Sermon For Sunday, September 7, 2014

Colossians 2:6-15

“Life Long Learning”

This is the first in a series of sermons:

Following The Fundamentals Of The Faith (Without Being Fundamentalist!)

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher


Twitter: @FranklinCircle

Pastor’s Blog:


SundaySchoolExcitementI would guess that everyone in this church, and most of the people with whom we associate on a regular basis, agrees that education and learning are a good thing and fundamental to a healthy society. Not all the world acknowledges that, certainly in terms of whether or not girls and women deserve the same education as boys and men – just ask Malala Yousafzai, The inspirational Pakistani teen who was shot by the Taliban for promoting education for girls in October of 2012. Not all the world acknowledges that, certainly in terms of the shocking disparities in public resources used for education between urban and suburban school districts, and the struggle the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has had in the past few decades to try to find a way to educate all our children equally and well. But generally I think we agree education is a good thing.


It also appears that education of persons of faith is generally accepted as the norm and a worthy pursuit in one’s Christian life. Certainly the Sunday School movement, a cross-denominational phenomenon begun in England that spread rapidly in the United States in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, would give that impression. Also, if the Christian publishing business is any indication, particularly in the 1980’s and 90’s, study of the Bible and biblical themes could be seen as being of epic proportions.


So if we agree – generally – that education is a good thing and that growing “in wisdom and in favor with God and humankind” is a worthy Christian endeavor… what’s the problem? What’s the question at hand? Well, the present dilemma is twofold: 1.) there is always the a priori question “to whom do we listen in order to learn” or “who is doing the teaching?” and 2.) what happened to this fervor for learning and where did it go??? The Sunday School movement seems to have dried up quicker than Jonah’s vine and the future of religious publishing is dramatically in question.


There are several scriptures that could be used to help us understand these quandaries, and I chose Colossians 2:6-15. In it the author is seeking to help the young Christian community focus on the fundamentals of their faith. Apparently there had been a few of teachers who had been either implying or outright demanding that a particular kind of mystical vision be experienced before the Christian faith could be true and validated. The writer of Colossians wanted to ground the young believers in something true and assure them of what they had already learned.

The first thing the writer does in today’s text is reassure and remind the members of the community of the initial experience they had had in the faith. “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (6-7)


While we may not have had all the information about the faith, or may have even had some misguided notions, there is nothing more powerful than reconnecting with your first experience of the faith. What was it that first drew you to put your faith and trust in Jesus? Think back to those early days when the faith of your parents was no longer what you accepted just because they did, but you named and claimed it for yourself. And I’m not really talking about your pastor’s class or your confirmation experience, although it may have happened there. I’m talking about that moment in your heart when you said, “Ah, yes! NOW I get it!”


For me, it was after three weeks away at three different camps: church camp, choir camp, and my infamous horseback trail ride camp in northern New Mexico. I lay in my bed that first night back physically exhausted but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually on fire! My thoughts wandered off to the farthest edges of the universe, and somewhere out there in the comforting dark of night, with stars zooming past me, I believed. I can’t say if I “chose” to believe. I can’t say I was “made” to believe. I just know in that moment, I believed in God and in the human manifestation of the divine, Jesus Christ. The rest is history.


As we embark upon another program year here at Franklin Circle Christian Church, I invite you to get in touch with that time – or those times! – in which the faith first took hold of your life, and allow that power and passion to be rekindled in your life.


The second thing the author of Colossians does is to remind us that we absolutely should always be learning and growing in the Christian faith, in order to come into what is called “the fullness” of Christ. But the caution is we must be diligent in researching who is behind the information and whether or not what they teach is worthy of our time, attention, and trust. Colossians reads, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.”


Do not hear in this, however, a simplistic division between “sacred” and “secular” education! Some of the most horrible and damaging “philosophies and empty deceits” have had the name “Christian” stamped all over it, and some of the most godly, inspiring, and Christ-like wisdom I have ever known has come without a specific word about Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit. It would be nice is if were that easy, but it’s not. Instead, we need to spend time doing our background work! What are the values of the organization that created the website? Where did the author go to school and what else has she or he written? Who are some of the mentors and/or students of the teacher from whom I want to learn?


I invite you to recommit yourself to growing spiritually. I do believe this has to be intentional and constant. God calls us all to be life-long learners, and an inquiring mind is a healthy mind! Whether it is a class or study here at FC3, a Bible Study at your school, apartment building, or coffee shop, or reading a good book that causes you to ponder about the sacred meaning of life… it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you ask the important questions before obligating yourself, and make sure that what you are investing in is worthy of your commitment. And together may all of us move ever closer to that fullness in Christ to which we were called long time ago. Amen.