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Daniel Schultz @pastordan
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Okay, a bit late (very late) for a sermon, but it'll help me pull it all together for preaching tomorrow morning.

Yes, I am that kind of preacher.

Text is Colossians 3:12-17: bible.oremus.org/?ql=413137608
1. People always want the Bible to tell them what to do, and this is one of the few places where it actually does that, more or less.
2. Paul gives his audience two lists in this chapter: a list of *don'ts* - things they ought not do - and a separate list of *do's*, which are things they should, uh, do.
3. Paul's point to the Colossians is something like this: you've been baptized - you have died and been raised with Christ in a resurrection like his. So maybe act like him?
4. Stop doing these bad things and start doing these good things. That way, Christ will live in you, and you will share in the glory that belongs to him.
5. Actually, I'm sorry, Paul gives *two* lists of don'ts. The first involves pretty run of the mill sins: fornication (any kind of sexual no-no), passion (letting your feelings get the better of you), evil desire, greed.
6. Lists of vices and virtues were pretty common in Paul's day, and I'm told we shouldn't read into this that the church at Colossae had particular problems with these things. This is general moral guidance.
7. The second list is more specific, and I think more relevant to our interests today: Get rid of things like "anger, wrath, malice, slander and abusive language," Paul tells the Colossians. Don't lie to one another.
8. Do you know anyone today who might have problems with anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language, or lying? I do.

[Holds up mirror]

Oh fuck, it's me!
9. We all do at some point or another. Have you ever been angry? I have. Ever lost your temper? I have, in public. I don't know that I've ever slandered anyone, but abusive language or lying? Yeah, guilty, guiltier than I would like.
10. We all do this stuff, we all get angry or say things we shouldn't, and yes, little children, anyone who tells you they don't lie...is a liar. It's human nature.
11. But Paul says we are called to be and to do differently: to practice compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience. Bear with one another, he says, and forgive one another, just as you have been forgiven.
12. Above all else, Paul tells the Colossians, "clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

Isn't that nice?
13. Trouble is, how the hell are you supposed to know the right from the wrong? I think I'm perfectly patient with a lot of you yutzes, but nobody ever seems to agree with me.
14. So what's the guide here? Where's the handbook?

