Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Reconciling Power

Colossians 1:10-20

It will soon be time to close the books on another year... and we... the Session and I... are watching the church's finances very closely. Will we come out even? Or in the red? It seems to come quite naturally to us to measure our success by how we are doing financially. At the end of each quarter my husband spends quite a lot of time at the computer... figuring out how his investments have done... and at year's end... he proudly tells me how much their value has increased. I'm afraid that this year there will be a loss... what with the stock market's downturn awhile back! It hasn't been a profitable year for those who are in the stock market for the long term.

This is the last Sunday of our stewardship series... so I suppose that it would be quite appropriate for me to continue on in this vein... reporting how we have done... and encouraging you to continue being faithful in your giving for 1999. But I think I'll take a different tack.

Did you know that this is also the last Sunday of the Christian year? We are accustomed to "keeping time" by the calendar... and, of course, the calendar year doesn't end until December 31 at midnight. That usually involves a celebration of some sort... if we can stay awake. But... I'd like to suggest to you that... as Christians... it is much more appropriate for us to "keep time" by the Christian year.

As I'm sure you have noticed... that week between Christmas and New Years is full of reminiscence about the past year. Radio stations play all the songs that have hit the charts during the past year... TV stations highlight all the significant events which occurred in 1998. Some of us will breath a sigh of relieve to see 1998 pass away... and hope fervently that 1999 will be a better year. It's a time to close the books on the old year... to celebrate it's passing... and to welcome in the new year... it is a time of transition... the old has passed... and the new has come.

For the most part... we have failed to celebrate the end of the Christian year... we are usually much too busy thinking about the coming of Christmas. Well, the Advent season begins next Sunday... and there is time enough for anticipation and celebration. It's always a fun... and exciting time... at least for the kids... if not so much for their parents. And it is an appropriate way to begin the Christian year... with the celebration of the birth of God's son. But before we begin that celebration... I want to take this opportunity to look back at the year just past... to evaluate... not our financial success... but our progress toward living in God's kingdom.

In our passage today Paul gives us a list of things that we might want to look at as we think about the year just past in our lives and in the life of this church. He first suggests that we ought to be living a life that is worthy of the Lord and that will please him in every way. Have we done that? Could we do it better in the coming year? Well, those might be difficult questions to answer because there might be disagreement about what is worthy in the Lord's sight! But Paul helps us out here with three things that will help us to consider our progress.

The first sign of progress is "bearing fruit"... having something to show for our good works. Now you and I both know that much of what we do in the Lord's name does not appear to produce fruit... we may only know in heaven how the Lord has used us in this world. But every once in awhile something happens... and we see the fruit of our "good works"... and this "intermittent reinforcement"... this reward... helps us know what we should be doing... and helps us continue doing "good works."

Mitzie shared a wonderful story with me recently... about a man who came to the church door asking for help with the purchase of gasoline. As she usually does... Mitzie went across the street to the service station and paid for $5 worth of gasoline for the man. A couple of weeks later... the church door bell rang... and Mitzie recognized the same man at the door. Her first thought was that he had returned for another handout. As she opened the door, he asked, "Do you remember me?" Mitzie answered in the affirmative... and to her great surprise he pulled out a $10 bill and handed it to her saying, "Well, I found a job and just got my first pay check. I wanted to pay you back for the help you gave me... and here's an extra $5 to help the next person who comes to your door in need of gasoline."

That's when you know you have done a good work worthy of our Lord! Spend some time today thinking about this past year... and the opportunities you have had to help someone. If you have been doing good work worthy of our Lord... there will be a reward or two along the way... the fruit of your good work. And in the coming year... lets resolve to share the fruits with one another as often as possible. Perhaps we should include a time in the worship service for sharing the fruit of our good works.

The second thing that Paul mentions is "growing in the knowledge of God." And then he goes on to say that this will be demonstrated by increased endurance... and patience. I can't help but think that all of you who studied "Search for Significance" this past year will be willing to testify that you have grown in your knowledge of God. Aren't you all a bit more accepting of others... and that's what endurance is all about. You have learned to be more patient and accepting of yourselves... and of others... your lives demonstrate to some new degree your increased knowledge of God and your relationship with him. Let's resolve in the new year to open our hearts and minds to God... and to explore new ways to increase our knowledge of God... and to enhance our relationship with God.

And the third thing that Paul says is evidence of living a life worthy of the Lord is joyfully giving thanks. And then he goes on to tell us what we have to be thankful for: God has qualified us to be part of his kingdom... he has rescued us from the darkness of the world's ways... and brought us into the light of his kingdom... the light of Jesus Christ who has redeemed us from self-destruction and forgiven our sin.

Being part of God's kingdom means that we walk to a different drummer... our world revolves around God... the father of our Lord Jesus Christ... who has made himself known to us in the birth... the life... the ministry... the death... and the resurrection of Jesus. It means that coming together on Sunday morning to express our joy in songs... and words... and prayer... is important in our lives... it is a witness to whose we are and whom we follow. Our beginning is in Jesus Christ... our present is in Jesus Christ... and our end is in Jesus Christ... and that's something to celebrate with our whole selves.

Have we given our full attention this past year to the life we are called to live in Jesus Christ? Have we allowed ourselves to be "strengthened with all power according to his glorious might"... and does it show in our lives... in the life of Carolyn Park Church. It is my prayer that in the coming year God's power will be ever more evident in us and in our way of life. Amen.

A Sermon Preached on November 22, 1998
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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