The Story of Assimilation or Confrontation

July 28th, 2019

Message Title: The Story of Assimilation or Confrontation 
Theme: History is Our Story
Season: Ordinary Time
Color: Green
Main Text: Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Scripture Reading: Psalm 85
RCL Scripture: Hosea 1:2-10, Psalm 85, Genesis 18:20-32, Psalm 138, Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19), Luke 11:1-13
Focus: Paul moves from foundational beliefs on Christ to practical beliefs as believers.
Function: to acknowledge our risk of syncretism and to open our minds to conversations about cultural impacts on faith in positive and negative ways. 
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 85 Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah 3You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. 4Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! 5Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? 6Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. 8Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. 9Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 11Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. 12Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. 13Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

HISTORY: Though Colossae was a city that was housing retired Roman Soldiers, they weren’t the only ones there. Colossae was a diverse, cosmopolitan city of Greeks, Middle Eastern Jews, and Phrygians. (PF) This diversity led to a syncretistic view of religion [or a blending all options together] in which Christ is one of many emanations of the divine (PF)

TRANSITION: We too have a struggle of cultural influences today. In our text for today we will see Paul not using words of admonishing or correcting but guidance and cautionary instructions to protect the good hearts of the Colossians. 

GOD: Colossians 2:6-15

Reminder & Caution Vs 6-8 6Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 

  1. Normally Paul would go from his foundational intro directly into correcting wrongs in the community, however the reputation of the church in Colossae was not a negative one. So now that Paul has introduced himself and laid his foundation for his ministry through a description of Christ, he provides a teaching but not in a pointed fashion. 
  2. “, so walk in him,…just as you were taught” Paul is continuing by building off of his foundation. He is reinforcing the lessons the Colossians already know.
  3. “8See to it that no one takes you captive” Paul identifies that there are some temptations present for the church within the culture they are quite familiar with and he encourages them to take caution. 

Foundational Beliefs & Defense Vs 9-15 9For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

  1.  “9For in him” The culture was used to blending faiths together. Paul wanted them to remember that this isn’t another god to follow but THE one true God. 
    1. “The town was known for its fusion of religious influences (syncretism), which included Jewish, Gnostic, and pagan influences that in the first century AD were described as an angel-cult. This unorthodox cult venerated the archangel Michael who is said to have caused a curative spring to gush from a fissure in the Earth.” (wiki)
  2. , 14by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.
    1. Christ has restored the Colossians; this was not from any other deity or spiritual presence, nor was it by their own righteous acts of following a rule book/law. 
      1. Baptism being a symbol of the work Christ has done in them (dying to a selfish way of life and being reborn into a self-less way guided by Christ.)

OUR STORY: to acknowledge our risk of syncretism and to open our minds to conversations about cultural impacts on faith in positive and negative ways. 

  1.  Paul didn’t want the Colossians’ faith to be changed by the other religious beliefs in Colossae
    1. Two types of cultural impact on faith: 
      1. cultural influence: entertainment, language, clothing, worship structure and length
        1. these things influence our faith, there is an ebb and flow of style along with culture but our faith content is not changed. 
      2. cultural syncretism:  cultural things become prerequisites for faith (entertainment, language, clothing, worship structure and length)
        1. Christian Missionaries going into the mission field and trying to plant “american style” churches because they are the “right” style of church. 
        2. Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, or Native Americans
    2. ignoring culture is a big problem because culture *can* inform our faith without changing the content.
      1. Statement about the God you follow (we hold the deeds to the Christian faith and everyone must come through us to believe)
        1. we bring God to these pagans… ignoring God’s sovereignty and presence in creation.
      2. View of Time influences our view of faith and worship
        1. Commodity vs. Circular
        2. Examples of churches in other places:
          1. An African or Latino church service can last 2-3 hours… if not more.
          2. A Latino church in Logansport (influenced by latino culture) has dancers during worship.
  2. You: 
    1. The evangelical church has been known for drawing hard and fast lines protecting them from culture. 
      1. When I was growing up, I was not allowed to read Harry Potter because it contained magic. Little did my parents realize that the greater story arch was about the triumph of good over evil. 
      2. One of my dear friends wasn’t allowed to watch any Disney movies. At the time there were some unethical animators that would include questionable things to these innocent movies. 
      3. Both of us were encouraged to read scripture but censored in other ways. We forget that the Bible shows an honest depiction of human nature: there is genocide, slavery, rape, and other injustices depicted in scripture.
    2. “But this book is Good and Holy Pastor Meriah! Nothing in this book could be bad” …*make face*
      1. Churches rejecting culture because the bible is more pure
      2. Not reading the Great Gatsby because of the bad influence of the story, encouraging kids to read the bible ignoring the stories of genocide and rape within scripture. 
  3. We: The American Church is influenced by American culture. The American church is just at risk of syncretism as the Colossians. 
    1. At risk of Christian Nationalism or a Civil Religion like the Roman Soldiers: 
      1. We have flags in our sanctuaries.
      2. We celebrate American holidays in church.
      3. We celebrate the sacrifice and commitment of American Soldiers.
      4. We benefit from the laws of our government.
      5. We attempt to change the laws of our government to fit our beliefs. 
    2. Tension to Assimilate or fight:
      1. The Struggle of the White American Church to want other churches to assimilate. 
      2. There is no cultural prerequisite to follow Jesus
        1. you do not have to be an english speaker
        2. you do not have to be an American Patriot


  1. Ignoring the cultural shifts is a HUGE mistake
  2. Engage in conversation about culture
  3. Don’t make culture a hard line or prerequisite to full participation in the Body of Christ. 

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