A word for weary people

July 10th, 2016

Colossians 3:1-11

It is summer! Today is the last day of July, and for many it is tough going. No matter where you live in the United States, summer and August make for some uncomfortable days. It gets hot and dry. Vacations are used up; school is almost ready to begin. Early August is an in-between time and it is easy to feel a little worn, a little down, a little tired. So the church serves up a great text to boost our spirits and help us keep going. Here in early August, in the middle of summer, we get the spiritual equivalent of a supervitamin.

I will take the liberty of creating a paraphrase for today’s text about being raised with Christ. The writer of Colossians seems to say, “If you have been raised with Christ, then live like it! Don’t get dragged down into ordinary, casual living. Live like people who are alive in Christ. Remember how good you look in the new clothes Christ has put on you. Walk with a spring in your step and a song in your heart. You have been raised with Christ.” In the dog days of summer this is a great text to take to heart.

Living like we have been raised with Christ means to take faith off the shelf and onto the street. It means to realize in fresh ways that the Christian faith is not so much about what we know as it is about what we do. Think of faith as a verb and not a noun. Let’s consider how the life raised with Christ might look in these days.

When we are raised with Christ we can dare to live tomorrow’s life today. We can stop putting off living the best lives we are capable of. We no longer have to make cheap and easy compromise with our best selves that says, “One day when things are right, I will do this or I will love more or I will be more kind or trust more.” Today is the day to live like this. Because we have been raised with Christ, we can take the future and live it now. We can dare to make real the petition of the Lord’s Prayer for the kingdom to come on earth as it already has in heaven. We can dare to live lovingly in a world in love with war and destruction. We can dare to live generously in a world choked by stinginess. We can dare to offer cups of cold water to strangers whom everyone else fears. Let the experience of being raised with Christ intoxicate you so that you dare to live as though tomorrow is today.

When we are raised with Christ we cultivate a new attentiveness to the beauty of the moment. So much of life is fractured because we try to do too many things at once. Multitasking has become a way of life for so many. We multitask ourselves into a frenzy of living where one moment blurs into the next and we can’t remember at the end of the day what we have done. If you have been raised with Christ, live as Jesus did. If anything characterized his beautiful life, it was his way of being completely present in each moment. He felt the touch of a woman who needed him when hands of all kinds were reaching for his body. He heard the cry of a blind man through the cacophony of city noise. He knew how parched a woman’s soul was before she had any sense of being thirsty. He was present in ways we are often not because we are so distracted by things that do not really matter.

To be raised with Christ is to live with a clear vision about what is important and what is not. When we are living fully in every moment, we experience aliveness and wholeness that are not possible when one is worrying about what comes next. To be raised with Christ is to live fully in the moment as Christ did.

If you have been raised with Christ, do something for the good of the world. Don’t get weighed down by the mundane concerns of life. Keep scanning the horizon and working for the kingdom of God. A college professor once told his students, “All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance; just don’t tiptoe.” Bored people tiptoe through life. The antidote for boredom is to give ourselves to something larger than ourselves.

Have you ever had an idea pop into your head about how to do something or create something that would make life better for others? I am sure you have. When that happens, usually another voice starts in our heads saying that the idea is not practical, or no one will listen, or we should not be so foolish. We should just get back to doing what we know and are familiar with. Unfortunately, too many of us do just that and we start tiptoeing toward death. It is a tragic way to live.

I believe that people who have been raised with Christ have the power to create a new world. The challenge of faithfulness is to live that power every day; to stay so focused on the resurrection experience that we know we have overcome all obstacles and can dare to live with holy boldness because of a Savior who walks with us every step of the way.

It is summer. The days are long and at times oppressively hot. To hot and tired people comes the challenge to reclaim the experience of being raised with Christ in order to know his energy and aliveness for today’s ministry. A minister friend of mine related a story that he says is true and that illustrates what being raised with Christ means today. An Episcopal priest, dressed in civilian clothes, walked into a motorcycle shop to look over the latest in two-wheel travel options. As he stood on the showroom floor wishing he could afford a large and powerful motorcycle, a salesman began to talk to him. The conversation went something like this.

“Hey, dude. That’s some bike, ain’t it?”

“It sure is,” said the minister.

“Man, you could put your woman on the back of this baby and really haul. I mean, it will leave rubber in three gears! Dude, if you come to town on this hog, there ain’t anybody who will mess with you. I’m telling you, this is one mean machine. By the way, bro, what do you do for your bread?”

“I’m a minister.”

“Oh, excuse me . . . Reverend or Mister. What do they call you? You know, these bikes, I mean machines, they really get good gas mileage, and you can park them anywhere. Why, I sold one to a doctor the other day.”

Reflecting on this encounter the minister observed, “No one is surprised to find a Christian looking at lawn mowers. Lawn mowers are safe, middle-class, and boring. Is being a Christian more like pushing a lawn mower or riding a motorcycle?”

Good question! “If you have been raised with Christ . . .” Brothers and sisters, maybe it’s time we take our living faith out on the road and give it the gas and see what the old church can do. Vroom!

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