Text: COLOSSIANS 1:1-14

Sunday July 10, 2022 – Pentecost 5

Trinity – Creston/Mt. Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Our text for this Fifth Sunday after Pentecost is the Epistle Lesson from Colossians 1 that was just proclaimed.

Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to remind us that your love delivered us from sin and ultimately death and enables us to love others by using the works you prepared before time to love and point others to your saving work. Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

Oh, that we could love as our Lord commands! Oh, that we would love others as we already love ourselves. Oh, that we would love “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (v 10).

Oh, that we would be known as our community’s “Good Samaritan” for helping, for kindness, for sacrifice, for love.

Truthfully, our love is lacking, and it always will be. But why? Because too often we separate our love from our deliverance, from our rescue by the hands and feet of our Savior.

When we think of being delivered or rescued, we probably think of those unfortunates thrust into a terrible situation. A woman kidnapped and held against her will by some sadist needs rescuing.

People forced by stronger people to be enslaved need deliverance. Victims of some terrible accident in a coal mine or on a highway need saving by heroic measures.

But from what do middle-class Americans need rescuing? A house payment? College debt? A bad marriage? We only imagine that these situations are the worst.

They’re not. Paul writes that we have been delivered “from the domain of darkness” (v 13). Eve’s sin and Adam’s fall have placed us in dire straits. We were from conception in the domain of the devil.

We are not just hell-bound and bent on evil. We were born in the hellish and evil condition of sin. The wages of our sin is death. We need rescuing. We need deliverance. “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” asks Paul (Rom 7:24). Only one can. Only one has. Jesus Christ it is.

Jesus’ method of deliverance is quite unusual. He does it by dying. He does it by laying down his life, by paying the last penny, by giving up everything he has.

Many people are good neighbors to their neighbors by giving them some of their extra tomatoes or by bringing in a combine to help harvest the wheat crop of a sick friend nearby.

But Jesus’ good neighboring to us is more extravagant. Sin and death cannot be overcome by being nice and by loving our neighbor only the way we love ourselves.

God’s wrath over sin is real. His pronouncement to Adam that disobedience has consequences means just that. The consequence was death. Overcoming death would not be accomplished by rain on tomato plants or sun on wheat fields.

Death would be defeated by extravagant means. God would give the gift of his only Son through a Virgin. His only Son would give up his life on a cross as a once-for-all sacrifice.

God would call this the “free gift of righteousness” (Rom 5:17). While the judgment of God for sin brought condemnation, now the free gift of God in Jesus has brought justification.

Call it deliverance. Call it rescue. Sinful man would never have conceived such a plan. God did. By his grace. By his mercy.

He has considered the poor (Ps 41:1), all mankind lost in sin, and has delivered the poor. Out of darkness and into light. Freed from the clutches of the devil and transferred into the kingdom of his beloved Son (vv 12–13).

All who are baptized receive this rescue. Holy Scripture plainly says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16). The Large Catechism plainly says, “Therefore, state it most simply in this way: the power, work, profit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is this—to save [1 Peter 3:21].

For no one is baptized in order that he may become a prince, but, as the words say, that he ‘be saved.’ We know that to be saved is nothing other than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil” (LC IV 24–25).

Paul is able to commend the Colossians for their love because it is not separated from the rescue of Jesus, his love. His love has created faith in them and that faith works love (v 4). And not in the Colossians only. Paul can claim the Gospel’s deliverance in the whole world (v 6) and the fruit it bears.

The Redemption Won by Christ Delivers All Mankind in Order That We Walk in a Manner Worthy of the Lord, in Love.

But who loves first? Man or God? “We love because he first loved us” says John (1 Jn 4:19), and “by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 Jn 3:16). God’s love precedes our love. Faith precedes love.

Faith loves the forgiveness of sin, wherever our Lord gives it. If our Lord declared that the forgiveness of sins was in giving bags of tomatoes to our neighbor or leaving some of our grapes hanging on our vines for the hungry or in paying for an indigent’s hotel room, we would listen.

Listen! You have heard the Gospel. It has come to you. You have believed it. You are redeemed. You are baptized. You eat your Lord’s flesh and drink his blood. Often. It is for your forgiveness.

It is to strengthen your love. Not only is there life in the body and blood of Jesus unto forgiveness; there is strength unto love of our neighbor.

Nevertheless, our love is not what it seems or what it ought to be. It needs bolstering, improvement. It receives strengthening from the faith given.

When the Lord’s servant Moses spoke and taught the Israelites about loving their neighbors as they loved themselves (Lev 19:9–18), it seemed doable. Who would hate himself? If hungry, who would not want someone to provide him food?

If falsely accused, who would not want someone to defend him? If oppressed, who would not want help? If taken to court, who would not like impartiality? If guilty of a sin, who would not desire the forgiveness of a brother? Oh, that we would do what we would like done to ourselves!

But love of self is far easier than love of our neighbor. We fight our neighbor over fence-line property and growl when our neighbor gets more bushels per acre than we do. We listen to one neighbor gossip about another neighbor and do not walk away.

We have the freedom to speak against the oppression of our littlest neighbors, babies in the womb, and we will not stand, march, or sign petitions against their murder. We fail to respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters in need after birth, throughout life and at life’s end.

We fail to make proper judgments at times, in favor of the rich and to the disadvantage of the poor. Finally, worst of all, we hold grudges and seek retaliation on those who have crossed us.

Paul prayed for the strengthening of the Colossians as he wrote them this letter: “being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (vv 11–12).

The Christian fight (or race) is not an easy one. Long-term endurance is needed. We can falter and love can grow cold.

God gives power, not according to our need, but according to the measure of his glory. A good measure. Abundant. Overflowing. For that is the nature of his love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Now may the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding, guard and keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.