The Giver of Wisdom

Colossians 3.12-17


Happy Mothering Sunday

It didn’t begin by being all about mothers!
It began because the set bible reading for the Sunday (in the BCP) speaks of the idea that the heavenly Jerusalem, in the words of Galatians 4.26, is our mother. It is the idea that we are embraced by the Church of God, the community of people - from all times and all places – who choose to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
It also happened to be the Sunday, three weeks before Easter, when servants were given a day off, and so would travel back to their home village, to their families and mothers.
And the two were put together, and it became mothering Sunday

And this morning I’d like to focus on the Church bit, because it is through the Church, through God’s people – from then (the apostles and first believers) and from now (those who proclaim the word to us) – that we hear the gospel, the good news about Jesus.  
And it is through the Church, through God’s people, that we are nurtured and fed and grow in our Christian faith.

And it is – in the words of our reading in Colossians 3.12-17 – as members of the Church that we receive a new identity, a new set of clothes and a new way of thinking.

A new identity

We have our human identity: it is there on your passport. It tells us your name. The family that you belong to. It tells us your date and place of birth: you are located in a specific space and time context. And it tells us of the wider people that you are part of. You cannot escape any of that. Even if you rebel, it defines your rebellion. You can only rebel against that which was given to you.  

But as Christians, as people who have put our trust in Jesus, we have a second identity.
It is, in fact, more important, because this is the identity that will last for eternity.
It does not depend on our passport, on our achievements or failures or qualifications or titles. It does not depend on our human families, whether we were married or single, on whether we were mothers or not mothers, whether famous or ordinary.  
It depends simply on the fact that we have chosen to follow Jesus and to receive Jesus

So Paul writes to the Colossian Christians: ‘As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved’ (v11)

When Jesus is baptised, a voice is heard speaking from heaven: ‘This is my Son, my beloved’.
When Jesus is transfigured, a voice is heard speaking from heaven: ‘This is my Son, my Chosen one’

And when Paul writes that we, as followers of Jesus, are ‘God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved’, he is saying of us what God the Father has said of Jesus Christ.

That is amazing.

When God the Father looks at the person who has come to Christ, who has received Christ, who has - in the words of John 3 - been born again, he sees us as he sees his Son Jesus.

We have become one with him. We cannot be separated. We have been stuck together to Christ - like two pieces of cardboard stuck together by superglue.

You may think that you are nobody, insignificant.
We were watching a detective programme in which someone, whose father was a murderer, is described as ‘bad blood’. You may think that you are ‘bad blood’, no good.
You may think that you are a failure, unfulfilled, because you’re ‘only’ a mother, and you spend all your time with children. Or you may think you are a failure, unfulfilled, because you are not a mother. It is interesting how often the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence.

But if we have come to Jesus, God has wrapped us together with Jesus. And Father God looks at us as he looks at Jesus.

He sees you as his chosen one. Yes, you freely chose him, but as you look back you begin to realise that he first chose you (by the way, you can’t work that one out. Simply delight in the mystery and thank God for calling you).
And he sees you, as he sees Jesus, perfect and holy. Not because you do not sin, but because you have been wrapped together with Jesus, and Jesus did not sin.
And he sees you as his beloved. He delights in you; he longs for the absolute best for you, that you might become the person he created you to become, to do the things he made you to do; and he desires to be one with you, in communion with you.

And these verses tell us about what we should wear!
Our clothes express our self-understanding.
There are the uniforms: the cool guy with the hoody and torn jeans, the politician who dresses to show their status and power, the businessman or woman whose clothes say, ‘I’m confident and strong, I’m secure in who I am and in my sexuality, and you need to take me seriously;
and even the rebels wear uniforms.
And then there are the people who think they are nothing and who dress as if they are nothing. They could look so good, but they’ve been crushed and they have given up.

Listen, as people who are Chosen by God, holy and beloved, it really doesn’t matter what we wear. Think of those who choose a monastic life style.
But there is another kind of clothing that we are to put on:

‘Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience (v12)’

Compassion – that willingness to put yourself in the place of the other so that you can begin to feel their hurt and pain
Kindness – We know what unkindness feels and looks like, but I find it almost impossible to define ‘kindness’. Perhaps it is a generous courteousness and respect which shows itself in actions. Mark Twain wrote, ‘Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see’. But even if it is hard to define, if there is one virtue that I think that we need, it is the virtue of kindness. We need to learn to be kind to each other.
Humility – genuinely thinking that the other person is better than yourself
Meekness – the refusal to stand up for our rights and the willingness to kneel down and serve the other
Patience – giving people time, not expecting them (or ourselves, for that matter), to become perfect immediately, bearing with the little things that they do which irritate us, and forgiving and going on forgiving.

