Saturday, June 18, 2016

Running About? Settled Down - a sermon

On Thursday, June 16, 2016, I preached this sermon at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Here it is in it's entirely.

I have a chocolate lab who is 10 months old. That’s right, only 10 months old. Her name is Wrigley. For those of you who have been around a 10 month old lab, you will understand what is coming.
            I sat on my porch the other morning. It was early. I always like to sit on the porch as I devote and prepare for the day. The sky was beginning to brighten as the sun was peeking over the eastern horizon. The grass was wet with morning dew and the world all around me was beginning to wake up (at least the world as found in Troy, IL). People were starting to head out for the day – to work, to Dunkin’ Donuts, to where ever they might be going. Morning walkers passed by getting their morning exercise before it became too hot later in the day. Children were being dropped off at the daycare. I sat and watched, peacefully listening to the birds sing, the cars pass, the chatter of children and the encouragement of the parents to move along.
            And there was Wrigley, running from one side of the yard to the other, from the east side to the west, stopping at the south to see what was happening there. It wasn’t that she was barking at all that was going on. She was just trying to keep up with everything. She didn’t know if she should chase the bird, watch the car turn the corner or the child climb out of the car. Running, running from side to side, she would bound up the steps of the porch, look at me expectantly. I would scratch her head, speak a few words to her, encouraging her to settle down for a few moments only to find that she was off again. Something had caught her attention. Back and forth she went. She was wearing me out as I watched her.
            Shaking my head, I turn my attention back to the Bible sitting on my lap. I had a task at hand. I had this passage to study, one you just heard a moment ago. I had a sermon to write. Something needed to be preached. Colossians 2:6-15. I was making notes, reading, praying, asking for guidance, looking for direction.
            I noted these amazing words – walk in him
                                                            Built up
                                                            Established…powerful words, yes, these are words to follow, to consider. They would preach well.
But wait….I continued to read – abounding in thanksgiving.
            Who doesn’t need to be thankful? Of course we need to be thankful. “Songs of thankfulness and praise…” ran through my head. Go for it. Preach it! Be thankful!
            Then again – captive to philosophy
                                                Human tradition
                                                            Elemental spirits – oooo, there, that is good stuff, powerful stuff. Beware! Don’t let these get you.
            Here comes Wrigley. Bounding across the yard, up the steps, right to my side, eyes bright, tongue hanging out, panting. Another scratch of the head, behind the ear, down the back. “Settle down, Wrigley,” slips from my lips and she is gone. “Crazy dog,” I think. When will she learn?
            “For in him the fullness of the deity dwells bodily…” The incarnation. Who wouldn’t want to preach on the incarnation? “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Alleluia! Praise the Lord. Preach it!
            Then there was the circumcision and uncircumcision – oh, better not go there. That is something that is filled with so much and there are those OT profs at the Sem who would just love to hear me destroy all they taught this last year in a few short minutes. Better not.
            “Buried with him in baptism,” What? Wrigley, don’t you see I am busy. So much good stuff in this text. All right, I will pet you again, reaching down, and she is gone, again, chasing the wind. Look at how silly she is – back and forth, here and there. Why would she be like that? Does she really think she will catch the bird? That truck pulls in every morning and she always barks at it. Wrigley, Wrigley, Wrigley, always running about.
            But wait, “You were raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God”
Powerful working of God – taking this sinner, lost, condemned, useless and worthless that I am, working in him through the Water and Word, giving life, forgiveness, faith, hope and a future. That is the powerful working of God.
            “You were dead in your trespasses.” There it is! See! I think I have found the direction of this text. I will settle there, right there, that is what we need to learn…
            Are you back Wrigley? What did you see now? Won’t you just settle down, quit racing about, chasing the wind, the birds, the walkers and the cars? Won’t one thing keep you occupied? Don’t you see I have a sermon to write? I have found a direction. Leave me alone for a few moments…and there she goes. Once again. Tongue hanging out, panting, gaining? Getting what she needs? Not really, but try stopping a 10 month old lab.
            God made alive with him – yes, alive in Christ. There is it. Wait, haven’t I said that before. I thought I found the direction. This is good. Maybe this is better, chasing again…tongue hanging out, I look further into the text.
            Forgiven – how? Off again. Nailed to the tree. There he goes again, always one more thing, one more direction, one more word or phrase. Can you not settle down? Must you always be running around? I look down, and she lays there, even as I run off again. Another direction. My lab lays quietly at my feet while I chase after the text, rushing here and there.
            “I am preaching at the Seminary on Thursday,” I say. “Give them Christ.” I am told.
What? Wait? What was that? Give them Christ?
            Isn’t that what Paul is doing? Giving Christ. He set aside the throne, and became a man, the fullness of the deity, nailed to the cross…
            My sin,
                        Your sin,
                                    Our chasing after the wind, the wisdom, the deep thoughts
                                                Our looking, seeking
When all along it was right there, in the text, just waiting for me to settle down. To be ready to listen, to sit quietly and wait for the Lord.
            Made alive in Christ, the fullness of the Godhead, given life
                                                                                                Giving forgiveness
                                                                                                            Peace…all through Christ.
Nailed to the cross, triumphing over the tomb, rising to life, ascending to heaven.
            Wrigley lays quietly, panting, tongue hanging out, looking at me as if to say, “Do you get it now?”
            Running after something, even if it is trying to find the purpose of the text, is a chasing after the wind. It is right there all along in the Word – Christ Jesus, God-man, nailed to the tree in order to give life to all.
            Stopping, I sit my Bible down, panting, tongue hanging out, finally settled down and say, “Thank You Lord for the new life, the hope, the forgiveness, the Word, the wonder, the power. It truly is all about you.”