What Now?

Notes from the pastor

What Now?

Read Colossians 1:1–14

The opening of most of Paul’s letters provides these wonderful portraits of life in the earliest Christian communities.  With the exception of Galatians, Paul always includes a celebratory account of the good work that was taking place in these early church communities.  Almost always, there is brief mention of the origin of their faith, but even more so is an account of their lives since that moment of awakening in Christ.  This is the case in the opening of the Colossians correspondence.

For Paul, and most of the New Testament writers, what’s at stake isn’t as much whether a person is “saved” but whether now, in light of Jesus’s death and resurrection, you’re engaging life in continual response to it.  So many people waste so much of their lives wondering if they’re “saved” instead of trusting in the infinite love of God by taking finite steps in discipleship.  Eugene Peterson offers this great translation of Colossians 1:14 in The Message: “God has set us up in the Kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.”  Boom.  Jesus was crucified and risen, and now we’ve been made part of that corporate life. The question is, are we being adequate witnesses?

Paul says that God in Christ has already transferred us into a new life, from darkness to light, from what was to what is. Your baggage and your past don’t matter beyond the fact that they show how far God has brought you into the fold of grace.  What matters now is allowing those past relations and repeated sins to be crucified so that they no longer prevent you from embodying God’s grace.  The question isn’t whether or not God has acted in your behalf — Christ stretched out his arms on the cross so that ALL could come within reach of his saving embrace, once and for all for all time.  We have been freed to live in God.  The only question posed to us is, what are we going to do about it?

I’ve found that the two words “so that” add purpose and expectation to what we say and believe.  For example, we don’t go to Azalea Mobile Home Park because a Hispanic/Latino-focused ministry sounds good or trendy or gives us something to do. We go to Azalea Mobile Home Park so that we may embody the grace of Jesus Christ alongside our Hispanic/Latino neighbors and receive it as we work to transform our community together.  Paul offers a “so that” to the Colossians.  “We’re praying,” Paul says, “so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way:  by producing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God; by being strengthened through his glorious might so that you endure everything and have patience; and by giving thanks with joy to the Father.”

Paul tells us that we learn to trust the infinite love of God by taking finite steps in the world with our neighbors.  In the darkness of our moment, we must take finite steps to live the hope of reconciliation and redemption in Christ even if it is not yet our reality, or that of our neighbors.  “As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work,” and we have good work to do.

~ Pastor Patrick Murphy

Last Published: November 15, 2016 2:56 PM
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