The Bridge for Trinity Sunday 7 June 2020

Colossians 1 : 21 – 29

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Why does Paul write this letter? When we read the letters in the Bible – it’s a bit like hearing one side of a telephone conversation. We read what Paul writes – but the question is – why does he write what he does? What is it that Paul is so concerned about that causes him to write this?

So – let’s look at some of the highlights of what Paul says. But before we do – what I suggest is that rather than reading this as it reads – why don’t we read it as if Paul is writing to us? Does that make sense? Because then it becomes personal to us.

  1. Paul sets out in verses 21 and 22 what God has done for us. We were alienated from him. This word alienated means “owned by another”. And our (evil) actions caused us to be enemies of God.
  • But then God acted. He didn’t leave us. He didn’t leave us to stew in our own juice. He saved us from ourselves. Have you ever considered what you would be like without God? Like a flower without the sun, we would gradually disintegrate. But God bursts through the darkness to save us. To reconcile us. Usually when we think about reconciling – two sides come together to compromise. But here God does all the reconciling. He does all we need to be with him. And he does this through Jesus (verse 22 – he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body)
  • Then Paul says the purpose of God’s work in Jesus goes further (see verse 22). The promise of God is that one day you will stand in front of almighty God holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Just let the truth of that permeate your hearts. Think it through. Imagine it. I can’t help but think how unworthy I am even to consider that is possible. But possible it is because it is a promise of God. What a promise!
  • But that is not now – but sometime in the future. And you may well ask – what do I do in the meantime? Do I sit and twiddle my thumbs? Keep my head down and nose clean? The answer to that comes in verse 23. And it is what you need to do now – and going forward. The answer is that this promise (that one day you will stand in front of almighty God holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation) is dependent on you continuing in your faith.
  • Now I think this is what Paul is concerned about. Continuing in faith. In fact he goes on in verse 28 to say that he is admonishing (read that as warning) and teaching so that we may be presented as fully mature in Christ.

You and I need to continue to be maturing in faith. What does that mean? Well this word can be translated as perfected – which sounds even more confusing. How on earth can we be perfect? We need to understand what is mean by perfect. Actually, read the word perfect as if you were saying perfected (without the “ed”). It reads differently. Perfect.

So, what does all this mean? Well – it was said in those times that fishermen would perfect their nets. In other words, they would mend their nets.

So, as you keep trusting Jesus, he is perfecting you. He is mending you.  Here’s a lovely quote which I often reflect on:

People are born broken; they live by mending. God’s grace is the glue.

Now – let’s ask one more question. Paul is concerned that we are not trusting God; we would not be maturing in faith. That we would not be experiencing the mending work of God.

The question is therefore: what would cause us to not trust God? What would cause us to drift away?

Answer: Sin.

Let me explain. We often think of sin as things that are wrong which we do, say or think. And that is right – but that’s not the root. We need to apply the axe to the root of sin not the flowering of it. Our lawn is full of weeds and I take great delight in mowing them down – but actually it doesn’t really deal with it. I need to deal with the root.

Sin ultimately is deciding to trust yourself as opposed to God. It is to not trust in the goodness of God. It is to not trust in the promises of God. It is to not trust in God himself. This is why Paul reminds us of what God has done in our lives. God in his kindness, seeing us in our need and despite of what we are, he acts to save us. He knows we simply haven’t got what it takes to save ourselves from ourselves. You know what you’re like? I know what I am like! Am I worthy of being rescued by God? No! But such is God, such is his infinite kindness, he stoops to save me and you.

Paul says in Romans 5: 7-8: Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

There’s a wonderful old hymn, a favourite of my Grandpa:

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

Man of sorrows what a name
for the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim:
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

Guilty, helpless, lost were we;
blameless Lamb of God was he,
sacrificed to set us free:
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

He was lifted up to die;
“It is finished” was his cry;
now in heaven exalted high:
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

When he comes, our glorious King,
all his ransomed home to bring,
then anew this song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

So what is our response to this? I just encourage you to do this. Dwell on what he has done – what he will do ultimately and therefore enjoy Jesus. Let the warmth of Jesus fill your hearts. Wait on him as you reflect on who he is.

If I can offer a word of personal testimony. The times we are living in now are really difficult. There is much to be concerned about. I have found myself being really anxious at times as I consider the sheer tidal wave of concerns as to what is happening and what will happen.

But I have found out something else too. This is really difficult and as I write this, I feel the tears welling up. But I have found that in the most difficult times that somehow the Lord is speaking. In fact, truth be known, it is during the toughest of times that most of my mending is done. In these awful times, God is doing his greatest work. His promises at these times are especially sweet to a hurting heart. CS Lewis says this: God whispers to us in our pleasure but shouts to us in our pain. How true.

So, if we wish to wield the axe to deal with our sin of unbelief – it is to take the promises of God and trust them above all what is happening. Why can you trust God? Because he is trustworthy. Because he is good. All the time. He does not change. His love endures. And as we live in his promises each day, then each day he mends us. He perfects us.

So, keep going. Stay in Jesus.

The Bridge Prayers for Trinity Sunday 7th June 2020

With great power the Spirit of God is poured out on the expectant disciples.

As the body of Christ, separated but united in the power of the Spirit, let us pray.

We pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the people of God all over the world and in all worship traditions. We particularly pray for those from St Christopher’s serving God in different ways.  For Becky and Simon among the Muslim community in London; Julian and Catherine working to translate the bible for people in Russia; and Jeremy encouraging and supporting leaders bringing the gospel to schools in Burkina Faso.  Fill each of them and us with the gifts of your Spirit, tailored to us as individuals but for the good of the whole church and keep us listening to the ways you want to restore and recreate us.

Come Holy Spirit of God

We pray for those who minister and serve:

­­For those who:  
work in hospitals, care homes, surgeries and pharmacies;
grow, produce, transport and supply our food;
clean, cook, clear up and keep us healthy;
calm, cradle, comfort and care for the dying and their families;
lead and govern and those who seek, research and test treatments;
serve, love and tend the vulnerable and the needy;
teach and assist in schools and nurseries as children return;

And for all who reflect the love of Christ in their lives.  Lord please bless, protect and provide for all their needs.

Come Holy Spirit of God

Thank you, Lord that you’ve called us in love to know you and we pray for those who aren’t able to say that or believe in you. Thank you that you never give up and please send your Holy Spirit, the life-bringer, to ignite faith in all who have glimpsed you for the first time, perhaps during a streamed service. Thank you that all creation reveals your light and glory, so welcome them into your everlasting light.

Come Holy Spirit of God                                                                                        

Lord, as the disciples waited for your Holy Spirit to come, we wait now for the next stage in plans to restart the country after lock-down. Please lead us through all the complexities, give us courage, faith and peace of mind. We wait with longing to hug those we love, meet with friends and explore your world. In the meantime, we ask for your strength to cope with the restrictions (especially the very vulnerable and those on our prayer list), your joy to fill our hearts and your peace to quieten our anxieties, remembering Jesus promised ‘I am with your always to the end of time’.

Come Holy Spirit of God.  Amen

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