12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (v. 14)
I struggle to consider what the church could be without lines like this from early apostles and disciples laying the foundation. In no way do we fully consider the religious impacts of those who chose to follow Christ after his execution, resurrection, and ascension. However, we sit here in our modern day, continuing the great tradition of covenant that has preceded us.
We gather on this day to hear the words of God spoken to us. We gather to understand deeper what it means to be a part of community, and for a handful the next step in their commitments, not just to God, but to this local body as well.
For some, you have been in this position for generations in your families, and for others you are not quite at that next step. Yet, we all sit here, committed to this local community…committed to this local church.
Member or non-member, visitor or attendee, family legacy or transplanted to the area.
We gather this Sunday as the collective Body of Christ to witness the covenant that these people will make with God and this local embodiment of God’s work in this world, the Body of Christ. The fruit is born of all of us, and we all are a part of this Spirit.
For these individuals, this is a communal naming of this commitment. Yet, we wrestle today with what this “community together” looks like. No matter what position we hold or how long we have been present. We are all community by the sheer nature of being present on this occasion and every occasion when we seek to live into God’s vision for Beech Grove.
Therefore, I have a letter, a letter akin to the letters of Paul. Seeking to understand deeper this nature of our life together. Just as the scripture read this morning was an urging to the church in Colassia, so now hear these words for this community at Beech Grove in Suffolk, Va.
Today your membership grows larger…but membership is merely a number.
Membership is just a quantification of what we hope and desire.
Even more importantly, the work begun long ago, continues to be born through this community.
As we welcome new members, we also welcome those who have always been here and those who have just started coming. With those have joined, those who are joining, and those who walk in these doors to love and serve we hear the calling of the Apostle Paul,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – v. 16-17
We receive our calling from the one who offers us life, and from the one who came to save us. It is in Jesus name that we look out upon the world, and we see the pain and heartache. It is why as we gather together, we pray with and for one another and those around creation. It is the very nature behind our presence here. It calls us to support the Kin-dom through our gifts. And it calls us to serve and witness both within and beyond these communal bounds.
People of God, continue to remember as Paul is speaking to the Colossians, so to do we hear the heart of the Gospel. We do not sit high and mighty on a throne of privilege. Rather we find ourselves outside the city walls, serving, helping, and witnessing our faith. Living those experiences, we have had, and helping others to see the innate nature of God present in us.
Unfortunately, we often miss the purpose.
Even with the best intentions at heart, we fail to live as a perfect community with one another. As we have journeyed this series, diving into membership, yes, but even more so, looking at what it means to be a part of a community.
These words of Paul must not fall on deaf ears.
These are words that Paul wrote to a church struggling with identity.
Struggling, with who they were called to be. Struggles both within and beyond the bounds of their community. Therefore, we see as Paul is writing this encouragement, that we too hear within it this call and desire to move away from selfish ambitions, into communal love.
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – v. 12-14
Dear Church creation is God’s “chosen people,” there is no separating those on the inside from the outside. Yet as we think about what it means to reach those who are outside our walls, how can we truly love them if we do not love within our own community?
We are called together to live and exist with one another.
When we fail to do this, we fail to be the church that God has called us to be and therefore let down this innate understanding of communal love. We clothe ourselves with compassion and kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. When we fail to bear the Fruits of the Spirit in these ways, we miss our opportunity to express true community with one another.
Church, many will come through these doors, and make that covenant of membership with our body. However, what do the numbers matter if we do not then have the transformation of heart within those members? What happens when the members we have, when the people who are here right now, do not exist as a loving community not just for one another but for others as well?
Has our understanding of love been so vastly warpped by sin, that we cannot even see the manners to which you call us together? Have we Become so focused on loving others, that we have forgot what it means to love ourselves? Does this understanding of being inherently unworthy impact the way that we see others as well?
In a day and age where church seems an afterthought, we gather…hoping for more. Hoping for community. Hoping that this community becomes the perfect nature of love. Becomes an example of who you truly call us to be. The vows of membership hear today will call us all to consider what serving in God’s midst looks like.
Church, to commit and covenant to you is to covenant to God.
Words we name in our baptismal covenant, also become a covenant that we make with one another, as we grow in God’s love. We ask in the ways of the Spirit, seeking for the heart to be humbled, ready for the work of God within us, so that our faith may produce the works and fruits of the Spirit.
Church, I as your pastor ask, in the of God:
- Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
- Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
- Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
We answer these questions, affirmatively seeking and knowing the desire that God has stirred within us. These words are in reaffirmation becoming a reminder of who we are called to be.
Without them, does our faith seem meaningless? Are we willing to take a stand for what we believe?
Lord, we know you’re working in our baptisms.
We know that you have been working within us around us and through us since the time of creation. Lord, as we reaffirm these vows, as these vows are blessed upon a Child as we come together as a community to be reminded of our own baptism, may these words fall afresh on us, that we may know the work that you did in our original baptism.
Church, we are at a crossroads. We are at a place where we can continue to do this thing call Church, or we can step out and be the church. Where we can listen to the words of God, we can hear the words that Paul wrote to the church in Colassia. Words blessed by God in their writing to this community, this place where the people of God sought to make your Kin-dom known to all who would listen.
Church, we gather today hearing this calling that has been placed before us.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – v. 14
Church, this is what it means to be community together. What binds us together should not be torn apart.
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together, with cords that cannot be broken. Bind us together, Lord, bind us together, bind us together with love. – Bind Us Together
Church let us be bound together with the unbreakable bonds of love. Let us commit to one another, not just as we receive new “members” into your body, but as we welcome all who have always been a part of your kin-dom. Teach us therefore, to love beyond measure. To find the perfect harmony, the perfect collection of notes, to experience the unity through Christ that brings us together, despite that which could tear us apart.
Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above. – Blest be the Tie That Binds
Dear Church, may this message be heard anew.
Let this message be heard, not just in these hallowed halls, but in all places. Lord, we know that you are not shackled by our presence. We know that you are in all places, in all things, and all people.
Church, may we be filled with that same love. May we put aside all our selfishness, our egos, and all the things of this world that pull us away from you.
May we be filled with your spirit, knowing your ever-loving presence within us. That when we are called to faithfully participate in the ministries of this church with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness; we would do so with hearts and spirits focused on the vision laid out in love for this community.
Church, in putting away those traits, may we take on the compassion, kindness, humility, weakness, and patience, knowing that in these ways, we bare the fruits of the spirit of God every day.
Church may your walls behind us together in love, but also push us out that we may also be down to our community to those who we serve and love me we seek your will and vision to be done each and every day.