A Sermon for on Colossians 3:1-11
A Sermon Preached by Canon Simon Butler
I am not sure whether you have ever been told to ‘get a life’. I know that on more than one
occasion I have.
But what is our life defined by. What is this life that we are supposed to be getting? And
more to the point can we actually get it?
From a Christian perspective one might say a life, and our new life in Christ, is not
something we can get, rather it is something we are given. As Christians our life is not
defined by the things our culture and our world tries to tell us that life is. Life is not
defined, for example, by the food we eat. It is not defined by the family we come from, or
who are parents are or how many children we have. It is not defined by the house we live
in, or by place we shop. It is not defined by the music we li ke, or the things that we own. It
is not defined by the team we support, the party we vote for, certainly not the church we
belong to. Our life is not defined by the job we have, the income we earn or the
achievements of our life.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians we are told that the source and meaning of our very
existence, our life, is hidden with Christ in God. The truth of your life and mine isn’t, he
says, about all of the trappings of this world but is the truth of a right relationship with God
in and through Jesus Christ. We are tied to God’s life, Jesus-life, through the power of the
Holy Spirit. Being a Christian is to be tied to that life, the very life of God. We are part of a
mysterious and liberating union of the divine and the created! That’s an extraordinary
claim: our life, our calling if you like is to be an exploration of what that means for each one
And to that question – what does my life being hidden with Christ in God mean, Paul says,
‘seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your
mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth…’. This is a mind blowing
statement: we have died and we are now connected to Jesus, the incarnate Word, God
made flesh, who came among us who lived, who died, who was raised from the dead is
now at fully in God’s presence! The truth is – and Paul has already mentioned this – at our
baptism (or, perhaps more likely, our confirmation) each one of us ‘died’ to the world, we
committed our lives to allowing Christ to shape our values and decisions, we committed to
a life working out what that means, a life of false starts, sure, a life of blind alleys probably,
but a life, nevertheless, with a clear direction. The Way of Jesus Christ.
When making decisions Christians often ponder the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ But
there’s a danger in that. It would be to answer the question as if Jesus had finished his
work 2000 years ago and was no longer around, no longer present, doing for us. Living a
Christian life, however, is to remember his continuing risen life with God with us now, and
to seek to answer the questions of life as contemporary Christians filled with the Spirit, and
not as 1st
Century Christians. Christ continues his work through us: we are called, in the
light of the past, to live our Christian vocation knowing Jesus Christ continues to do and be
for us what coul d not do and be for ourselves. We do not all have to do what Jesus
did. Rather, we are incorporated and hidden in his life seated at God’s right hand. We are
already resurrected in him.
So Paul rightly challenges the Colossians with where their focus lies. Seek the things
above! Now we know that heaven is not necessarily up there (point up). Yet
metaphorically we do know that God is over and above us. So when in the communion we
are called to ‘lift our hearts to the Lord’ ‘We lift them to the Lord’ who is in the presence of
the Father offering praise and worship to God. We do this in and through the power of the
And so as we lift our hearts we are called to give thanks and praise to God for as we say ‘it
is right to give our thanks and praise’. It is not good, or fun, or emotionally satisfying, it is
right to give our thanks and praise to God! Coming to worship God is the right thing to do,
not an optional extra in the smorgasbord of spiritual activities in which we can engage. It
is the right thing to do.
Focussing above, lifting our hearts to where Jesus is we are transformed by our heavenly
encounter as Jesus sends the Spirit upon us and our lives. We are a resurrection people,
we have died with Christ and we have already been raised with him. We are called to live
in the presence of the coming kingdom now.
What does this mean? It means, according to Paul, putting to death whatever is earthly:
fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). Get rid of ‘anger,
wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouths’. We hear in these words
echoes of Jesus’ teaching in the gospel reading. Do not focus on this world and the
desires of this world, of wealth and money and power but focus on the treasures in
The difficulty is that we participate in the world and its ways. We are so imbued with our
culture that we are blind to the way that culture entices us and seduces us away from
God. We measure our lives by achievements, by jobs, by families, by possession, by
political affiliations almost without a thought. And as churches we lose faith and worry
about numbers and money in the plate and relevance and forget that ultimately all things
are in God’s hands and our lives are hidden with Christ in God.
As Christians we are clothed with a new self, we are given to be a new creation! We have
been renewed in the image of our creator. And in this we know that we travel towards a
time when God’s kingdom will come in all its fullness, yet as we wait we know that Christ is
all and is in all and we can share in that future now. So Paul goes on to challenge the
Colossians with some positive attributes, inviting them to be the presence of Jesus while
we await the kingdom in all its fullness.
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. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called
in the one body. And be thankful. 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.
Get a life? No, brothers and sisters, this is the outworking of the life we have already been
given. This is what it begins to look like when we live the truth that our life is hidden with
Christ in God. If anyone tells you to get a life, say that you’ve got one and it is a gift from
God hidden with Christ in heaven.