"Leaning into the Sun (Son)"
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
July 14, 2019 at 10:30 AM
Central Passage
Colossians 1:1-14
Pentecost 5C

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: July 14, 2019—Pentecost 5C

Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37


Leaning into the Light of the Sun (Son)


          Ah, the seasons of the church year! There’s Advent, with its emphasis on preparation for the Messiah. There’s Christmas and its celebration of Jesus’ birth. There’s Epiphany and the arrival of the wise men. Then there’s Lent and its emphasis on repentance and discipline, culminating in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. And then there’s the joy of Easter Sunday and its subsequent 50-day celebration of Christ’s triumph over death. And let’s not forget Reformation Sunday or All Saints Sunday.


And then there’s “After Pentecost”. I can’t imagine a more boring title. “After Pentecost”. At least the Catholics have a more accurate name. They call this season “Ordinary Time”. As opposed to the extraordinary, exciting times of the year. Not much seems to happen during this long, green season, which stretches as long as a hot, lazy summer day.


          But this season, unexciting as it is, has important lessons to teach us about the Christian life.


          How many of you have ever heard the corn grow? I used to think that was a joke on the level of cow-tipping (can you tell I grew up in town??). But this week, I found out that it’s true! Put down the iPads, kids, and go out to the corn field on a summer evening—maybe even tonight. If you listen carefully enough, you might hear the faint “crack, snap” of the corn stalks. If you don’t believe me, just do an internet search. Type “Can you hear the corn grow?” and click on the very first hit.[1] A quiet cornfield on a summer evening is not the most exciting place to be, but an amazing thing happens there that impacts the lives of billions. Nature takes its course, and humans and animals eat for another year.


          Likewise, our lives are not filled with wall-to-wall excitement. (And who could stand it if they were??) Life has a lot of mundanity. Much is routine. And yet, God works in those ordinary, everyday, mundane moments. God grows our character and identity as children of God most in daily joys and frustrations. God does this so that we can be the kind of people who act as his children in extraordinary situations, like the one we hear in the Gospel today. God does this by opening us to his Son (Sun), which grows the gospel planted in us at our baptism.


          Paul talks about this kind of growth in this Letter to the Church at Colossae. Like with the Roman church, Paul is writing to a church that he has neither planted nor met. He writes to them to encourage them in their faith, rooted in the Son who died and rose for them and in whom they have also died and risen. He exhorts them to show the fruits of true faith and to reject any message that demands extra requirements to following Jesus. Such as, “You have to observe this holiday,” or “You have to fast on this day,” or “You have to be circumcised,” or “You have to sing ‘Silent Night’ at the end of every Christmas Eve candlelight service!” Nothing but saving faith is needed to grow in relationship with God, or as Paul puts it “to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding”.


          What is necessary is growth in Christ. When Jesus, as Paul puts it, “canceled the debt of our sin by nailing it to his cross”, it became impossible for us to remain as we were. We can no longer sink into, as C.S. Lewis calls it, “a more-or-less contented subhumanity”. We are made for more. We are made to become more fully human, more complete people, more God’s children than we can imagine. Full humanity, in God’s eyes, is being compassionate enough to show mercy to an enemy, like the Samaritan showed the Jew in the ditch. Or, even more difficult, to be the one willing to be helped by an enemy.


          Growth is painful, though. Back to the corn. If you click on that first hit about hearing the corn grow, it will lead you to a study by the University of Nebraska. In that study, the researchers theorize that the corn grows by constant breakage and repair, much like our muscles. If you’ve ever been sore the day after, say, moving furniture or lifting weights, it’s because of all those micro-tears in your muscles, which grow back stronger. Any kind of positive growth in our lives is accompanied by corresponding pain due to the difficulty of change.


          But God doesn’t just call us to change. And God doesn’t just promise that we will be changed one day. God has already changed us. Paul writes about it in the past tense. “He rescued us from the control of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. He set us free through the Son and forgave our sins.” We are already part of God’s holy people. We are already changed through the forgiveness of sins. We are already made holy by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Lutherans don’t like change, we say. Well, too bad. It’s already happened.


          And just as God changed us when he brought us into his Son’s kingdom, he will continue to change us into new people. The Word God planted in you at your baptism will continue to grow, like the corn growing in the field. And as the corn’s leaves stretch toward the sun, the Word within us stretches toward the Sun (Son) that makes us more fully human. People who embody patience, compassion, and love. More able to perceive and engage with the humanity of others. People who are saved from subhumanity. People who are free to be human.


          Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, our Father changed us permanently when he gave us a place in your kingdom. Continue to grow your Word in us, in moments both ordinary and extraordinary, so that we can be fully human as you are fully human. Amen.


© 2019, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.