We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Sermon, Rev. Tom Hughes, March 17, 2024 – “in him [Jesus] all things hold together”

“We have today to consider  quite a few things that are presented as revolutionary things, things that have changed the world and things that should have changed  the world. They begin with the idea of the coming of the Greeks. Now it’s not obvious exactly on the surface of that what that means but if you look back in in in Greek history starting with the early days of the philosophers Plato, what they did was they developed a way of thinking that we now call rationalism. Being rational is something that everybody aspires to. If  you’re not acting rational that’s seen as some sort of aberration so that the Greeks then depended upon a kind of thinking that was rational. Now that’s good under many circumstances and we certainly can’t go through our life without that but it’s very limiting because the Greeks did not perceive anything that we would call spiritual. It was all the way you thought about life and the way you lived life through what you thought that mattered. They had no consideration of  deeper things we might call spiritual things.

“Now contrast with that we also have another character in this play,  Caiaphas the high priest was bound to the law. His role  as a high priest was to make sure everybody followed the law. The law was very clear. It had been passed down from God and you didn’t deviate from it. Now, the problem with that is the law  also requires some spiritual insight in order to know it and to live it. It’s not just what the words are on the paper but how God speaks to your heart so those are two considerations that are real in our present day to day. We are rational people and often we’re law-bound people. I want to suggest to you that neither one of those lead us to a spiritual understanding of Life. The spiritual understanding of life comes from an entirely different source – in scripture.

“We read  another piece of scripture from Colossians 1:11. It speaks to this point. It’s Paul’s letter to the church at Colossi. “May it being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to God who has qualified us to share in the  inheritance of the Saints and light”.  [Also it’s God that has qualified us to share in the Saints and light not the way we  think or how we live but the source is  God] “He has delivered us from the Dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” [So life then is given a new direction if we’re in Christ. ] It’s not as it has been always before what Paul is saying here. But a  new direction, his life transferring us to the kingdom of his beloved Son in whom we have received in  redemption for the forgiveness of sins.

“Now this is the part that’s really critical –  Colossians 1:15-17 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

“So, what we are told there in those lessons is that it is Jesus Christ that holds everything together. He’s not just that for which we seek and look for when we’re no longer in this body when we’re fully with God in the kingdom, but right now this day, this morning all things are held together because of Christ. If we have the ability to think and we have the ability to understand the boundaries of life, which is what we call the law, what holds our life together? Those things don’t! They come to us as  things from outside of us that we embrace and live out.

“Look at our culture today. Western Civilization is spiritually starving to death because we do not live in the world of the spirit. We live rather in the world of law and of rational thinking. So if it’s Christ that holds all things together, that means that, in many ways, we’re on the wrong track. No wonder the world’s not working so well. We’ve not followed what we were taught. You can read it yourself.

“When we read things  over and over again about the confession of our sins  that’s of course what Lent is about. It doesn’t mean just giving up stuff just for the fun of it or just because we want to earn points with God. It means that we give up things that are bad for us and or many of us and myself as I am the lead flag bearer of this. Often the thing that trips us up is the way we think about things. If we learn to think about things spiritually rather than rationally or if we learn to think about things spiritually without worrying about what are the boundaries in life.

“If we just follow the love of Christ it gives us a whole new way of living into the world. We come to understand what it means to give up our sins. It doesn’t mean the little bad things we do along the way although it’s good to give them up. It means the things that separate us from God are often what we do habitually, the way we think and the way we live. That’s what’s wrong with Western culture today and for the most part that’s what’s wrong with us because we know in our hearts because we’re told in scripture today that  that’s where it’s written. It was beginning with this new agreement, this new arrangement, this new set of laws, this  new understanding of reality that God has given us  leads us away from being bound by outside things or things that are contrary to God but rather to learn to live by the leadings of God’s holy spirit in this world.

“Now if we’re able to do that, it will transform us. It doesn’t always work though. Caiaphas is a good example of that.  Caiaphas was the high priest at that time and they brought Jesus before him. After Caiaphas  had talked to him he said to the rest of the Sanhedrin. He said, you know, it’s better for one man to die rather than for all of us to die. Did he know what he was saying?  I don’t know . I wonder about that. Because that was what he was ostensibly meaning was if we go on and let the Romans kill Jesus, it’s better than having a revolution and we all get wiped out. Or did he have some kind of premonition about what was going to happen with the death and resurrection of Jesus that it is better for one person to die that we all might live because that’s exactly what has happened. Did Caiaphas  know that? I wonder.

“The other thing about it was he said that we here in the Sanhedrin must pay attention to what’s going on around us because if we don’t get rid of this guy the whole world is going to be coming to him. Did Caiaphas know? Maybe he did, I can’t say but those are remarkable things that that he spoke just before the crucifixion of Our Lord. The whole world is going to be coming to him. Then, we read there were some Greeks that showed up that day where they were standing out talking and Andrew and the others all said to  take them to Jesus and Jesus wanted to talk to him and what was Jesus’ response to that was? It’s fulfilled, the hour has come.

Now what did that mean ? It meant that the word of God, the power of the word of God that Jesus  was and taught had spread beyond just the people of Judaism. It had spread out to the Gentile world and that, my friends is us. We’re the  Gentiles of the world. We were not the chosen Jews. We’re the Gentiles, we’re the Greeks. When Jesus knew that the word had come to us, he said the hour has come, my work is fulfilled meaning that the word the power and lifechanging word of God that reveals the purposes and love of God to every person had come to fruition and now it was just a matter of that word spreading because it was now out of the box. It was in the world and you can never stop it and you can’t ever stop it.  All you have to do is persecute it. There are more new Christians in China every day than anywhere else in the world. Why would that be ? Well it’s illegal for one thing but it seems to be that the power of God works in situations  where you might think it would be more difficult but in fact it’s an enabling presence this power of God.  It’s a power of God that causes people to stand against the ways that the world works by the way we think and what we do that are so destructive to the human heart.

“We have a built in longing for God . It’s almost like a  homing device that’s built into our souls that we carry around with us all the time. So why is it then that that isn’t the reality  that we wear on the outside of our lives? Because the world around us, the power of the spirit of the moment of this day is so strong that it seems to put a shadow over the power of God that’s built in.  Why are you here this morning ? Some might say I don’t know I’m here I just showed up or you know my cousin told me  or you know you never know but the reality is that it’s built into us. It’s not something artificial – it’s in our souls. God put it there and so giving up our sins means doing without those things that keep us from living out of that. Giving up those things that distract us from God’s purpose within us. Giving up those things by the way we think and organize our lives around the restrictive laws of the heart. That’s what need to move beyond so that we are free then to be God’s people in the world to live out of the God’s spirit within us and not be directed by the things around us.

“Once you can make that transition you have made the transition in life. It’s called many things – being born again, coming to Jesus. It’s all kinds of names but the reality is we come to a new understanding our relationship with God and live out of it and that’s what Lent’s about.  I wish for you in this this last week before we  observe the crucifixion of our Lord and celebrate his resurrection that we do it with that in mind that we have those wonderful life experiences that before us if we take into us a reality of what Christ did for us  He brings all things together- he’s not something that is an extra, he is the center of creation all things that move around him and according to his purposes and they are purposes of love for us.”