing you with shame, in order to get you to do his bidding, to satisfy his depraved desires and cravings to see you stuck in the sinful slime of your sins.

 

And it is not always obvious how he does that. He uses philosophy, the love of wisdom, your desire to be smarter than everyone else. He offers you new ways of thinking about things and a different way to look at the world than what the Word of God lays out for you. That trickster will trap you with traditions made up by sinful men and passed on through generations and cultures so far that they seem to be irrefutable truths, engraved in the geological strata eons ago, but scrawled there with human hands and not inscribed by the nail-scarred hands of Christ, the eternal Son of God.

 

Those hands of the eternal God offer you the stability, security, safety, and love of having been moved by God out of the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His Son. His are not the violent hands of evil men. His are not the greedy hands of selfish sinners. His are the hands that were nailed to a cross in order to save you from the clutches of Satan, from the captivity of your sins, from the domain of death.

 

In those hands that were nailed to the cross for you, in that body that hung beaten and bloody unto death for you, “In Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (v. 9). If you are looking for something strong and secure and stable for your life and the life of your family, how about moving into Christ in whom the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily? All of the majesty, power, might, glory, and yes all of the love of God dwells there. Even as He hung dead on the cross, the whole fullness of God was there in His body. God died for you. God’s life was given in exchange for your own. God lives with you only in Christ.

 

We know because He is the one who rose from the dead. He is the one whom death could not hold. He is the one whom the devil could not defeat. He is the one who could and did bring salvation for all of mankind in that body of His. This is where God has moved you, into Christ where the whole fullness of the deity dwells bodily for your salvation, “and you have been filled in Him” (v. 10). You have everything you need there to abundance. You have all the safety and security and stability and love that you could ever want or hope or need. It is all there for you where you have been moved, into Christ.

 

You can cut ties with the old neighbourhood. St. Paul explained that to the Colossians in another manner of cutting that they were quite familiar with. He wrote: “In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by stripping off the body of flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” (v. 11). Now you don’t want to think about that too hard, but it made the point in a first century Christian church that arose out of the Jewish synagogues. All of that old life of sin has been cut away, stripped off of you, not through any painful, bloody suffering of your own, but through that which Christ underwent for you.

 

We don’t have to undergo any such painful, bloody ritual because the whole fullness of the deity underwent it for us in the body of Christ. Now God just pours out its benefits upon us in Baptism: “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (v. 12). In Baptism God’s almighty power works in us. The same power that filled the body of Jesus to raise Him from the dead has given us new life. And we need have no doubts that not even death will take this new life away from us. The same power that raised Jesus is at work in us and will raise our bodies, too.

 

It is time to put down some roots in Christ, to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith so that no one takes you captive again. God has saved you from that. He rescued you from that old neighbourhood of sin and death and made you alive together with Christ Jesus, forgiving all your trespasses, cancelling out the record of your sins, removing every hold and leverage with which the devil might try to hold you in his clutches and blackmail you with his threats. It has all been taken away by Jesus, who nailed it to the cross so that you would know that He has suffered the full punishment for all of those things for you.

 

He has paid all your debts, and in so doing He has exposed the devil and all sinful people who have ever tried to extort you. He has revealed them to be the shameful, depraved, cowards that they are. He has triumphed over them for you, revealed their pitiful degenerate corruption to you, and given you His victory over them. He has heard the prayer that He taught us to pray and delivered us from evil.

 

So put down your roots in Christ. Don’t let anyone draw you back into the old neighbourhood of sin and death. Hold fast to Jesus who feeds and nourishes you to be rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith. He has watered you in Holy Baptism. He fertilizes you through His Word. He feeds you His own body and blood (that body in which the whole fullness of the deity dwells). Think about that as hard and as long as you can. That is how you walk in Christ. That is how you lay down roots in His gracious love and mercy toward you. That is how you are built up in Him and how you will continue to grow in your new life in Christ with a growth that is from God.

 

 

“Grace be with you” (Colossians 4:18).