Sunday, April 8, 2012

Colossians 3:1-11

"The HMS Christus"
MasterPiece Church
Easter Sunday, 08 April 2012

It is near impossible to offer a simple explanation as to why so many souls boarded the HMS Christus on that fateful day.
  • Some had heard that the food was good -- and as you know, on cruises there is lots of it.
  • I’m sure that some were just looking for an extreme adventure on the open seas and a sailing ship as unusual as the Christus. The extraordinary design with huge masts and the gopher wood construction definitely appealed to the romantic and adventurous.
  • Some had simply followed the captain on board as though they were under the spell of a pied piper. He was popular both on land and sea.
  • Some signed on as crew members because they’d been listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio and they figured it would be a good second job to pay off their debts. There were lots of indebted people onboard.
I signed on because I wanted to see the world as it really was and to hopefully make a difference in the lives of some needy people. If anyone was ever going to change things out there it would be the captain. And I can remember the buzz as people boarded for that fateful cruise.

The band played. People on the dock were waving flags and chanting. The crew filed on -- one by one -- followed by the passengers, who tended to move in clumps because they lacked sea experience and needed each other for balance with the motion of the ship.

For even as everyone boarded -- the waters were choppy, the winds were starting to blow, and the sky was darkening.

“We better get underway -- without delay” the captain shouted to his first mate. The order to cast off and hoist the sail immediately followed. And we could all feel the ship move as it turned away from the dock and toward the bay opening.

Because of the winds, within minutes we were out on the open sea. Very few, including the captain, could contain themselves. For we all by hunch or revelation sensed that this would be a momentous voyage.

Even though the seas were choppy, repainting the ocean backdrop from pacific blue-green to angry white, it was pleasant enough sailing -- for the first three hours or so.

But then suddenly the captain gave the order to drop the sail and the ship screeched to a jostling halt. Passengers and crew all moved onto deck to reconnoiter.

And it wasn’t so hard to figure out the situation. There, sitting no more than 100 yards off the bow, was the darkest most evil ship you could imagine. And while very few had ever seen the ship before, everyone instinctively knew that we were on course with the pirate ship Golgotha. The white skull and cross bones were not just evident on the pennant but they decorated the whole of the huge black main sail.

With the darkening skies and the white choppy waters as a bckdrop -- it was an ominous moment -- and not at all in a good way. Suddenly, there were flashes of fire from the deck of the Golgotha.

The captain of the HMS Christus sounded general quarters and as the crew scrambled to their places, cannon balls dropped in the drink, 15 feet from the hull of the Christus. The first mate, not willing to wait for the captain, ordered the crew to return fire. But then we realized that the Christus had no maritime weaponry.

And the crew, with panicked looks, held their hands up in disbelief. No canons? What kind of a crazy hair-brained ship was this? What were they going to do?

The captain ordered the passengers below deck -- and to prepare for a rough ride. He called for the sails to be hoisted -- and the ship lurched forward toward the Golgotha -- just in time to catch a canon ball that crashed through the starboard side of the hull.

The Golgotha tried to come about but the Christus was picking up speed even with the hole and it was pretty clear that the captain of the Christus intended to ram the Golgotha.

He strapped himself to the mast.

And just as the bow was about to penetrate the side of the pirate ship a mighty wave caused by the stormy seas tossed the Christus 45 feet into the air so that when the contact came, the keel of the Christus was slicing across the deck of the Golgotha.

And the pirate ship was irreparably split in two -- with both sides listing as the pirate crew scrambled for footing on the remains of their ship.

In some ways, the fact that there was cheap balsa wood under all of that threatening iron, worked in their favor. The pirate crew would be able to float for a long long time.

The Christus, though, suffered a terminal breech when the keel ripped into the Golgotha. A gapping 35-foot-wide hole in the haul invited the salt water to rush in and the good ship was quickly filling.

