Thoughts in My Head: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”

This is supposed to be “thoughts in my head” about my upcoming sermon this Sunday, but so far this week such thoughts have been few and far between.

It’s been one of those weeks. I’ve been sick with some evil virus, a sore-throat-and-violent-hacking-and-general-fatigue kind of virus. Even today I’m only doing some light work from home, a few emails and phone calls – and finally some sermon prep.

But even when I’ve been able to muster some thoughts and prayers this week, they have not been about my sermon. Rather, more urgent things have pressed into my mind, including John’s sudden passing, with Helen and their family now grieving.

No, it’s not been the best week for “thoughts in my head” about Sunday’s sermon. But now that I really begin reflecting on our text for this Sunday, Colossians 3:1-17, I can’t help but hear this passage speaking to the difficult events of this week.

Colossians 3:16 stands as a summary exhortation for this passage – really, for the whole letter so far: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

For Paul, the “word of Christ” is the “message about Christ,” that is, the gospel. It’s the “word of truth” and the “word of God” that he’s talked about earlier (1:5, 25), the good news message that God has acted in Jesus to make right all that has gone wrong in the world – even all creation! – because of human sin (see 1:13-23). Thus, Paul wants the Colossians to let the gospel richly dwell in them – not just “in” them individually, but also “among” them collectively.

Paul is calling for them to let the gospel saturate their thinking and living, to live out the gospel in every area of their life together, to walk in the footsteps of the crucified and resurrected Jesus in everything they do.

Or, to put this another way, as Paul does: “Whatever you Colossians do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (3:17) – as if Jesus himself were living in and through them. Or, to phrase this as the parallel passage in Ephesians does: “Be filled with the Spirit,” the Spirit of the crucified and risen Jesus (Eph 5:18-21).

When this happens, when we individually and we as communities do this “gospel-indwelling,” this “living-in-Jesus-name,” this “being-filled-with-Spirit” – when we do this, we experience the new-creation life God wants us to experience: a life of love and peace, of self-giving compassion and wide-ranging shalom (Col 3:12-15). Better yet, this experience of love and peace is just a foretaste of that fullness of new creation still to come.

And this is indeed good news – even under the long, dark shadow of death.

Just a few of the thoughts in my head…

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