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Christians Need One Another

1.7.24


With a new year brings the opportunity to make new year’s resolutions, as we redouble our efforts to exercise more, eat healthier, take better care of ourselves and whatever else. Or maybe you’ve got other goals, faith based goals, such as daily prayer or reading your bible more. Friends, did you know that 20 people from our church are committing to reading the entire New Testament over the course of 2024? That’s pretty cool, and by the way, it’s not too late to join. 


With every new year’s resolution is an opportunity to improve or strengthen an area where we feel we might be lacking and yet, there’s one more resolution that we as a society might want to consider, and it comes from a most unlikely source.


Last year the United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy made headlines when he declared an epidemic among us that needs our immediate attention, when he released an advisory calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in our country. 


That’s right, not heart disease or cancer, opioids or obesity, important as addressing each of those things might be, no instead our surgeon general highlighted loneliness and isolation and our lack of connection. And I think he’s right to do so. 


Last fall we did a sermon series on the New Testament Letter of Colossians, it’s a letter from the Apostle Paul, he’s writing from Rome, he’s in prison, and he writes this letter of encouragement and instruction to a young and growing church in the town of Colossae. As we bring this letter to a close, we can’t help but notice that though Paul and the first century church are many things, lonely they are not. Hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, absolutely, and yet lonely and isolated they are not.


And no passage within Colossians demonstrates this better than this final section, it’s our passage today. Filled with names and greetings and encouragements, meaningful relationships and connections everywhere, reminding believers past and present that we are not meant to walk this Christian life alone.  


So with all that said, if you haven’t already, I’d invite you to open your bibles up to page 1680 as we consider these final words from the Apostle Paul. 


As you do, you might be thinking to yourself, didn’t we wrap up Colossians last fall? Well, yes and no. We in essence wrapped up the body of the letter, and yet this final passage is still before us. And at first glance, it kind of feels like a throwaway passage, unnecessary and unprofitable, as there’s almost no biblical truth or practical instruction. It’s mostly a bunch of greetings, one right after another, “so and so says hi” kind of stuff. It almost feels as if we’re snooping around, reading someone else’s mail, and in a very literal way, we are. 


In fact, you might think of it this way, if the book of Colossians were a movie, then our passage today is the credits. You know what I’m talking about … the list of names that credit people’s role in the movie? And of course, what do we do when the credits roll? We turn off the movie or click to begin the next episode. 


Chances are, you and I might be tempted to turn off this passage, as it were, and yet, we shouldn’t, not if we want to learn a thing or two from Christians past that can speak to our lonely and isolated world. 


So for today, three things I want you to see in this passage. Three realities about the role and purpose of Christian fellowship. Each one will be short and sweet. 


As followers of Jesus, we need one another to set an example for each other. We need one another to provide comfort. We need one another to encourage our hearts in the Lord. 


We need one another as we set an example for each other. 


You’ll notice that in a couple spots, Paul does more than simply list people’s names, he at times mentions what he admires about them.


For example, Paul begins his concluding remarks in verse 7, saying, Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.  


Tychicus happens to be the one who brings this letter to the Colossians. He’s the mailman, if you will. And he speaks highly of Tychicus – dear brother, faithful minister, fellow servant – for a couple reasons. On one hand, he’s letting them know that Tychicus is someone they can trust, that this isn’t junk mail or a “spam risk” calling, no these really indeed are Paul’s words. (By the way, Paul’s note at the very end, v.19 “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand” is another way of him authenticating the letter.)


But he’s also doing something else here - he’s speaking highly of Tychicus as a way of pointing out that Tychicus is someone worth following, someone worth admiring, someone who can set an example as to what it looks like to follow Jesus. 


In other words, as this letter is read aloud before the entire Colossian church, Paul is essentially saying, if you want to know what it looks like to embody what I’ve been teaching you here in this letter, here is Exhibit A. Look at Tychicus and do likewise. 


Paul is doing a similar thing when he mentions Epaphras, the one who planted the Colossian church years before, as he says, “12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”  


With both of these men, he describes them as servants of Christ Jesus. These are people, who, to borrow something Paul said in ch.3, are doing “whatever they do, with all their heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”


Together, folks like Tychicus and Epaphras are setting an example as to what it looks like to “live worthy of the Lord and to please him in every way.”


And we need one another for the same reasons. To model before us godly and faithful living. For us to see that though we’ll never be perfect, faithfulness is indeed possible. 


And so in terms of application, we can consider this from both sides. First, are we spending time with people, with fellow Christians whose lives are worth emulating? Are we pursuing relationships with those kinds of people? Are we immersing ourselves in that kind of community? And secondly, are we ourselves living lives that others would want to emulate? 


