A Change in Plans

October 17, 2010                Colossians 3:1-17
Have you ever had a day that started off like you were on top of the world, but within a few hours you realized that nothing was going to work out like you thought it would?
Those days seem to come along more and more often for me lately.
It’s not that the day ends in disaster, or that it’s filled with bad things instead of good things.
It’s just that my day goes in a different direction than I thought it was going to.
For example, one morning last week I was primed for a productive day. It was all going according to plan.
We were up early, went for a walk, did some devotions, and took care of all the morning stuff around our house that needs to be done before going to work.
So we loaded up the car and took off for the office.  It was looking like I was going to get a lot done that day, like I’d be able to check a lot of things off of the mental list I keep.
The only thing was, at the end of our driveway the brake pedal went all the way to the floor and the car didn’t stop like it should.
I did get the car stopped, but instead of going to work, I backed it back up the drive and called the garage to make an appointment for them to check out the brakes.
Plan A was failing, but I was confident the day would get back on track.
It was now time for plan B.
Plan B involved swapping our stuff for the day into our other car, the one that had good brakes.
All I had was a backpack with some books in it, so I just threw it in and was ready to go.
Christine, on the other hand, prefers to carry her stuff around in a big pile!
So she made her approach to the good car with her beloved pile in one hand and her purse in the other.
She made it to the car, and was trying to balance everything on her leg while she opened the door with her purse-hand.
But she failed.
What she succeeded in was dumping the pile of stuff she was carrying all across the driveway and under the car.  Her nice, neat stack of notes, papers, books, folders, and a CD were scattered like leaves in the wind.
Needless to say she wasn’t happy about this turn of events.
Plan B was bruised, but not broken.
We got it all picked up and back into the car we went, bound for the office for the second time that day.
Halfway there we got a phone call.
A friend knew that we were having the MYF to our house for a bonfire later in the month, and he offered some nice, dry firewood from a dead tree he had just cut down.
He happened to be in town right then and was going to drop off the wood at our house.
So it was on to Plan C.
We turned around and went back home to help unload and stack the firewood.
After all, if he’s good enough to bring it to us, the least I can do is help unload it.
By the time I was done with the firewood, I was hot and sweaty enough that I felt the need to wash up and change clothes again.
So finally, on our third try, we made it to the office.  (of course by then it was almost time for lunch!)

There are often times when life surprises us and demands that we change our plans.
Sometimes the change isn’t exactly welcome; like when the brakes go out in your car.
Other times the change is almost a relief, like when a friend calls you with a gift of firewood.
Now and then the change is more irritating than anything else…like when your spouse makes a big mess and you have to help clean it up with a smile on your face!
What makes those changes necessary is understanding what’s important.

Paul says 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 things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

I’d like to know how Paul meant me to take these words on a morning like the one I just described.  The phrase “he’s so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good” comes to mind.  What Paul seems to be telling the Colossian church to do, is to focus on heaven a little too much for my liking, you know?
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, he says.
Isn’t that a lot easier said than done?  What’s that look like on a typical morning?
My brakes weren’t working, but that’s not really a heavenly thing, is it?
So was I supposed to keep on driving?  (I might have gotten to heaven a little quicker that way!)
Everything Christine dropped had to do with life on this earth.
The CD contained music that makes life enjoyable.  Her papers and notes and folders and notebooks–they all contained information and reminders and articles that had to do with life here, on earth.
So is Paul saying it was a good thing to drop it?  Is he saying we should have just let it lay?
After all, we’re supposed to set our minds on things that are above, not on these earthly concerns.
Even the firewood had to do with meeting an earthly concern.  I wanted some dry wood for the fire later in the month, but bonfires and stacking wood are hardly heavenly concerns.
So what’s Paul getting at?
Obviously we can’t go around all day with our head in the clouds, dreaming about pearly gates and streets made of gold and big long banqueting tables, right?
If we did, we’d never get anything done here on earth.  So what exactly is Paul talking about?

…We live in a world of contrasts.
We’re most comfortable when the world is neatly divided into clear cut categories.
We’ve been conditioned to  think in terms of Right and Wrong, Black and White, Christian and Non Christian, and the list could go on.
But I’d like to suggest that Heaven and Earth aren’t exactly cut and dried, contrasting realities like we often think.
We’ve been conditioned to see the world as Us verses Them, light verses dark, day verses night.
But even in the darkest night there’s a little bit of day, you know?
Just maybe Heaven and Earth aren’t mutually exclusive!
What matters isn’t the distinction between two realities, for that becomes clear by itself.
What matters is where you look and how you respond in the situation you’re in.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.
In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

In all the plans we make, in all the problems we encounter, in every bit of mess and challenge and especially in the people we love to hate–Christ is there.
Heaven is willing and waiting to break through.
If not, we’re just driving around with no brakes, or we’re just cleaning up another mess, or we’re just stacking firewood.
Do you see what I’m saying?  There’s a deeper meaning to life.
There is heavenly meaning to be found in every earthly action.  Our world is full of the promise–it’s bursting with the promise of the kingdom of God!
Our plans might change three times within the hour because of changing circumstances.
But Christ is all and in all!
The dividing walls of hostility have been broken down.
Christ lives in us and among us.  Therefore we are no longer condemned to live as if this world is all there is!  Put your minds on heavenly things–but like the hymn says, not in some heaven light years away, but here in this place, where new life is streaming.  Gone is the darkness, now is the day!
We are new creatures.  The old is gone by the grace of God through the resurrection of Christ–which is also our resurrection.
We are the renewal.  And renewal is never a cut and dried, black and white kind of thing.
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.

Letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts isn’t an easy thing to do.  Not when we have grudges to hold, messes to clean up, places to go and distractions to play with.
It can be more satisfying to hang on to the guilt, the grudge, the anger or the fear.
But that’s why we gather!
We come here to teach, to admonish, to nurture the gratitude and the peace of Christ which transcends all understanding–so that throughout all of life our words and deeds reflect the name of the Lord Jesus.
All of our words and deeds.
All that we watch on Television.  All that we look at online.
All the speech from our mouths, all the clothes in our wardrobe.
How we spend our time and our money, how we interact with our neighbor.  All of it is to reflect the peace of Christ, that heavenly reality right here on Earth.
Now, to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen.



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