Religion Magazine

The Kiss, the Robe and the Drink. A Final Sermon at St Andrew's Moscow. Colossians 3.12-17

By Malcolmdrogers

Colossians 3.12-17

‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts’ (v15)

Link to the audio of this sermon

The kiss, the robe and the drink. A final sermon at St Andrew's Moscow. Colossians 3.12-17

I think we need to hear that! I spent most of the time yesterday writing this talk feeling very chewed up – we simply did not know how things would work out. I was not even sure whether we would be meeting this morning. 

[Saturday June 24: Prigozhin and the Wagner group mutinied and marched on Moscow]  

But we need peace. Peace in our relationships: which is what this passage is about (“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body”. Colossians 3:15) and peace in ourselves.

So I’d like to leave you with four instructions! They come from Colossians 3.12-17, and they are instructions that will lead us in the way of peace

Remember that you are chosen, holy and beloved

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3.12)

This really is the starting point of everything

When Jesus was baptised, a voice was heard coming from heaven: ‘This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased’.

When we are baptised, we are identified with Jesus in his baptism, in his life and in his resurrection. We are super-glued to Jesus
So when God looks at Jesus, he sees us – because we are stuck to Jesus.

Because Jesus is the chosen one, because Jesus is holy, because Jesus is beloved, we are chosen, holy and beloved.

There are three symbols we use in baptism.

There is the symbol of the water. We are washed clean, we are forgiven.

There is the symbol of the candle. We are given the Holy Spirit

And there is the symbol of the cross signed on the forehead.
I often speak of that as the divine stamp, God’s branding on us, to say that we belong to him. Wherever we go, especially when we drift away from God, we can put our hand to our forehead and realize that we do not belong to this world, we do not belong even to ourselves, but we belong to God. It is when we are with him, we are truly home.
But we can also see that marking the sign of the cross as God’s kiss. When the minister marks the candidate with the sign of the cross, it is as if God is kissing them. He is saying to them, ‘You are my chosen one, holy and beloved’.

Remember you are chosen. Not chosen instead of other people, but for the sake of other people.

And remember that you are beloved by God.

That is so releasing, so affirming, so liberating.

He knows you. He knows how mixed up you are. He knows your angers, your passions, your hurts, your fears. He knows everything that you have done. He knows your thoughts. There is nothing about you that is hidden from him.

And despite all of that, he still has chosen you, called you to him and loves you.

So you really really are OK.

You do not need to pretend – you can be completely open with Him.
And you have nothing to prove – not to your family, not to the world, not to yourself.
And you do not need to make yourself lovable.

And irrespective of what the world says, because you are chosen, holy and beloved, you do matter.

There was an English spiritual mother, Julian of Norwich, who wrote in one of her reflections: ‘All will be well’
And yes, we may be led through the fire, we may suffer, but in the end all will be well

Paul writes, ‘All things work for good for those who love him”

Remember that God loves you.

Put on the beautiful robe that God gives you.

‘Clothe yourselves with love’ (v14)

The Holy Spirit holds out to you a robe. It is the gift of God to you. It is stunning. The person who wears it becomes radiant.

And it is the gift that is offered to every person who has received the love of God. All we need to do is to take it, and put it on.

It is the robe of love.

And as we look closer at what this love is, you see

Compassion – a genuine feeling for and suffering for the other: often it comes when we ourselves have suffered.

Kindness – be kind to each other! Be kind in what you and what you say.

Humility – We are beloved. We have nothing to prove. We can, if we choose, serve the other. We can do the equivalent of kneeling down and washing the feet of the other. As a genuine service.

Meekness – We are beloved. So we don’t need to assert ourselves.

Patience – God is in control. It is his timing that matters. We do not need to push it.

And when we put on this robe of love, we learn to bear with each other.

We are all strange. We all do stuff that irritates other people.
We think some people are boring, unattractive, creepy or pompous or ignorant. Just remember that there will be people who think that you are boring or unattractive or creepy or pompous or foolish.
Bear with one another. Give them time. Be kind to them and pray that God will give them grace to bear with you, give you time and be kind to you.

And the clasp on this robe of love is forgiveness

‘Forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you’ (v13)

We often say, ‘I’ll forgive when they say sorry’.

But that is missing the point.

God forgave us long before we said sorry.

He forgave us 2000 years ago when his son died on the cross. And at our baptism, we are reminded of that. We are washed in the water. It is a sign that our sins have been forgiven, were forgiven when Jesus died on the cross. It is a sign that God forgave us even before we became aware of the fact that we needed forgiveness

And that is particularly true if we were baptised as infants.

There is prayer that is used by the French Reformed Church:

“For you, little child, Jesus Christ has come, he has fought, he has suffered. For you he entered the shadow of Gethsemane and the horror of Calvary. For you he uttered the cry, "It is finished!" For you he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and there he intercedes — for you, little child, even though you do not know it. But in this way the word of the Gospel becomes true. "We love him, because he first loved us."”

Of course, we need to receive that forgiveness and that is where saying sorry comes in, but we can sorry to God because we have first been forgiven.