Bestselling author and leadership expert John Maxwell has this catchy line, saying, "More is caught than taught. You can teach what you know but you reproduce what you are." 


More is caught than taught. In other words, for example, parents, we can tell our kids that reading their bible and attending church is important, and that’s good and all, and yet actually having our kids see us reading the bible and bringing them to church is far more effective. More is caught than taught. 


Or we can tell our coworkers or students that it’s okay to make mistakes and yet if we respond with harshness and are short tempered when they do, then our actions tell a different story. 


More is caught than taught. This is the power of Christian community. We need one another as we set an example for each other.


But of course, that’s not the only thing that Christian community is good for. 


We need one another to provide comfort for one another. (450 words) 


In verses 10-11, Paul passes along greetings of three more men, Justus, Mark, Aristarchus. (By the way, though Maverick is sadly still not open for skiing, Marie you gracefully navigated the double black diamond of bible passages with all those difficult to pronounce names. Thank you, friend.)


And here’s what Paul says of them in the second part of verse 11, “these are the only Jews among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me.” 


Part of what Paul was getting in trouble for is that he was preaching that we’re saved by God not through obedience to Jewish dietary laws or circumcision or things like that but rather faith in Christ. And yet, here are three Jewish men, men who you’d think would want to uphold their Jewish tradition and fight against Paul, and yet, it’s just the opposite. They have Paul’s back, they’re on his side in midst of great opposition, they’ve literally walked alongside Paul during his various missionary journeys. In fact Aristarchus, let’s call him, Arie, is even his fellow prisoner as Paul puts it. 


And to have people in your corner, people who support you in the face of hardship or persecution or whatever else, well, that’s comforting. 


Though we Christians don’t often face persecution today, we need one another for much the same reason, to provide comfort to another. 


And so in the spirit of letter writing, maybe you’ll want to write an encouragement card, a postcard of comfort if you will to someone in our church family.


Maybe you’ll want to write one to Joanne Meier – she was recently diagnosed with a blood clot and was flown to Billings for further treatment. 


Or maybe you want to write one or personally visit Vi Iverson – she is in the midst of moving to the Beehive, and though there’s the good news of her receiving more around the clock care, it’s also really disorienting and in many ways sad, to leave a home you love. 


And of course, you can always pray for those two and many more. After all, imagine how comforting that must have been for the Colossians to hear that a dear brother like Epaphras was wrestling in prayer for them. 


We need one another to provide comfort for one another through thick and thin. Third and finally, 


We need one another to encourage our hearts in the Lord. 


As for Tychicus, Mr. Mailman here, Paul says this in verse 8, I am sending him (Tychicus) to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.” 


Paul hopes that the letter that he writes and the additional report that Tychicus gives will encourage their hearts. 


In some sense, this really isn’t all that different that the previous point about comfort, and yet, I add this third point because there’s a whole other dimension that Paul is highlighting here about our need for another, and that is he’s not simply highlighting the relational connections between Christian and Christian, but also the relationship connections between churches and groups of Christ followers across time and space. 


And so he’s saying, I want you to be encouraged by what’s going on here in Rome, with me and Justus, Mark, Luke and Demas, and Arie and more. 


And yet, he’s also extending greetings to other churches, such as in verse 15 … “give my greetings to the brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.”


Here Paul is highlighting the relational, connectional nature between churches and Christian communities, and the encouragement that is ours when we share and testify to what the Lord is doing in our midst with one another.


For example, when Doug and Debbie Banks, missionaries in Uganda, joined us to share about their ministry this past October, we were encouraged, were we not? Or when you receive Christmas cards from loved ones with personal updates, or when Cindy Coad shared her Immanuel story a few weeks ago, you were encouraged, I am sure. 


Or when our Presbytery gathers, we share what we call “spirit sightings;” simple stories and ways that the Lord’s been at work in our churches. And it’s always fun to share stories about you all. And those sightings matter, it’s tough out there, it’s not easy following Jesus and calling others to do the same. We need that encouragement, to know that Christ is being proclaimed and God is being glorified and the Spirit is on the move, here in Montana and around the globe.


In this month’s newsletter, in the Outreach report, you’ll see ways in which we’re encouraging and staying connected with other churches and Christian communities, whether it be the Banks in Uganda or our college Chi Alpha ministry right down the street. 


And maybe let’s be thinking and praying about how we as a church, as First Presbyterian, can connect with and encourage other churches here in town, both those in seasons of growth or decline? 


As followers of Jesus, we need one another to set an example for each other. We need one another to provide comfort. We need one another to encourage our hearts in the Lord. 


A throwaway, skip ahead to the next episode passage this is not. As our surgeon general might conclude, we need this one in our lonely, isolated world. 


So friends, let’s stand and sing, “Called as Partners in Christ’s Service” 


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