I. We learn about our Savior together
II. We are strengthened to serve together.
Our oldest son is going through a stage of wanting to change his clothes on a regular basis throughout the day. He will often come downstairs wearing something completely different than what he went up the stairs with. A couple of weeks ago he went up to his room and came back with a zip up sweater. After putting it on he told Katie that he wanted to be like Mr. Rogers. We watch Mr. Rogers at 6 am and Joseph sees him put on his sweater and sing his songs. He wants to be like him and he wants to be his neighbor. He is convinced that it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood and as you watch the show it always is. Nothing bad ever happens in Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. He has a calming way about him and we want be his neighbor and live in his beautiful neighborhood, even though we have never met him.
Paul was writing to a group of people he had not met. He does not sing a song or put on a sweater. But in the first two verses of this chapter Paul introduces himself and reminds them of their status before God. “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.” They were holy in God’s sight through faith in Jesus. That produced faithfulness to their Savior. The same is true for us. We have never met these Christians in the city of Colossee and we have never met Paul, but reading these verses reminds us that no matter how close we are to each other, or how well we know each other we have a relationship with God and we want to live in the Christian neighborhood. As we study Colossians 1 this morning we see that, every day is beautiful in the Christian neighborhood; we learn about our Savior together and we are strengthened to serve together.
Paul probably wrote this letter from the city of Ephesus. He had sent a man named Epaphras to do some mission work in the city of Colosse. Epaphras came back with a good report of the people leaning about their Savior. It was a good day in that neighborhood because the people had learned how Jesus died for their sins. They learned how Jesus rescued them from hell. They learned about God’s love for them and for all. And they believed it.
These are the same truths we have learned and continue to learn as we gather together as a congregation. Every day is a beautiful day in our Christian neighborhood especially when we have the opportunity to hear the Gospel. Paul did not know those people well. We may not know everyone well. But we all know the Gospel and we get to gather around it together in worship and in Bible study and today after the service in our congregational meeting as we discuss our ministry of the Gospel. In these ways we learn about our Savior and how we can individually and as a group share Jesus with others. That makes every day beautiful in our Christian neighborhood.
Hearing about the Savior was working in the hearts and lives of the Colossians. The evidence was all around their neighborhood and Paul was thankful for it. He wrote; “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.” By hearing the Gospel these people were growing personally and as a congregation in their faith. It was a great day in their neighborhood. They had learned and were learning the Gospel together and the fruits of that faith were clearly evident.
We do know each other a little better than Paul knew the Colossians. I pray that you know the work we are doing together. It is exciting. It is a beautiful day in the Christian neighborhood here at Beautiful Savior. More and more people keep coming to hear the Gospel. This has happened in our worship and Bible study and in our preschool. We have had the honor of bringing the Gospel to hundreds and hundreds of people, both young and old. Like Paul we pray and give thanks for that opportunity. We pray that this Gospel would create faith in hearts and produce fruit in hearts and lives and we pray that we would keep making use of the opportunities the Lord sets before us. We pray that we would keep finding opportunities to learn about our Savior and to share our Savior.
These prayers are answered as we together go to God’s Word. As we gather around that Word in worship we hear the great things God has done for us personally in Jesus and we are motivated to serve him. This is why it is important for the Christian neighborhood to be in worship together and to gather together in Bible study. Then the Gospel has another opportunity to work on our hearts and motivate and equip us for service. These are beautiful days in the Christian neighborhood as we hear about our Savior and are strengthened to serve him.
We need the strength because we know the neighborhood is not always so beautiful. This was the case in Colosse. Paul started the letter in a very positive way. There was a great deal to be thankful for. But there was an underlying problem he was addressing. Bible commentators have debated the problem. Because Paul talks about knowledge from God, the problem seems to have revolved around a quest for a secret or special knowledge that would elevate some believers above others. That false teaching would certainly upset that beautiful neighborhood.
There are challenges and troubles we face as we seek to serve together. We are a young congregation. We have not been doing ministry together that long. And as a result we don’t necessarily know each other that well and we don’t have a great deal of history to draw upon. These challenges can open us up to temptation and sin. The temptation is there to simply not be involved. I am new; there are other people who can serve. The temptation is there is stay away. We may not view ourselves as an important part of the neighborhood. I don’t know those people well and they won’t notice if I am gone. Or since service to our Savior is new in our life we may be tempted to place serving our Savior below the things we have had in our life for a longer period of time. These sinful actions and attitudes make serving together in the beautiful neighborhood a real challenge. In fact our sin makes our service impossible. It is worthless and does no good at all. It only serves to condemn us for our many sins.
But that is exactly why we are here. We are here to hear about the knowledge we need to be comforted in our sin and then motivated for service. Paul prays that this knowledge would work on our hearts and move us to live our life for our Savior who rescued us from the hell we deserve. He wrote, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
The strength to live lives worthy of the Lord comes from the Lord who rescued us from hell by suffering hell for us. By this he qualified us to receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life in heaven. This is the real knowledge that the Colossians and all of us need for service in the Christian neighborhood. In order to serve with joy we need to know that Jesus took the punishment we had earned for our sins. In order to serve with confidence we need to know that through Jesus we are qualified for heaven. In order to serve in difficult situations and with challenging obstacles we need to know that we are serving a Savior who loves us and gave himself for us. When we know that and are reminded of that, the neighborhood is beautiful and so is our service to our Savior.
Then those obstacles become opportunities. Being a young congregation means we don’t have people saying, “we’ve never done that before” or “the last pastor would not have done that.” Being new means we can do things we have not done before. Having new people means we have new people who are eager to serve when given the opportunity to do so. Still being a mission congregation and receiving mission support means we realize that we are here to do mission work in our congregation and with our school and we have a church body that supports us in our ministry. Knowing about and hearing more and learning more about our Savior does not mean we have a perfect congregation nor does it mean our service will always be ideal. But it means we know that we are forgiven. We know we are racing toward heaven. We know we get to serve our Savior along the way. We know that every day is beautiful in our Christian neighborhood.
We don’t have a catchy tune like Mr. Rogers has. That song can really stick in my head. It would be nice if church stuck in our head that way. But the Gospel has caught us, equipped and motivated us to serve. As we close our service today we will sing the hymn, “Blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love. The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above” The Gospel binds our hearts in love. We serve now getting ready to live forever in heaven. We will also sing in that hymn, “When here our pathways part, we suffer bitter pain, yet one in Christ and one in heart we hope to meet again.” We may not use that as a theme song for our neighborhood, but may God grant that the Gospel continue to unite us and comfort us as suffer loss and move us to serve along the path to that glorious reunion of the Christian neighborhood in heaven. Amen.
Pastor Matt Brown
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church (WELS) of Union City, Tennessee, Rooted in the WORD