Living in the Real World

Posted by on Sep 1, 2013 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

July 21, 2013

“Living in the Real World” (Second in the series on Colossians)

Colossians 1:15-28

This week we are in the 2nd week of our journey through Colossians. The letter originated because Epaphras, the leader of the church in Colossae, came to Paul in Rome. He had good news and bad news about the church.  The good news was the gospel had born fruit among the Colossians – they were continuing in their faith in Christ and in love for their fellow believers.  The bad news was the believers were being affected by the world around them.

Asia Minor is a peninsula.  It is surrounded by the Black Sea on the North, the Aegean Sea on the West and the Mediterranean on the South. This area was a strategic location – an   intersection of Asia and Europe.  Colossae was located in Asia Minor and it was approximately 12 miles from Laodicea and 14 miles from Hierapolis. These geographic references mean nothing to us; however they are important because this is the world that was impacting the church.  The nearby towns were not Christian, their belief was that angels and stars controlled human destiny – similar to modern astrology. The church didn’t worship those elemental spirits; they were faithful witnesses of Christ – we talked about that last week.  The problem was that they allowed the world around them to be incorporated in their faith and they saw nothing wrong with it because they were living in the real world.

The real world . . . everyone has their idea of what that is.

TV gives us their ideas: there’s the MTV series called The Real World – New York and they are now in pre-production for the 29th season. It is the longest running reality TV program.  CBS’ Big Brother debuted in 2000 and it has a different twist: a group of contestants, known as “House Guests,” compete to win the series by voting each other off and being the last House Guest remaining. There are many other offerings for reality TV: The Osbournes, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette . . . and the list goes on and on.    The names and locations differ but the theme is the same: this isn’t make believe, these are real people living in the real world.  And living in the real world can be complicated; living in the real world isn’t easy.

The members of the church at Colossae would agree.  Paul doesn’t challenge those statements. It isn’t easy for the church to live in the real world.  What Paul does is redefine the real world and he does it by reminding them who Jesus is:

            “He is image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” 

 “Firstborn of all creation” is not primarily a reference to time.  Paul is not simply saying that Jesus predates the creation; he is not using it to talk about Jesus’ age.  The phrase “First born of all creation” is really talking about creation. It’s saying that creation owes its existence to Jesus. The verse that follows clarifies this:

            “For in him all things, in the heavens and on earth were created… (v. 16).

Paul wants the persons who read his letter to understand that the real world is the world Jesus created.

But the world that surrounds us is not necessarily as Christ planned it to be.

The first step is to recognize the real world, the world Jesus created, is not what we see around us.  This doesn’t mean we are to close our eyes so we do not see what is going on – or to deny that it exists.  Rather, with eyes wide open, we are to remember this is not the way God planned it to be.

But that requires us to see the real world, so close your eyes for a moment and try to catch a glimpse of the world God created…see the beauty of nature; look at the people – how are they living?  Look at their surroundings, examine their interrelationships – do they respect one another? Do they care for one another?

Open your eyes. Once we can see the real world – the one we should be living in – we are to work to unmask the “false ” world for what it is. And we are to work to help others recognize and live in the real world.

But this is not an easy task. It is much easier to settle for something less. If we are going to live in the real world it will require recognition that we can’t do it alone. It will require prayer, because when we pray we are not running away from the world we see. And we are not trying to escape. And prayer is not asking for something magical to happen. It is saying “ I need to live fully and purposefully and if I am going to do that I need wisdom, direction and encouragement from a source beyond myself.”

If that sounds like a difficult task, there’s good news: you are already doing it.  The real world has another name; it is called “the kingdom of God”. And every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer and we say, “thy kingdom come; thy will be done” …where?   Here, on earth.  We are really saying “We want the real world, the world you created.”

Whenever you pray the Lord’s Prayer, either before you pray or after, I invite you to close your eyes and see the world as God knows it can be…The Real World.  And then open your eyes and live in that reality