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Pentecost 11 (3)

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Colossians 3:1–11 NIV
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Today’s sermon is about priorities. Those things in our lives which we consider to be the most important and to which we devote our time, talents, and treasures. One way in which we can find out what was most important to people is what is written about them in their obituaries. Along with the usual events such as birth, marriage, names of immediate family, schooling, and work; you may read about the interests that a person had in their lives (summarized in this short biography). Here are some examples:
Phyllis spent her retirement years traveling and seeing the world.  She had visited all the continents with the exceptions of the Arctic and Antarctic areas.  She was involved with a number of organizations and was a charter member of Delta Kappa Gamma, an honorary society devoted to education principles, methods, and various activities.  Phyllis was also a donor for the Beaver Dam High School Scholarship.
Dale was a proud father and loved being grandpa and was always interested in what his grandchildren were doing.  He loved football and enjoyed watching his sons play during high school and college and continuing until his son ended his coaching career at UW Whitewater in 2013.  Dale enjoyed his flower garden and was always very particular about his lawn, whether at home or at St. Peter’s.
She enjoyed ice skating and watching the Packers, Brewers, and Bucks.  She loved music and going to concerts, and was a big supporter of her friends.  Birthday suppers with Grandma Stange were very special to her as well as Grandpa Stange’s chili.
He enjoyed driving the bus route for Randolph from 1968-2007. He loved to play sheepshead with his grandchildren and dancing. Ed was a member of Friedens Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Jim was one of the founders of the Wausau Table Tennis Club and was a member of the Tennis League in Merrill.  He was an avid bowler, enjoyed martial arts, paintball, disc-golf, and pitching for the church softball team. Jim was truly a servant of the people and a servant of the Lord.  His church and his family were his life.  He was a very talented and intelligent man, even ministering in German at times.  Jim enjoyed the peace of nature and would take in its beauty every chance he had, whether it was kayaking, boating, deer hunting and especially going on one of his many fishing trips.
One of the freedoms that we have a Christians is that even though we are devoted to Jesus, we do have the liberty to enjoy other things in life. We don’t need to have our head buried in the Bible, attend worship every day, and share our faith in words every moment of every day. When St. Paul commands us not to set our minds on earthly things, he isn’t saying we can enjoy these types of activities listed above. The context of this passage shows this. The “earthly things” we are not to be engrossed in are those things that belong to our earthly nature:
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Those who have learned of the “Seven deadly sins” will see some striking similarities. The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices, the seven traits of man, or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings[1], although it does not appear explicitly in the Bible. Behaviours or habits are classified under this category if they directly give birth to other immoralities.[2] According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth,[2] which are also contrary to the seven heavenly virtues. These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one's natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one's desire to eat).
So when St. Paul teaches us not to set our minds on earthly things, he is not saying that we cannot pursue family time, work, sports, or other hobbies (although these need to be balanced so that we do not neglect our relationship with God), he is saying that we are not to give in to temptations and sin against God. And although Jesus certainly died for our sins and God forgives the sinner, those who are impenitent will be punished.
St. Paul warns that God will punish those who indulge in such activities.
6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.
I wonder how many people take this warning seriously. We should. It is certainly referred to a lot in the Bible.
Last week we heard how Abraham pleaded with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of ten righteous people but because there were not even that many, those cities were destroyed.
Jesus refers to this even and warns that it will be even worse for some who had rejected him.
Matthew 11:20–24 NIV
20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Romans 1:18–23 NIV
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Revelation 22:12–15 NIV
12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
Ezekiel 16:49–53 NIV
49 “ ‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen. 51 Samaria did not commit half the sins you did. You have done more detestable things than they, and have made your sisters seem righteous by all these things you have done. 52 Bear your disgrace, for you have furnished some justification for your sisters. Because your sins were more vile than theirs, they appear more righteous than you. So then, be ashamed and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous. 53 “ ‘However, I will restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters and of Samaria and her daughters, and your fortunes along with them,
Even though God would punish those who sinned against and warned others that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed; he also shows himself as a merciful God who forgives sin. We have seen this in the saving work of Jesus. Therefore, even though we deserve to be punished, we can find comfort in the promises and salvation of our God.
But since Jesus has saved us from God’s wrath, we are free to devote ourselves to godly virtues.
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Conclusion: Imagine what it would be like to be in prison for the rest of your life. You would have virtually no freedom. You would be controlled by others. Without the saving work of Jesus, we could be controlled by our own sinful nature and have to succumb to sinful temptations. But we have been set free through faith in him. We now have the opportunity and the willingness to serve the Lord.
Some day your name will most likely appear in the newspaper — in the obituary section as the one who has passed away. What will be written about what you pursued in life? Hopefully, it will include ways in which you had set your mind on things above and how you has lived your life to give glory to God.
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