July 31, 2022——8th Sunday after Pentecost—-Rev. Patrick Mecham
Colossians 3: 1-11; Luke 12; 13-21
I was walking our dog one day when I noticed a man coming toward me on the opposite sidewalk. He stumbled and FELL flat on his face! I rushed across the street to see if he needed help, and he managed to climb back up on his feet just as I got there. He looked back along the smooth sidewalk to see what had tripped him up—and we both saw a clump of concrete that some careless worker had slopped on the sidewalk. He mumbled something about needing to watch where he was going, and then he limped away.
I was kind of shaken up by what had happened to him, and I pictured myself getting tripped up by an unexpected bump on an otherwise smooth path. And, of course, being a preacher, I finished my walk musing on the metaphor for life I had just witnessed. Any of us can get tripped up by an unexpected bump on an otherwise smooth path!
I thought of this event while looking at the scriptures for today (both of which contain warnings regarding things that might trip us up!) I thought it would be interesting to look at them as snares and to explore God’s way of keeping us safe.
Be On Your Guard (Luke 12)
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus says, “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he tells a story about a farmer who had such a large crop that his first thought was to build a bigger barn, and his second thought was to depend on his wealth of possessions. But the story takes a turn, and God informs the man that he is going to die that very night. “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” One’s real life is NOT one’s possessions.
Jesus is talking about greed here—greed that has been described as “a person who is dying of thirst, drinking saltwater.” It just makes them more thirsty.
Someone asked a 19th Century millionaire, “How much money is enough?” Their answer? “Just one more million!”
Greed is just one of the snares that Jesus warns us about.
Paul expands that list in his letter to the church in Colossae.
Seek the Things Above (Colossians 3)
He advises us, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” How do we do this? He suggests that we put to death whatever is earthly (those snares):
- Evil desire
- GREED (there’s that word again), and he describes it as idolatry (worshiping things that we want versus the only One who is worthy of our worship)
Paul says, “Because of these things, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.”
[I just need to say something about “the wrath of God.” It breaks my heart that so many people see God as full of anger and of rejection of them. We need to have a new understanding of God’s wrath. It’s more of a purifying fire that burns for our benefit. God loves us enough to cleanse us.]
Meanwhile, Paul says to get rid of our anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language. He puts it in terms of taking off the clothes of the old ways, then putting on the new clothing (which he describes in the next verses):
- Compassion (feeling with others)
- Kindness (cutting others some slack)
- Humility (realizing everyone else is valuable to God)
- Gentleness (being aware of the needs of others)
- Patience (pretending that you are NOT impatient!)
- Bear with one another, and forgive
- Clothe yourselves with love (Godly love) which binds everything together in perfect harmony
- Jesus says that one’s REAL life is NOT one’s possessions; Paul follows that by saying that one’s REAL life is hidden with Christ in God.
I would like to focus for just a minute on humility (which is one of my best characteristics!) Humility is an attitude—“a mindset that one chooses to adopt.” Here’s an example: a man was looking over an airplane that had skidded off the runway and into the mud. The mechanic that was working on it was whistling away, showing no sign that he was irritated with this situation. When the man asked the mechanic about his sunny disposition while working in yucky conditions, the mechanic answered, “I cannot change the facts. All I have to work with is my attitude—and that I can change.”
An attitude is a mindset that one chooses to adopt. And that attitude shift precedes all other changes! The attitude of humility means that we have a correct, undistorted view of 1. our place in the universe and 2. Our relationship with others and with God. Having an attitude of humility eliminates many of the other snares that may cause us to trip up!
Michael Card shows us the attitude of humility he chooses as a concert musician:
- If I go to a concert hall full of myself, thinking only of what people will think of me—I learn a painful lesson: Thinking about yourself means MESSING UP!
- As I go into my concert, I have a pretty good feel for my ability. I may not be the best musician in the world, but neither am I the worst. What does it matter anyway?! Whatever gifts I have were given to me in the first place, and they aren’t really mine, so I can’t lose. As I begin to play, my energy isn’t wasted on thinking of myself. The point of my playing is to present the message of the song by playing my best with the ability I’ve been given.
- To forget yourself equals the best possible performance. To be free from pointing continually to oneself and instead to point only to Christ—that’s what it means to be hidden in Christ!
I will finish today by directing your attention to this table in front of us. Next week, it is going to be laden with The Lord’s Supper—a reminder of the lengths God is willing to go to in order to save us from the snares. As we accept the new life offered to us in Christ, we can choose to set our minds on things that are above where our REAL life is hidden with Christ.
Prayer: To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.