Well, Paul says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." Seek peace just like Jesus sought peace, in other words. Let it rule your heart.
15. Except...that word "rule" doesn't mean what we think it does. A better translation is "let the peace of Christ be the judge of your heart." But even that's not the greatest. It really means "Let the peace of Christ be the umpire or referee of your heart."
16. Now we've got a message. We're just about halfway between the end of the world series and pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training. So let's imagine playing baseball...WITH SATAN.
17. So there you are, an above-average middle-inning pitcher with Ol' Nick himself behind the plate, and standing in the back in a black turtleneck and facemask is The Peace of Christ.
18. (I guess Jesus is catching? Metaphors have limits, folks.)
19. Anyway, you send your first pitch. Unfortunately, it's something mean you said about somebody else on the internet. It hits the dirt and bounces into Jesus' glove. Ball one.
20. Then your next one is you losing your sh-t in a traffic jam. Wild pitch. The only reason the demons don't score is Jesus grabs it off the backstop.
21. Third pitch: you grumping around in the morning at the kids. Satan fouls that one off.
22. Then, just as Jesus is starting to wonder if you've got the yips, you throw down a kind deed you did in the grocery store. Strike two!
23. We interrupt this exciting game of sportsball to introduce another metaphor. Do not blame us. This is Paul's doing.
24. Paul imagines all of these behaviors like clothes. The bad stuff - anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language, lying - are ill-fitting, inappropriate clothing. They probably itch too.
25. The good stuff - compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, love - those are like new, proper fitting, snazzy duds. Do you like my tie?
26. So peace, the peace of Christ that rules our heart, is less like a baseball umpire, actually, and more like the dudes from Queer Eye on the Straight Guy judging a wardrobe.
27. Malice? OUTDATED. Wrath? TACKY, GET RID OF IT. Lying? WHY DO YOU EVEN HAVE THAT IN YOUR CLOSET IN THE FIRST PLACE YOU CAN DO SO MUCH BETTER.
28. But kindness? Hey, that looks good on you! Gentleness? Pair that with a bit of humility, and you have a fantastic outfit! Forgiveness? That's your shade! Love? THERE MIGHT BE HOPE FOR THIS MAN YET.
29. My point in all of this is to get us away from the way we typically talk about vices and virtues, sins and Christian behavior. That is to say, in the language of crime and punishment.
30. When you get so angry that you lose your temper and say something nasty to your spouse, you have not committed a crime which will forever be held against you until Judgment Day.
31. When you do something nice for someone, or exercise a bit of patience, you have not earned your way onto God's nice list.
32. It's more like you've learned to control your pitches, or you've figured out which clothes suit you and which don't.
33. More to the point, you've figured out which clothes suit *Jesus*. Because in your baptism, you died. It's Jesus that lives in you. Would it kill you to wear matching shoes and slacks to reflect that?
34. The peace of Christ is meant, then, to be that little Queer Eye voice you've internalized. It tells you not just what to put on and what not, but that you deserve to wear good clothing. You deserve to wear clothes that make you look good - and feel good.
35. Whenever we talk about things like anger, slander, abusive language and so on, it's natural for us to turn to the current political climate. It's been worse, the historians tell us, but it's pretty bad.
36. I have to note here, as I often do, that I don't believe it's individual misbehavior that causes the current political climate. It's not like if we were all just nicer to one another, everything would be hunky-dory.
37. In fact, most people don't spend a lot of time spewing hate at their political opposites. A few do. More often, we spew that nonsense *among our friends,* where our opponents can't hear us, or where they can pretend not to have heard us.
38. That's because most of us spend most of our time among socially and politically like-minded people. You want to change the current political climate, change the ways in which we segregate ourselves from one another.
[gotta take a break to go pick up the kid here. Back soon.]
39. Okay, where were we? Ah yes - politics. It's a mistake to confuse social morality and individual morality. It's simply not true that if I were nicer, and you were nicer, the whole world would be nicer.
40. Among other things, that kind of thinking covers up real differences, real problems, real power struggles, for the sake of politeness. Dad hits Mom sometimes, but it's not nice to talk about it!
41. So we need to keep in mind that Paul writes his advice to really a very small group of people, maybe 30 or 40 gathered in a house church.
42. On that level, changing your behavior *can* have an affect. The church I am speaking to has by its own admission not been a place of peace in recent years. But they've committed themselves to the way of love, and I intend to compliment them on that.
43. And the point, again, is not to think of this in terms of crime and punishment. You *deserve* to be more than your anger. You deserve to be more than the nasty things you say, than the lies you tell.
44. I've never been much of a liar, but I've been a much angrier man in the past than I am now. I kind of enjoy not having to perform outrage anymore. I spend a lot of time not judging, just trying to understand. I sleep better, when the cats allow it.
45. When I talk about politics, I try to be as least angry as I can. What does it do to be angry? It makes me feel bad, and it makes other people feel bad. It doesn't change anything.
46. Sometimes my feelings get the better of me and I'll type out some screed. I also buy shirts that are the wrong size sometimes. Things happen.
47. There's no sense in bemoaning the inevitable lapses, or castigating yourself for it. Just - get smarter and try to do better next time. That's all.
48. Now, I know that I've been going on for a long time already, but there is one more thing to say. Again, blame Paul.
49. Paul moves to conclude this section of the letter with some practical advice: Be thankful, let the word of Christ grow in you, teach one another.
50. But then he concludes it with this striking bit: "with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God."
51. This is the way Christians counteract the poison humans spew out of their mouths and hearts. This is how Christians begin to heal the world. This is how Christians put on their new and righteous clothes: they sing.
52. Music has a strange and wondrous power to put the world aright. When we sing together, we pray twice, as Augustine had it. We heal our own hearts and those of the people around us.
53. If you want to get all fancy about it, you can say that voices lifted together establish a counter-narrative to the seemingly obvious divisions of the world.
54. I'd just like to say that you have not heard the peace of Christ until you have heard a congregation of Mennonites singing in five-part harmony a cappella.
55. I just read a press release the other day from a pastor calling on Christians to organize "flash choirs" to sing Christmas carols in public places to establish peace in our society.
56. At first I thought, "Well, that's not very realistic." But now, having read Paul's advice, I wonder if that pastor wasn't on to something.
57. (He had an Earthlink.net email address, so no, probably not.)
58. Anyway, it can't hurt to try, and we all deserve a good hymn. So go ahead. What should we sing?
(Spoiler: we should sign this one: )
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