The Christian church has a problem, a problem that has caused no end of consternation for the last two millennia.
We are members of the kingdom of God and citizens of heaven — but we still live on earth. We still live in a world that prizes passion and greed and anger and malice above everything we hold to be true. And while we know where we’re headed — while we know that eternal life with Christ, who sits at the right hand of God, is awaiting us — that reality can sometimes or even all the time feel like a daydream compared to the nightly news.
This is not a new problem. And it’s actually one of the reasons St. Paul wrote the letter we heard from today. The church at Colossae was founded by Paul and had been faithful and generous and loving in all that they did. But now, the church faced an unsure and frightening future. Paul had been arrested. He awaited what was probably a terrible fate. The thought of a future without him — without his wisdom and foresight and guidance — made the world around the Colossian Christians to seem louder and larger and eventually the good news of the Gospel didn’t feel like enough.
And so the people in this congregation began to think about hedging their bets. They began to listen when whispers of other promises and easier options came their way. At the moment when Paul wrote this letter, the Christians at Colossae were on the verge of forgetting who they were and whose they were. They were on the verge of allowing their visible reality to re-define them.
Which is something we do, too. It really is the easiest thing in the world to let the nightly news or our personal problems or our worries or fears color our perspective. It’s easy to let these things even rule how we live our lives. And that’s because, naturally, what we feel and see and taste and touch are present to us in a way that is much more “real” than the unseen things we believe by faith.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. When Paul wrote this letter to the church at Colossae, he knew they were struggling — and he knew how to help them. Listen to what he wrote: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on the things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
Your life is hidden with Christ in God. Paul wanted his spiritual children at Colossae — and by extension, us — to see the world through God’s eyes. He wants us to “have all the riches of assured understanding and . . . knowledge of . . . Christ” because in Christ is every treasure of wisdom and knowledge. But Paul knew that this “state of being,” this life ruled by the peace of Christ, would only be attainable if we hold fast to the story — to the Person — who gave us new life in the first place. He knew that this was only possible if we keep our hearts fixed on what is actually true.
Which is why Paul encourages us to seek the things that are above. Search diligently for all that looks like, sounds like, tastes like Christ. Strive after these things and aim for them. For in so doing, we will find the Truth. When we seek the things that are above, we will encounter Christ in his glory. We will be reminded again and again of who we are: A precious and beloved child of God.
And that reality will illuminate every moment and every aspect of our lives. No longer will we be bound by the race for prestige or the allure of wealth. No longer will we be trapped by what can really feel like the pointlessness of it all. No longer will we judge people on their political views or their social position or what have you — because we will see that Christ is all in all.
That is the hope Paul reminds us of this morning, a hope that truly can make our lives a beautiful and holy offering to God — even in the here and now.
“Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on the things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” AMEN.