Simply Put... Christianity is Not DIY
A few years ago, while Allison was recovering from surgery, we were laying in bed on a Saturday morning watching infomercials. Infomercials have a place in my heart because well, they have a way of explaining just how unimpressive my life is and at the same time offering quick solutions to rectify the deficiencies revealed. According to the woman on the television, who was obviously to well-put together for this to be “live” as they suggested on a Saturday morning, the Keurig coffee maker she was selling would revolutionize the way our family enjoyed our morning coffee.
Since the time Allison and I became “real adults” with “real adult jobs” coffee was a necessity to rise from bed and battle the Northern Virginia/D.C. traffic as we made our separate ways to work from our home in Alexandria. As many of you can testify to, a morning cup of coffee (or four) gives you the extra pep in your step so you are ready to deal with your boss as you settle in for a day at work or as you prepare to keep up with you your kids who seem to have mutant/superhero energy that is activated by the morning sunrise.
Allison and I had yet to welcome children into our home but the smooth-talking easy on the eyes sales woman had both of us hook, line, and sinker.
Allison and I were convinced that this new coffee maker, as the sales woman put it, would revolutionize the way we made coffee, and thus would revolutionize our lives, and who doesn’t want their life revolutionized?!?
The burdensome manner with which we had been brewing coffee was old, antiquated, and inadequate for two young professionals who were making their mark on the world in the most powerful city in the world.
We are continuing our summer sermon series, Simply Put, by examining our scripture readings with simplicity. Often the scriptures are made overly complicated by people like me and for the summer (and maybe forever) we are approaching the texts to see what is revealed without doing theological backflips to get there. A few weeks ago we read and examined the opening to Paul’s letter to the Colossians where Paul connected the divinity of Jesus to humanity. Paul tells us that in Christ G-d fully dwelled thus revealing the fullness of G-d through Christ to creation. Everything we know about G-d, Paul writes, has been revealed to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
Prior to Jesus, this full-revelation had not occurred. Paul tells us that anything we say of G-d cannot contradict the revelation of G-d in Christ.
Our reading this morning continues to follow Paul’s words to the Colossians where Paul is addressing concerns he had with the church, mainly the influence of philosophy or human tradition on the life of the church.
Paul’s critique of ancient philosophical thinking centered on the idea that living a blessed life meant being at peace with creation through moral mediators like wisdom or the law. It had been suggested to the Colossians that if they fell out of peace with creation (ie. Not adhering to moral law) then they would fall in the category of evil/wrong, which would then bring them out of favor with G-d.
Favor with G-d was everything to the early church and their Jewish counterparts. Favor with G-d is a saying we take for granted today however G-d’s favor not only placed you in category of righteous, G-d’s favor also ensure prosperity for you and your offspring. Remember, it was though that the sins of the parents would be repaid to the following four generations. Falling out of G-d’s favor had huge implications not only for your life but also the lives of your future offspring.
From a practical perspective, in one person or group of people becoming evil/wrong the creation of good/right occurs and you, the evil/wrong person are now in the wrong place within the two factions created. I’m good/right because I’m on this side - I still find favor with G-d - and you, the evil/wrong are separate from me and because I am with G-d you now risk being separated from G-d.
The good/right verses evil/wrong keeps us focused on how great we are and how bad they are, keeping us free and forgiven and them guilty and unable to ever be forgiven and reconciled to our Creator.
They need to do __________ to correct/atone/repent according to the things we have determined need to be done to live your best life, because they lack faithfulness to our gospel.
The problem, faced by the ancient recipients of Paul’s letter and by us today, is that our gospel, the gospel of Teer Hardy or anyone other than Jesus, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ has freed all of creation for moralism, inviting all people, us and them to step into grace.
Paul’s philosophical opponents missed that the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ did not create a DIY faith. What was needed, from G-d’s perspective has been done through Christ, and Christ confirmed as much with his last words on the cross, “It is finished.”
It is not so much what would Jesus do but rather what Jesus has done.
With every infomercial I have ever watched whatever appliance is being sold, there is a DIY-improve your life aspect to the sales pitch. The Keurig coffee maker will make the best cup of coffee, quicker and easier than you could have ever imagined, and thus improving your life exponentially. Pressure and rotisserie cookers promise you a well-fed, healthier family without any of the backbreaking work (from their perspective) that comes with cooking a chicken in the oven or steaming vegetables in a normal pot on the stove.
(I know all you owners of Instapots are going to tell me after the service that Instapot has revolutionized your life with a quick DIY fix, I’ll see you at the door.)
In Christ we are closer to G-d than humanity had ever been before and there is no quick fix, DIY improvement that will give us different results. There is no easy three-step process.
Author and pastor David Zahl refers to this desire for a quick fix, searching for moralistic salvation through means apart from Christ as seculocity. “Yes, you have faith but what about _________?” Zahl contends that in our chase for enoughness, in the eyes of G-d and the eyes of “them,” we default to moralistic performances (eating, dating, parenting, voting) to find fulfillment and righteousness.
Paul confirmed for the Colossians that clothing of ourselves in Christ as we exited our baptismal waters was and continues to be sufficient. As we clothe ourselves in Christ, Christ makes us part of his new creation. The inclusivity of new creation has nothing to do with our actions, nothing to do with the labels we place on ourselves or others, rather the inclusivity of the new creation everything to with what Christ has already done.
It is finished.
The DIY faith Paul is writing to correct calls us away from quick-fix solutions, and towards grace and mercy, telling us the work of Christ was and continues to be insufficient. Paul was calling the ancient church away from revolutionized human teachings - three-quick and easy steps and back to a life of extravagance.
Simply put… the foundation of our faith is not something we do or accomplish. The foundation of our faith is someone, someone who accomplished that which we could never do for ourselves.
Christianity is not DIY.
Christianity is discipleship, meaning in following Christ we acknowledge and hold onto Christ’s reconciling work that we, us and them, are unable to accomplish for ourselves.
In saying “it is finished” Jesus told the church that everything necessary to be done had been done.
There is no lacking in the relationship between G-d and humanity - nothing else need be done.
There is no conditional 30-day guarantee, no try before you buy, or bait and switch. This is not a pyramid or get rich quick scheme. No amount of QVC Bible verse artwork will find you more favor with G-d.
What was required for the best life possible has been done. There is no amount of circumcision, adhering to the law, based on scripture or based on moralism, necessary.
Because of Christ and through Christ our sins have been forgiven.
We have been made righteous by Christ’s faithfulness and all that is left to do is to enjoy the extravagance of G-d’s grace, compassion, and mercy.