Saturday, November 20, 2010

Colossians 1.13-20 - Sermon for 11/21/10 - Special Delivery

I have an acquaintance who has a special relationship with a delivery man. She becomes very excited when she sees the UPS truck drive up. Maybe you do too. There's no telling what you might be receiving, especially if someone else sent something to you. And over a period of time, maybe fairly quickly if you receive a lot of packages like I do, the delivery person who brings things to your door meets you sometimes and sees that you receive a lot of books, or maybe a lot of glassware, or museum replica swords, or pieces of furniture.  This lady I know becomes very very excited when she sees the UPS truck pull up. In fact, she puts down whatever she is doing, meets the delivery man on the porch, gives him a hug and a kiss, and brings him into the house for a cookie or a piece of cake.  It's all right, he's her son. She's glad to see him because she has had a special relationship with him since before he knew it.

What do we read about our Savior in Colossians 1? We see that he is delivering us, moving us from one place to another. We are the delivery, he is the deliverer. We are being transferred from darkness, evil, sin and death. Our destination? It's into God's kingdom.  To do this our Lord packages us in redemption. He forgives our sins.

What kind of a Lord is able to do this? He is certainly some sort of a special delivery agent, right? This is not something the UPS driver can do.  Neither can FedEx.  The U.S. Postal Service can't either. Only God can do this. Only our Lord and Savior can deliver us from sins by giving us forgiveness. Only Jesus Christ can redeem us from sin. He's the only one who can rescue us from languishing in sin, sitting at our former address, boxed up, in the dark and left out to rot. It's only Jesus who is able to do this, because he is the one who created all things. He created us, our world, our sustenance, even the things that we use to separate ourselves from God. He is the one who created everything that we use to take God's place in our lives, whether it is food, drink, money, health, anything we set up as a god to worship and serve. Our Lord created all this, for his own use, not for our use, but for his own use. How does Jesus use the things of this world? He uses them for our good. He uses them to strengthen us. He uses them to deliver us safely into his kingdom.

This is a special delivery indeed. Yet the news of this passage in Colossians simply keeps getting better the farther we read.  What confidence can we have in Jesus' ability to deliver us from death to life? We can have 100% complete confidence, lacking nothing, that our Lord is able to accomplish his purpose.  In verse 17 we saw that "he is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (ESV).  There is no stopping the Lord who is actually in charge of everything. There is no stopping our Lord's sovereignty.

Now I know this is a foreign concept to many in our culture. I've even had an interesting discussion with fellow Lutherans about this very thing. People will point out that Calvinists see the world through the lens of God's sovereignty and Lutherans view the world through the lens of God's incarnation in Jesus.  This is quite true. It is entirely right. I've been called a Calvinist by Calvinists who know what a Calvinist is. Of course I've quietly but steadfastly denied being a Calvinist as well. But I know this. Calvinists are quite right in some things. One of those things is that God is completely, utterly, sovereign. There is no stopping God's sovereign rule over his creation. They are right.  They are wrong in viewing this as the starting point of their theology, but they are quite right that a God who is not sovereign is no God at all. God is really in command of all creation. That includes you and me and everything around us.  God's sovereignty tells us without a shadow of a doubt that our Lord is able to care for us through every situation we find ourselves in. Our Lord is not challenged by anybody or anything. Our Lord does not hesitate, he does not wonder if he's powerful enough, he does not doubt in anything. He simply cares for all his creation. "He is before all things."

We could leave it there. It wouldn't be wasted time to spend the rest of the afternoon, the rest of the week, the rest of our lives meditating on how great and mighty our Lord is.  But I think we should look at one more idea that emerges in this passage.  I know some people in the congregation have heard enough and have checked out. They are going to think about how good the Lord is. And that's fine. But if you haven't checked out entirely yet, I want to point to just one more feature of our passage in Colossians today.

This is an important factor when we receive a delivery.  When I receive a package, what do I do with it? Do I add it to a stack of all the other packages I have ever received, which is gradually swelling to fill my entire house? I put it aside so when I become old and die my children can come and take the pile of unopened packages and add them to their own piles of packages?  Nonsense! What do we do with a package? We open it. We want to see what is in it. Or if we already know what is in it, it's probably something we were anticipating having and using. It's something we intended to receive. We open the box and see what's inside.