‘Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony’. (v14)

Love, that virtue which contains compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. But which goes further than that.
It is love which would see the other person as God sees them, and which delights in them and yearns for communion with them.

We talk of physical erotic love, when we delight in another and desire to be part of them
But this is love at a far deeper and more profound level, the soul level, which sees beyond the physical, and delights in the other and longs for soul intimacy with them.

And this is the God-given, Spirit-empowered love that makes the church, that empowers us to sacrifice ourselves for others, that holds us together through the conflicts and crises, that enables us to nurture and to care for one another.

And Paul urges us, as individuals and as a community, to put on this beautiful garment, to wrap it around us

The giver of wisdom

Last November, when Bishop Richard Chartres was here, we visited the Andrei Rublev museum of icons. And we saw an icon that neither of us had seen before. It looked as if Jesus and Mary had their heads popping out of a beehive!
Well last week Margret showed me another version of the same icon and Natalya explained it to the Lent study group. It is called the icon of the ‘Giver of Wisdom’, and it is often found in schools or colleges. In it, Mary and Jesus are not in fact popping up out of a beehive, but they have been wrapped together in a priests’ robe.

So, Mary, who in iconography is shown to represent herself, and also to represent the faithful believer – the one who said ‘yes’ to the Word of God – and also to represent the community of the Church, the faithful believer, is swaddled together with Jesus.

And although Mary is shown as being larger than Jesus, note that it is Jesus who is in front, it is Jesus who is holding the orb of authority and it is Jesus who is blessing us.

But they are as one. Mary’s face is an exact replica of Jesus’ face. And this icon is expressing in the form of an image what our verses are saying: that when God looks at us, he sees us together with Jesus, he sees us as he sees Jesus.

And they are dressed in this exquisite robe which embraces and binds us together. It is the multi-facetted robe of love

This icon is called the ‘giver of wisdom’.
It is about a prayer to God that he will give us a new way of thinking, a wisdom, not so that we will be clever, so that we will get As or 7s or пятерки, but so that we will have the mind of Christ – so that we not only share the identity of Jesus, and are wrapped in the love of Jesus, but so that we also share the mind of Jesus.
The angels holding candles symbolise enlightenment.

And these verses speak to us about this new way of thinking

‘Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (v16)

Le the message of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified and risen and ascended, live in you.

Imagine that this, the word of God, is like a cool glass of water on a hot day (I know that takes some imagination). You are thirsty. And you drink it. Let it come deep into you and refresh you.

And we need to spend time with the word and read it.
Of course, that is hard. It is not always easy to understand or to apply.
And many of us get it very wrong. We become fixated by one passage or theme. We cannot see the whole picture because we are focussing on one tiny part of the picture.
But that is why we need the Church, those who have been before us, and those who are here now with us, to help us in this.  It is why we need each other.

And so Paul writes,

‘Teach and admonish one another in all wisdom’ (v16)

And this is two way. It is not just the role of pastor, teacher, priest to teach and admonish. It is all of us. We can learn from each other and we can share with each other. That is why bible studies and home fellowship groups are so important.
This week we received a letter from a friend. They discovered recently that their daughter has been suffering the most dreadful abuse in a relationship. And they wrote that it was so good that they were part of a homegroup, because they had the support and prayer and wisdom of spiritual people.

And it is as the Word of Christ comes and dwells in us, as it becomes part of us, as it shapes the way that we think, so we discover the peace of God.

Conclusion
God looks at us, his people, his Church and he sees Jesus.
We are chosen, holy and beloved
We have put on the glorious robe of love
And as we allow the word of Christ to dwell in us, so we share the mind of Christ.  

That is amazing, and it is also why thanksgiving is so important and natural in these verse:
‘Be thankful’ (v15)
‘With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God’ (v16)
‘Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks ..’ (v17)

Because he is our head and our heart, the one who gives us our true identity, the one who wraps us in the garment of his love, who holds us together, who gives us wisdom through his word, and who gives us peace.

And through him, we give to God his Father and our Father, glory and honour and praise for ever and ever.

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