Scripture: Colossians 2: 6-19
Sermon: “Woven Together”
This past week our family finally went to experience Olympic National Park in Washington. This was one of those vacations that was planned during Covid, and got postponed. We were grateful for the opportunity to step deep into the heart of nature, and be surrounded by trees hundreds of years old. There were various trees whose roots were exposed, and the complexity of those roots amazed us. The tree wouldn’t be able to stand so tall and so many years, without the foundation that was woven together to give them the strength to stand. It was beautiful, and it reminded me of this Colossians Scripture today.
You heard this passage read in Farsi by Roshan, translated so lovingly from the English. And then you heard her read it again in English. Some of us understood the Farsi entirely, some of us understood the English. We’ve woven two languages together represented in our congregation today, and that’s just the beginning of the wonderful diversity we have among us here. And together, we are strengthened, as we are woven together in Christ, our foundation. Christ who encourages us to grow together, stand together, and live together in community.
This community of faith is so beautiful. I love how the old support the young, and the young delight in the old. Have you seen the bright faces of the Golliak children and the Williams’ kids? These sweet kids come to us with such energy, such enthusiasm. For those of us who may have been around awhile, sometimes we feel a bit weary. It’s understandable. In our home, we have a plant in our house that we often call “Droopy.” It’s because I sometimes forget to water her! But when she’s watered, she comes alive all over again. Faith is like that. We may feel burdened and weary at times in our lives. But faith is alive! God’s Spirit still moves. Rejoice. Paul writes today to encourage and inspire!
We are holding fast to the head of our body (that being the body of Christ), from whom the whole body is nourished together by its ligaments and sinews, growing with a growth that is from God.
I’ve been thinking about ligaments this week…in our bodies…a ligament connects two bones together or cartilages or they hold together a joint. A ligament is described as a tough band! It forms a bond—it unites two things together.
When our family hiked in Olympic this past week, our bodies felt it! Some of you have told me about doing some amazing hikes—some of them far away, but also on the North Shore! We’re surrounded by beauty and availability to explore and wonder. Have you run up Grouse Mountain lately? Or, hiked up to Quarry Rock? It may still be closed, I’m not sure. But if you have spent some time on any trail, chances are, you felt it. I’ve never thought to pray before for my ligaments…but this past week, thinking about this Scipture, I did! I needed them to hold the rest of me together!
Now, a sinew is something that gives strength! It is also very tough, and it unites muscle to bone or to a ligament or tendon. All of these things work together in our bodies to help our whole body function as it was meant to.
And all of these things work together to provide the nourishment we need to grow.
So, the visual analogy of being held together by ligaments and sinews –the whole body of Christ, is one of the most powerful images given. There are so many details that hold a body together. And much of its strength is rarely talked about or thought about., or maybe even seen. We don’t go around talking about the ligaments and sinews in our bodies….we just know that they’re there, and we need them in order for our bodies to flourish.
Have you ever heard of muscle atrophy? It’s when you don’t use a muscle at all for a very long time. If you’ve ever had your arm or leg in a cast…when you come out of that cast, you have to slowly work your muscles back into action and strength. In other words, you have to use them in order for them to work as they should!
A friend of mine was at a camp one time and they had an archery site—which he thought was pretty cool! He went to try it out. They had what’s called a compound bow—the kind that Sylvester Stallone movies used to have in them. And the camp leader handed over this bow, which was a bit heavier than my friend expected. He pulled back as hard as he could—and the leader said, “um, pull it harder!” My friend, embarrassed, said, “I am pulling as hard as I can!” Nothing happened. He couldn’t even pull the bow back far enough to then let go and set forth an arrow.
Muscles atrophy when you don’t use them often enough. You lose the strength. But they mature, when you do use them! So it is in the life of faith. We mature in the faith when we use our spiritual muscles of prayer, and service and outreach together. Sometimes that means we may try as hard as we can, and feel like we’re not getting anywhere. But don’t give up trying. Use those muscles again! They will get strong.
I know one thing for sure in this life of faith, we can still grow, even by failing forward! If we don’t try to gather together, or embrace a ministry together and never try because we’re afraid to fail, we’ll not grow.
Mother Teresa said, “we fear the future, because we are wasting today!”
The Christian church in Collossae were hungry for a word from the Lord. We are not so different, are we?
Paul is trying to help the church not be lured away by other temptations other than the rule of Christ. One scholar writes “Paul insists you’ve already been buried with Christ in baptism, you’ve been raised by your faith, you are alive with Christ. There is no more that needs doing. Paul says, Jesus is God’s final act. He is not preliminary to anything else. He is the fullness of God. And we’ve received his fullness.”
When I was ordained in the Methodist tradition back in the US, we ministers had to respond to questions written by the founder of our denomination, John Wesley. We have bishops in that system, and the bishop asked us all “Are you in debt so as to embarrass yourselves or your ministry?” And we all said “No.” And then we all spontaneously giggled. Of course we were! Do you know what three years of graduate school costs after four years of college? My generation and younger folks are often saddled with huge debt and yet often have no idea what to do with ourselves. With the mortgages in this town it’s not only young people. Most of us know what it feels like to be in debt—some so bad you’ll never get out. Christ cancels it. All of it. In the ancient world if you were indebted, the one you owed could post a public notice humiliating you. They could go further and imprison you. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” is closer to the original of the Lord’s Prayer. Now you know why. When Jesus is nailed to a Roman torture device our debt is nailed there with him. The image of the publicly posted debt melds into the publicly posted savior. The loan company may say to us: “Look at what you owe!” but the debtor responds “Look at what Christ has paid!”
And this is what Paul is saying. We never move past, or get beyond, or progress forward from Jesus. He is the fullness of God. He’s all there is. There is no more God behind the curtain. Love him. Luxuriate in him. Praise him forever. Grow and mature in him. Any claim that there’s more than Jesus is false. The more, there is more of is more of Jesus.
Paul thinks Jesus is more than enough. Christianity, someone said, is a matter of Christ plus nothing. That’s why all the verbs here are in past tense. You’re already washed. Evil is already defeated. You’re already raised with Christ. A friend of mine says here’s the real secret: there is no better Christianity out there. Not with a master’s degree or a new interest or a “better” church. All there are is Jesus and people who we’re called to love, and ourselves, who are all seek to grow in faith. And here’s how we can grow together: becoming the sort of person who loves the poor and the enemy and yourself as Jesus commands. That’s how we grow in Christ, together.
In a way the practices we do in church are meant to underwhelm. Stand and sing. Eat a bit of bread and drink a sip of juice. Take a bath with baptism. Say I’m sorry. Say I forgive. Say I love. Profess I believe. It’s almost baby talk. Because Christ says you mature by becoming an infant. You grow up by growing down. Becoming a child. That’s . . . growth. Wanting nothing more than our father—God. And our mother—the church.
Someone tweeted a few years ago from Stockholm where they let grade school children name commuter trains. So you ride in compartments called Wizard, Glitter, Best Friend, and Princess. In church we call one another magic names too—like sister, brother, sinner, forgiven.
Learn from the enthusiasm and delight a child brings. One of my favourite theologians (besides my husband of course!) is Bill Cavenough. He has written about the Little Way, based on the St. Therese of Lisieux.
He says…our world seems to emphasize the big and the best all the time. Everything should be bigger, better, snazzier. Cavenough writes, “Jesus has been changing the world through little ways for centuries.”
Find the Little Way…in every day, and grow in Christ. Our foundation is strong, friends. It binds us together, in love, in hope, and forever. Amen.
 Jason Byassee, writing on Colossians.