The panicked souls on the sinking HMS Christus could hear the taunting song of the defeated pirates who were boldly standing on the debris of their ship as though they were at the helm of the world.
“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage plunder, we rifle and loot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We're rascals and scoundrels, we're villians and knaves.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
We're devils and black sheep, we're really bad eggs.
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.”
No visible signs of remorse -- and certainly not repentance.

The Christus was going down after an encounter with an inferior balsa wood Golgotha and its crew of stupid pirates.

And I can tell you that there was lots of screaming below deck but the deeper we sank and the more water there was -- the less we were each aware of the others.

After dropping for what seemed to be an eternity, there was a mighty thud as the ship hit bottom and people toppled, then bodies rolled toward the stern. Panic the thought. There is no way anyone could ever swim for it. We were too far down and the cold ocean water was rising and filling our rooms until the air was drained. It was growing black. Gasp for air. One last gasp. Swallow. Stillness. Total darkness.

How long we were down there -- it’s hard to say -- two days -- three days? But at one point I suddenly became aware of being awake -- being alive -- breathing.

There was once again air filling the rooms. Water was shooting out the portals and back into the sea as the HMS Christus was slowly -- then quickly floating toward the surface.

And there were people. The ship was filled with lots and lots of people. Somehow we had picked up passengers while we sat down there -- thousands of new passengers from the bottom of the depths -- souls who swam in through the haul breech. Yet, in spite of the added weight of new souls the HMS Christus was rising. The breech was now completely repaired and the new Christus was stronger and more commanding than even the previous ship. Even the glowing white paint was new and somehow set before we broke the surface with a mighty swoosh -- not 50 yards from the floating pirate debris.

Christus’ crew and passengers -- old and new -- rushed to the deck.

You should have seen the panicked looks on the faces of those pirate survivors -- still clinging to the debris of their dead ship -- oblivious to the wake created by the surfacing of the Christus and the reality. The Golgotha would never again wreak havoc on the high seas.

Amazingly they still sang their taunting pirate song -- even though they were obviously waterlogged and even the most evil pirate musician would say that they were hopelessly off-key.

In contrast, the new Christus was beautiful -- more whole and brighter than even before the battle of the Golgotha.

The Captain was no longer strapped to the mast but was standing on deck in his dress whites, surrounded by souls who had been lost, but who were now alive as never before.

The captain offered to rescue the pirate survivors -- but not a single pirate agreed to board the Christus. They’d rather take their chances clinging to the dead Golgotha and with the uncertainty of the high seas, than to launch out in a new direction with a new captain, a new ship. Evil is stubborn that way.

When the new HMS Christus sailed into the harbor it was a stunning sight -- a ship as never before seen. And as she came to dock -- not a single person who had died with the Christus was willing to step off the ship -- not even to stretch their legs on dry land. They didn’t really need to, for now they had new legs which didn’t require the stability of the land.

There were some folk on shore who couldn’t resist the draw of the HMS Christus -- the ship that had broken the hull of the pirates. They boarded to take the tour but stayed to join the celebration. They were received as though they had gone down with the Christus, too -- and were now alive again in the Christus, as well.

The newbie passengers and crew members were welcomed with a watering ceremony so that they might fully grasp the event into which they were becoming full participants. For they were now fully into the death and life of the HMS Christus and in the future it would define everything about who they were, what they did, how they thought -- the entirety of their very lives.

For the past several weeks we have been working our way through Paul’s letter to the church at Colassae. The issue at hand was a group of interlopers who were trying to steer the church in a new direction -- trying to persuade people that it’s not enough to simply be in Christ -- that is, to die in him and rise in him -- to ut trust in him.

According to these interlopers you also needed to memorize a critical cosmic map of the spiritual powers and learn some spiritual mysteries -- exclusively of their offering -- of course, for a low low price -- if you call before midnight tonight!

You get the picture. There is always someone who wants to make these things more complicated than they are -- and it’s usually to their benefit when they do so -- either financially or in terms of power and prestige.

