In these highly politically charged days -- after two weeks of conventions: Republicans in Cleveland, Democrats in Philadelphia ... with all the speeches, all the spins, all the commentaries, all the debates, all the analysis, all the platforms and party lines -- I don’t know if you’ve heard this, or been accused of it yourself, but in these politically charged days, there’s this phrase we can use:
“You’re starting to sound like [and then fill in the blank]” ...
You’re starting to sound like Donald Trump. You’re starting to sound like Hillary Clinton. You’re starting to sound like an NRA lobbyist. You’re starting to sound like a Black Lives Matter activist. You’re starting to sound like you watch too much FOX News, you’re starting to sound like you’re “feelin’ the Bern”…
And there is this way in which we are all getting absorbed in this season, folded into one affiliation or another, even the non-affiliation. “You’re starting to sound like my mother, who’s choosing not to vote, to sit this one out, because she doesn’t like either choice.” Reflect silently for a moment...on which groups are absorbing you in this season, which positions are you being folded into? Which sides are you being “hidden with” these days? Good thing, bad thing? [pause]
Our reading from Colossians today:
“So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above...set your minds not on things that are on earth. [one translation: “Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ - that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective]...for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
What does it look like to be absorbed into Christ? “Your life is hidden in Christ with God.” What does it look like to live, folded into God, folded into Christ? Absorbed. Hidden in Christ.
Now I think both conventions these last two weeks did their best to fold God into their side. And I think we’re all guilty of that. We can all argue pretty passionately that God is on our side, we can all fold God in with us. But rather than doing the folding, the hiding, the stuffing of God into our stuff...what does it look like instead to let ourselves be folded in? “...for you have died, and your life is hidden in Christ with God.”
How much reflection have you given to the fact that in baptism, YOU’VE ALREADY DIED! What’s it like to have already died? We don’t emphasize that language so much in our sweet, little baby baptisms, but it couldn’t be more scriptural. (Ancient fonts were often caskets.) In baptism, you’ve already died! So you don’t have to worry about all that stuff anymore...ultimately. Your life is hidden in God, joined to Christ. His glory is our glory, his death is our death, his resurrection is our resurrection! This is what Colossians tells us. So…
What’s that mean? It means putting away obsession with only the stuff that you see -- lures of the world. Put those desires and attractions in us to death, we’re told. A lot of that sounds like pretty sexual stuff in this reading. That can be very instructive for us today. (When we did the sexuality study here a few years ago, people came I think because they thought it was just on homosexuality, but the course was about human sexuality, and we had to face those tough issues when money and power and sex overlap…)
If these are words you need to hear today, to put to death the unhealthy, exploitative, destructive sexual lures of the world, to hear a strong word that following after those is not what it means to be hidden with God in Christ, if that’s poignant and timely for you, then that’s good...and right. But I think this passage is about much more than that.
“Being hidden with Christ in God” is also about putting to death greed (which is idolatry, Paul says). Greed is idolatry. Wanting something so bad is to make a god out of it. This is not just about sex. (In fact sex is a gift from God, when we steward it well.) This is about consumption and obsession. It’s about protecting ourselves (falsely) with things: with excess, with safety nets and pensions, with fancy buildings and armored vehicles -- and obsessing after all those things. That’s the larger challenge in this text, I think, for all of us here.
The times were different, of course, when Colossians was written. But the obsessions, the fears, the desires, the lures are pretty much the same.
We are being called back to the core. Back to the center. Back to the fact that ultimately, ultimately, we are absorbed, hidden in Christ. We can let the other stuff go. [pause]
We were absorbed by the river -- on a bunch of levels -- as we gently drifted down. Laughter, the beauty of nature (Mt. Hood). That was good day…
The river wasn’t particularly deep and the current was definitely not fast. You could walk upstream if you wanted to. You could take control. But we didn’t. We just gave ourselves to the river. Enjoyed the ride. I guess you could say we were hidden with the river. At one point Jon even said to me, as we were laughing and bouncing a little on our inner tubes through some white water. “You see Dan, it’s like life! You have to put this in a sermon! You can try to control it, or you can just let yourself be taken!” (I thought it was a pretty cheesy image, and would never work.) (But that’s probably because I was just so absorbed in the moment, the thought of any words came up empty.)
Friends in Christ, baptized and set free, people of God, hidden, absorbed in this love, this motion of forgiveness, this flow of grace -- this adventure of faith is actually fun! To be called out on our obsessions, and unhealthy passions and desires, might just make it seem like we’re getting our hand slapped, and we have to get back on the right path. But Jesus’ invitation is much richer than that: We’re going to the river! It’s not about the right path (which is stagnant), it’s about the gracious current!
The waters of baptism: that’s our launching point. That’s the cool pool where you enter in. And now we float...together. Folded into God’s grace. Hidden in Christ’s mercy and forgiveness. Hidden in Christ’s joy. Absorbed and lost in God’s love...for us, for this whole world. Thanks be to God. AMEN.