God first loved us. God first forgave us. And in the light of that we are set free to say sorry to Him.

So secondly, put on the robe of love which the Holy Spirit offers to you.

Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.

Bear with one another.

And put on the clasp of forgiveness – the forgiveness that you offer others because you first have been forgiven. That is what holds this robe together. It is what keeps it close to you.

Drink deeply of the word of Christ

‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (v16)

I hope that if you have realised nothing else from my preaching, you will have realised that I have a deep passion for Scripture, and for the word of God.

I have tried to teach what is in the passage – whether it is in sermons or on what have I just read or in our bible studies.

Not what I think should be there. Not what I would like to be there, which would make my life much easier, and would make my message more palatable. But what I think and pray is there.

Of course, we need to rightly understand the Scriptures.

We need the help of how our brothers and sisters from ages past have understood those scriptures. And we need the help of each other.

And of course, there are times when we do not and cannot understand a passage, and then we simply have to admit it.

The story is told of a spiritual father who asked his three disciples what a complicated passage of the bible meant. The first gave his interpretation; the second his; and the third said, ‘I don’t know. I am listening’. And the spiritual father said, ‘This third has begun to understand the scripture’.

I realize that there will have been many times when I have got it wrong. And for that I ask your forgiveness and God’s forgiveness.

But we need to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. It is that word of Christ which challenges us and teaches us.

It was when I first started to read the bible that I really did begin to experience the presence and power of God at work in me and working through me.

When I am spiritually dry, I will go back and study the scriptures – drawing connections between passages, seeing what the main thing is, drawing out new insights along with the old insights. There is always something new.

When I do not know how to pray or what to pray for, I will learn verses and try to pray those verses for myself, for the church, for those for whom God has given me responsibility. For instance, this morning as I lay in bed I prayed that God would help me put on that robe of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.

And I will pray some of the Bible prayers: Lord’s prayer, Zechariah’s prayer, the Jesus prayer.

I would urge you, drink deep from the scriptures, the word of Christ.

‘Read, mark and inwardly digest them’, to use the words of an Anglican collect.

Read it – mark it (maybe literally) – and take it into yourself, just as we take the bread and wine at communion into ourselves. Let it dwell in you richly.

Listen to the story of the Bible. Become part of the story of the Bible.

Drink deeply of the Word of God

Be thankful

Be thankful for all that God has given us: his love, his forgiveness, his compassion, his patience, his forgiveness, his strength and peace.

Be thankful for his promises: Forgiveness, transformation, Hope for us and creation, Holy Spirit, presence

Be thankful in the good times: for the blessings and the joys and happiness that he gives. Give thanks to him for hopes fulfilled and longings satisfied.

But also give thanks to him in the difficult times: because he never abandons us and uses those difficult times to shape us so that we can become like him.
“We rejoice in our sufferings”, says Paul, because suffering builds character and leads to hope and longing – and that hope and longing will not be disappointed, because God pours out his love on us through his Holy Spirit (my own very loose translation of Romans 5)

Diamonds are the hardest material in the world; they are also one of the most precious and one of the most beautiful. But to begin to be formed, diamonds require at least 725,000 pounds per square inch of pressure and temperatures between 2,000 and 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. And it takes between 1 billion and 3.3 billion years for them to be formed.

We are called to become spiritual diamonds: resilient, precious and beautiful.

So we thank God when he takes us through the heat of suffering, and places us under great pressure because he is beginning to make us spiritual diamonds.

Today I particularly give thanks to God for this place, and I give thanks to God for you, people from all over the world gathered together to worship God, to receive from God and to grow in God. I thank God for all we have received and for what we have seen Him do.

We thank God for the difficult times we have been through: the political difficulties, the uncertainties, COVID – and those we lost in COVID, particularly I think of Hong; the many friends we have had to say goodbye to (by the way, Goodbye in English is ‘God be with you’). I think, in particular, of that 2022 Ash Wednesday service.

And we thank him for the good times and encouragements: the fetes and bazaars, history days and this year when we finally managed to put on a Maslenitsa. For money raised for the restoration, for the west end and the new roof and the chapel. For those who have become Christians and have chosen to follow the Lord Jesus, who have received baptism or confirmation; for those who have gone forward for ordained ministry; for our youth group and children’s groups; for some of our very special services – not just the large (eg midnight communion and singing silent night), but also the small. For the sense of deep peace that often came at the end of the Wednesday communion service in the early years.

And I thank God that we have discovered that when we are weak, then we are strong. When we are nobody then God can work in us and through us.

And I thank him that we can entrust our future into his hands. My own future – and no, we do not yet know what we will be doing – and the future of St Andrew’s.

We thank him because God is in control and he loves you. And Jesus will never leave you.

Four things:

Remember the kiss, that you are beloved.

Put on the beautiful robe of Love that the Holy Spirit offers you

Drink deeply from the word of God

And be thankful

And as we do those things, then we will know ‘the peace of Christ’ and we will become people of peace, who make for the things of peace.

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