We have already seen that Jesus delivers us from death to life. Yet we continue to see Jesus delivering something to us.  What then does Jesus deliver to us? What's in the box? Look at verses 19-20. Jesus delivers himself to us.  Again, this is no idle promise. It is no little gift. It is no token. Not at all. Because "in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell" (v. 19, ESV).

When Jesus delivers himself to us in Word and Sacrament, he is delivering God almighty to his people.  When Jesus delivers himself to us in Word and Sacrament there is nothing else that we can need or want. When Jesus delivers himself to us in Word and Sacrament we become partakers of his divine nature. We are no longer our own, we are no longer the old man, all things have become new. The old has passed away. Our nature is changed to conform to his nature. Our sinfulness has become the righteousness of God in Christ. Jesus delivers himself. Jesus delivers the fullness of God.

I used to ask this to my fellow elders and other pastors in the broadly evangelical church body I was formerly involved in. Here's the question. "Why do we go to church?"  It's an interesting question, isn't it?  Uniformly those genuine, serious, devoted Christian leaders would affirm that we go to church to bring our service to God. We come to offer our worship to our Lord. Even the Calvinists affirmed that we were making an offering to the Lord, giving him our service.  I don't know, maybe some of you said that as well. And there is an element of that. We do bring thanksgiving and praise to our Lord. There's no doubt about it.  But did you ever wonder why we call this the "divine service"?  It is because in the "Gottesdienst" we recognize that we are receiving from the Lord. God is delivering himself to us throughout the divine service. It's about our Lord delivering life and salvation to us. It's all about God delivering God to his people. That's why we go to church. That's why we gather. We gather in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We receive from him during the service from beginning to end. At the end of the service I'll use the triune blessing to proclaim that our Lord's blessing is on you. Once I've done that, really, I've done all I can and said all that is useful. We receive from our Lord. There's nothing better I can bring to a meeting that an expectation that the Lord will deliver himself to us.

How does our Lord do this? In verse 20 we see that he reconciles all things to himself. We don't reconcile ourselves to him. We don't reconcile him to us. God doesn't reconcile himself to us. No, he changes us. He reconciles us to him. Again, we see God's mighty power at work. He is the actor. We are the ones acted upon. Our Lord is drawing us, and not only us, but "all things" to himself.  How does he do it? He gives himself. He makes "peace by the blood of his cross" (v. 20, ESV). There is no more any question about it. We did not bring our blood, our offerings, our sacrifices. We brought a little money, at least some of us did. But that's like the child who gives up a penny to make his parents rich. Where did the child get the penny in the first place? Our Lord is the one who brings something to our gatherings. He has brought the blood of his cross. He has made peace. And he has given that peace to you, to me, and to all who are far off, by belief in his name. So like my friend who is glad to see her son the delivery man bringing something, we can be glad to see that our Lord and Savior is bringing life and salvation to us, delivering us from death to life, delivering himself to and for us.

Maybe you struggle with this. Maybe you have been working, toiling, seeing little reward for your effort. Maybe you see the fruit of your labor and thank yourself for it. Maybe you are here today without a hunger and thirst for what our Lord has for you.  Jesus Christ is here for you, right here, right now. He has died for your sin. He has given himself to accomplish what all your labor could never do. He has brought you to a place of forgiveness, life, and hope. There is no stopping our Lord. He has brought the fullness of God to you, to dwell with you, to show you his mercy, to reconcile you to God. Do you know this is the kind of Lord we have? Do you know it is he who delivers himself to you? Can you, with generations of believers, confess who he is and what he has done as we recite the Nicene Creed? Are you ready to pronounce the peace of the Lord upon your brothers and sisters here in this room with you? Are you ready to receive the fullness of the Godhead in the body of our Lord broken for you and the blood of our Lord shed for the forgiveness of your sins? Then you are in the right place, at the right time. Our Lord has come to reconcile the world, including you and me, to himself.

Let us pray.
Our Lord, forgive us our sin and our doubt. Let us see how you have given yourself for us. Make us walk in this forgiveness, seeing that you have reconciled the world to you through your blood shed on our behalf. This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Dave Spotts
blogging at

No comments: