"Daryl Miller didn't make it through airport security." It seems Daryl couldn't keep his pants up! That came off the AP news wire in Minneapolis. It seems that after an extensive time waiting in the security line that Daryl got frustrated during the waving of a metal-detector around his pants area and just dropped them. But that's not the end of the story, you see Daryl wasn't wearing any underwear either. I’m guessing he hadn’t done his laundry.
In those long lines at the store, airport and especially traffic, sometimes our anger gets the best of us, sometimes not. I imagine we all can feel for Daryl, I know I can but taking off my pants? Uh no probably not. I've been known to yell at other drivers of course in the privacy of my own car and I have had a few gestures given to me in return. Our emotions are real, very real and very powerful too. And while it may be a bit extreme, Daryl might very well be a good model for us spiritually in dealing with the ups and downs of our spiritual journey, only please, make sure you've done your laundry and got your underwear on!
One of my favorite writers about the spiritual journey has been Mike Yaconelli. The last book he wrote before his death was Messy Spirituality. At the heart of the book and of Mike's ministry, really, is the idea that Christianity is a messy journey: Jesus, God's Son deals with the messiness of lives and the messy-ist lives. We don't need to fear being transparent in the church, we need to be honest, God is not seeking clean, perfect people, God is seeking messy people who he can love on, care for, and heal to wholeness and holiness. He is looking for people to drop their pants.
In this third chapter of Colossians, Paul writes to the Colossian church about God's messy spirituality. In verse 9 and 10 Paul uses an idea called causation. Simply put: if you've done this one thing, then it should cause you to do another thing. Some people will look at verses 5-9 with this idea of: "Yep, the Bible and Christianity is all about rules saying don't do this." And it is a pretty intensive lists of don'ts. But listen to Paul, "since you have taken off your old self with its practices." It seems to me Paul is saying, you took off the old self, your choice. And we're proud of you! You finally pulled down your pants and tossed those things in the trash! But those things really weren't you, not who you really are." Ernest Ashby (I. Bible Commentary, pg 1458) writes, that the taking off of the self is "not merely habits or conduct,... it goes deeper, it is the very self."
The journey of the Christian through the ups and downs and the messiness is what chapter 3 is all about. Your faith journey is not over when you say with your mouth, "Jesus is my Leader!" Yes the new self is put on, a new person has come into being and this will cause us to take off the old; they are out of fashion. Then find something new to wear. But Paul doesn't leave us hanging on this point either. He points us to the clothing rack and says, "here is what's in style: ...dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. "Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Col. 3:12-14
It is certainly a noble mindset isn't it? To look at this list wouldn't any of us want to live out these things? Benjamin Franklin thought as much too. In his autobiography he shares the list he made for himself of how he intended to live his life focusing on one a week leaving the others to chance: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, Humility. All well and good for sure and certainly these are good qualities that anyone would like to show the world. Mr. Franklin wrote about his experiment saying, "...I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was,...a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been..." (pp. 76-83).
Not coincidentally, during the writing of the letter of Colossians many similar lists were common. So what's the big deal? The deal is Paul unites them all with love, the one thing that makes Christianity unique which is something Mr. Franklin’s list lacked. If your list lacks love then it lacks Jesus Christ and if it lacks Jesus Christ it lacks the hope of being fulfilled:
We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. Col. 1: 28 When Jesus rules our lives, our self, there is a peace - our assurance of salvation.
After choosing to follow Jesus, making him my leader I developed a friendship with Brad. Brad and I hung out a lot. One day while shooting basketball, I cut loose with some colorful language. Brad stopped dribbling, looked at me and said, "Ken, you say you are Christian but your language doesn't back that up." That was the first time I came to grips with the taking off some of the messiness in my life. I had a new self but there was still mess on my clothes. It was time for me to drop my pants and get a new pair.
Last week we mentioned those things that cause us to stumble or catch us off guard. Some of those are arguments that sound good – they ring of spiritual. We’ll hear sounds of it on Oprah or Rush Limbaugh – it will come in books like The Secret or Chicken Soup for the Soul. We can immerse ourselves in novels, movies and even sports and try to take on things that “feel” good. They are the same things that caused problems for us in the beginning: lust – language – coveting – idolatry.
When the dirt, the mess starts to come off by our choice, our commitment and Jesus truly rules our hearts, only then do we begin to truly live. We need one another to point out the stains and dirt and mess too, we're not God's chosen individuals but PEOPLE (v.12) and we bear with EACH OTHER and FORGIVE (13).
Look at your “pants” this morning, how messy are they? I've been called out recently for some of the stains I've got. But look at the last of the list of messes Paul mentions: Do not lie to each other. We’re not perfect people here but people in need of new clothes – new life.
As we sing our final song, we're offering you a time to "drop your pants" in the shredder and pick out a new pair (actually a strip of denim). Maybe you need to write out the dirt or just put one letter – then bring it up here and give it up. As you do so, you may need to spend some time doing business with God, or you feel it's time to make Jesus your leader.