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Fourth Sunday of Lent

4th Sunday of Lent

Colossians 3 12-17

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear 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. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let 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. 17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him

These 5 verses are loaded with teaching and we will not get very far this morning, but I would urge you to read them through after the service ask God to show you other things that are important for you.

In the name of the living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen

Some of us will remember the lyrics of an old song that went like this:

You've got to accentuate the positive,

Eliminate the negative,

Latch on to the affirmative,

And don't mess with Mr. In-between.

Those lyrics are an accurate description of the passage we have before us in Colossians, chapter 3, beginning with verse 12. Listen to these positive, affirmative words:

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:12)

I wonder if any of those words particularly resonated with you?

Two weeks ago we heard that we were God’s beloved son or daughter – and here are again this morning God’s chosen and dearly loved – Is God trying to tell you something?

Through this entire section the apostle Paul has written in terms of putting off and putting on clothes. That suggests that this ought to be done every morning.  Clothes say a lot about a person. Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” “Dress for success” is still common advice that is wisely considered. The fact is most, if not all of us, give a tremendous amount of attention to what we wear and what is in style.  I am sure Nathaniel would rather wear a sweatshirt advertising the Tesla rather than the Dasha Duster and Lydia would rather wear a pretty T shirt rather than one with Thomas the Tank Engine on.  (Although the older you get the less you care about what is ‘in’ or ‘out’ of fashion as long as it is comfortable and you like it!)    Styles change and they change quickly. But, I have some good news for Christians. What was in style in the first century is still in style in the twenty first century, it is in style anyplace and anytime. These clothes will always be the height of fashion!

How do you get up in the morning? Some have great difficulty crawling out of bed and others leap out of bed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Some are ready to face the day immediately, but others drag along for a couple of hours, needing endless cups of coffee to get them going.  Albert Einstein once said, "The problem with the speed of light is, it comes too early in the morning!"

No matter how or what time you get started, Paul's word is, "clothe yourselves." When you get up, deliberately put on these qualities of life compassion, kindness, humility, meekness (gentleness)  and patience. 

The reason, of course, is because you can put them on. That is the argument throughout this whole letter. A work of caution here we can only put on these clothes if we have taken off the old ones. In the previous chapter Paul says "Put off the old man." The characteristics of the old life: the self-centred, praise-loving, prideful flesh in every one of us: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature."  You are a new man, a new woman in Christ, therefore, you can begin to live that way. So do it! That is the apostle's exhortation.

Putting on these clothes  requires a positive determination so, when you start your day put away the old reactions and then clothe yourself, put on deliberately, in your thinking, these qualities that reflect the life and temperament of Jesus.

"Clothe yourselves with compassion." Literally the word is, "bowels of sympathy." The ancients believed that the emotions originated in the bowels. We don't think that way, although we get close to it when we say, "I've got a gut feeling." I recently read this story of the little girl who was asked to describe the parts of man. She said, "Man has three parts: the brainium, the chester, and the abominable cavity. The brainium holds the brain, the chester holds the heart, and the abominable cavity holds the bowels, a, e, i, o and u.  It is easy to become confused about Paul’s instructions.  To put on compassion means having empathy with others.  Approach with compassion the person sitting opposite you at the breakfast table, before they have combed their hair or had a shave, with the children having a fight and refusing to eat the porridge. Whatever it is that annoys you, compassion leads to kindness, we are to put it on for are a new man, or new woman;

After that, comes "kindness." Kindness is action that reveals compassion .It can take many different forms a smile, a kind word, a pat on the shoulder, an invitation to lunch, and an offer of help.  We have seen and experienced countless acts of kindness during the Pandemic, would that these kind acts continue into our future lives together

Many centuries ago, a certain young man from a rural setting went to live in a large city and fell in with the wrong crowd. He lived a wild and dissolute life, becoming involved in many hurtful things which almost destroyed him He heard a preacher one day and though he did not particularly appreciate his preaching, he was struck by the man He went to hear him again, and soon that preacher was able to lead him to Christ. That young man has become famous as the great St Augustine. This is what Augustine wrote of Ambrose, pastor of the cathedral in Milan: "I began to love him, not at first as a teacher of the truth, which I despaired of finding in the church, but as a fellow creature who was kind to me” What an open door kindness can be.

 

The next quality is "humility,” which John Stott rightly calls "the rarest and fairest of all Christian virtues." The chief Christian virtue is humility because it is the exact opposite of the worst of sins, which is pride. We are to put on humility, to think humbly of ourselves.   As the apostle puts it in another place, we are to regard others as better than ourselves. A modern proverb puts it well, remember that "all of us are made in the same mould, only some are mouldier than others!"

Then we are to put on "gentleness," a familiar word that is often translated as "meekness." Not weakness, meekness which is strength under control."  If we remember back to last week it was gentle Jesus meek and mild that made a whip and overturned the tables in the temple. Jesus said, "take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart."  Meekness and gentleness are the exact opposite of rudeness and abrasiveness.

Next is a hard one for some of us. "Patience”    It is a negative term. It is holding back, restraining yourself from becoming upset or speaking sharply to somebody whose behaviour you find difficult and exasperating.

Linked with patience is the sixth quality, "forbearance." "Bear with one another." This is similar to longsuffering, but it is a positive attribute. Literally it is to support and encourage others, especially if it is something they find hard, or that you can do with ease. It is a great Christian quality to cultivate.

The last quality is "forgiving” one another. Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. It does not mean that we are not to air a grievance we may feel. We are told in Scripture that if we have something against another to "go to the other and tell him his or her fault between you and him alone." We do not have to repress every feeling of injustice or unfairness that we feel. We are to say how we feel, but, having done that, and this is the point, forget it. No longer let yourself think about it. Our model, of course, is Christ's treatment of us. That is what he does when we come to him in repentance.   He forgives the sins that we have done. The prophet Micah wrote "he casts our transgressions into the depths of the sea." Corrie Ten Boom used to say and he put up a sign that says, "No Fishing."

Having struggled into all these clothes these seven beautiful qualities, Paul tells us to wrap it all round with the bond of love.  Love ties everything together like a belt.  This, of course, is that quality of acceptance of others. You are no longer the old person you once were, because you are a new person you are the person that God has made you to be.  So here is heaven’s wardrobe beautifully woven from the hands of a divine tailor. Each of these garments was perfectly worn by Jesus Christ and He longs to see you wear them as well.  Amen

There is so much more I could say, please read the passage and explore the other things Paul has to say.  Explore what it means to “Let” the peace of God rule and “Let” the word of God dwell in you.  What would it mean to be thankful.