So Paul is trying to bring things back to basics. You went down with Christ and you were raised with Christ. That’s it. Live it!

Last week we read in Colossians 2:20 --
“You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world.”
Starting in 3:1, this week we read,
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” (NLT)
That is, you’ve died with Christ. You’ve been raised with Christ. Therefore let the things which have their hidden origins in the heavenly realities (the headquarters for Christ’s operations) define your life. You’re not going to get any higher than that!

There is no higher government authority. There are no spirits wandering around out there who are higher. There is no cultural tradition which is higher! Christ is the only person to whom you cannot say, “I want to speak to your supervisor.” For he is his own supervisor -- and creator and superior over all creation -- functioning together with the Father and Holy Spirit -- his co-equals in the Trinity.

There is a mystical but practical dimension to Easter. When Christ went down -- by faith you went down with him. When Christ surfaced, by faith you surfaced with him and so you continue to live your new life in his resurrection.

Nothing else is needed. Therefore dump your old golgotha ways overboard into the sea. No need to sing the pirate song anymore -- or anything close to it. Sing, instead, a new heaven-based song.

In vss 5-9 Paul lists a bunch of things that are a part of the old pirates’ song --
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off (your pirate get-up) -- the old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. (NLT)
That is, quit trying to pretend that you didn’t die and rise with Christ. Kill off any annoying remnants of that earworm pirate song -- Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.

Replace it with a new song -- a new nature: Vs. 10 --
“Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” (NLT)
This is the good new of Easter. Because we have we have gone down with him and re-surfaced with him -- “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” -- That is, all who will hop on board.

It doesn’t matter if you were a pirate or a refined aristocrat. Jew or Gentile -- slave or free. Terrible sinner or someone who thinks he’s actually pretty decent fellow. The offer is identical.

Whoever you are, look to the Christ who went down, sliced death in half, and surfaced better than before -- look to him and live in him. There is nothing more basic to this whole Easter business -- to the whole Christian business than that.

You know, it’s easy to lay all kinds of additional expectations on people -- add-on’s. And people feel the pressure either from within or without -- especially on the holidays. Some people freak out at the prospect of having to do the holiday right. The voice of some long gone mother or aunt haunts them -- “You have to have this kind of ham and this kind of an egg hunt for the kids -- and you have to wear these kinds of special clothes. You know, it’s not Easter unless you have _____________.” (You, fill in the blank.)

Those kinds of traditions are not bad in and of themselves -- but when the expectations become add-ons to what it’s all about -- they become distractions and at times barriers.

And that’s why the Easter sermon always seems to be about the basic (but not necessarily simple) reality of resurrection living -- living the new resurrected life with the Christ who went down but has come up -- and brought us up with him.

So, I want to invite you to something new -- to a new way of thinking and breathing. To a new set of attachments. To a new career path. To a new whole new resurrected life.

Because once you’ve gone down with Christ and come up with him -- that changes everything.

Let’s pray -- and I invite you to make this your prayer:
Christ Jesus, when I was sunk and stuck on the bottom, you came down and rescued me. You brought me to the surface. And I am eternally grateful for that. I am forever in your debt and see my life forever tied in with what you are doing in the world. I want to follow you and be in you -- to live the resurrected life with you. That’s my new purpose. And I mark this moment as a turning point.

Yes, I know that my life is messy and complicated but I am trusting you to make the necessary reordering to bring it about. And I know that you can do so because you are the captain of my soul -- just as you are the Commander and Chief of all that is. To you -- and you alone belongs all glory, honor, and praise. Amen.
I need to tell you that if this is truly your prayer -- you have gone down with Christ and come up with him -- and even if you for some stupid reason have wandered from him (and admit it -- in hindsight all the reasons we drift from Christ are really pretty stupid) he will not abandon you -- he continues to rescue those he has rescued.

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