The Communion of Communication
Text: Colossians 4
Proposition: To communicate with the Lord, with those outside the church and with those inside the church about the glory of Christ is being salt and light.
Introduction: Let’s talk about communication, about the way that the Scripture communicates to us calling us to communicate with God and learning to grasp how God communicates with us. But it doesn’t stop there, the Scripture also encourages us, even commands us to communicate with each other in the church and then with others who don’t know Christ. To communicate is what parents spend hours with their children doing, it’s what marriages demand or are destroyed by the lack of, it’s how we navigate everyday life and it’s how we make the unseen inside of us known to others. In fact it’s how God designed us, it’s part of what it means that we are made in His image, we are relational and that hinges on communication. As I was writing this sermon my golden retriever Jaxon came into the office and, as they do, looked at me with something the equivalent to a smile. I smiled back. He took that to mean ‘come here’. He comes to me excitedly. I take that to mean he wants something. I ask, ‘Do you want out, outside? I ask the same thing again, making the word ‘Outside’ louder and with a question mark tone. Jaxon looks at me. I get up to let him outside and he sits down. I sit down, Jaxon smiles and then walks away and lays down contentedly. You may have had a similar conversation with your teenager or with your husband. We communicate, it is in a sense a responsibility we have to each other and especially to God. Look at Colossians 4.
I. When It Comes to Communicating in Prayer, Lean In and Look Out.
When you’re talking with God you’re talking with the only person who knows you like no one else can. In verse two Paul writes, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving…”. That means your attention, your desire, your interest is focused. There’s something you need to say, someone you want to be clear with in your thoughts and words, it’s an attitude of being transparent with the things of your heart. That’s the thrust of ‘continue earnestly in prayer’. Then there’s the reciprocal part of the conversation, God speaking to you. Be vigilant, watchful, listening. I’s suggest to you that to listen even as you speak is what good communication is all about. Listen, watch what you are prompted to say, to suddenly be thinking about, watch what you suddenly remember as you pray because that can be the Holy Spirit prompting you. Wrap all of what you say to God in being thankful, not just at the end of your prayer but all the times that it suddenly strikes you that something incredible is taking place in this moment that a second ago felt ordinary. That kind of communication happens when you lean in. You know it from those times when you really wanted to connect or emphasize something to a friend or family member. To lean in tells not only them but even you that this is important. Lean into God, draw closer to Him. Jesus did this every time He spoke to the Father, every time He was thankful for what had just happened, was happening and even what was about to happen. Prayer has this past, present and future tense to it. So you need to pay attention to what comes to mind as you pray. You need to not only lean in but also look out. Paul puts it like this, “…meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” It’s remembering that what you communicate to God has an effect on the lives of others. Paul says that your prayer can request that God open a door, an opportunity for yourself or others to communicate the wonder of Christ in a way that is perfectly and clearly shared. Prayer recognizes that the context of your life is the place from which we communicate. Where you work, why you’re where you are, “to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains”. The chains were an assignment not a punishment from God. When you communicate with God, as He designed you to do, Lean in and Look out.
II. When It Comes to Communicating in Public, Know It’s Your Open Door.
Look at verses 5,6, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Is it possible that every time you speak with someone who is ‘outside’, meaning unaware of the truth of Christ, that this isn’t just routine or even random. It’s interesting that this should be following right after Paul asks the Colossians to pray that doors would be opened and that he could speak as he ought? What if every conversation is an open door, opened for you in this moment. So walk in wisdom, redeem the time, meaning making the best of it. Be aware of how grace, undeserved favor, kindness that is usually reserved for friends but now given to a stranger, can have way more powerful an effect than you trying to impress them with you. Impress them with something that’s greater than you, it’s Christ in you. That effect of grace and the salt is the way the Holy Spirit shows up in you. You do your part and it invites the Spirit of God to move through you for His purposes. The words that you use will only be the lesser part of your communication. It’s your body language, the seen cues that are often recognized in a split second by others unconsciously sensing something true. It’s been discovered that autistic people have a heightened ability to focus on a variety of other things but can’t read the micro expressions we send to each other in every conversation. It’s what causes them to feel socially awkward because the cues everyone else seems to see they don’t. Autism has been called a gift because it enables certain people to excel at some things enabling exceptional things to happen. My point is simply that we communicate with each other and as a Christian you communicate with others who don’t know Christ, don’t know the power or person of God. God uses all of who you are to communicate that reality, ‘that you may know how you ought to answer each one.’
III. When It Comes to the Church, Know the Communion in Communication. Communion can be defined a number of ways. It’s a relationship of recognition and acceptance between Christian churches or between individual Christians. It’s the exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings especially on a spiritual level. It’s also the service of Christian worship at which bread and wine are consecrated and shared. Paul lists at least eight people who have communion in person or prayer with the Colossians. We commune with one another in the sharing of news of other believers, we commune when we seek to comfort one another, we commune when we show hospitality to others. We commune when we restore relationships as with Onesimus, the runaway slave being vouched for by Paul. In verse 12 Paul writes, “Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Epaphras had been their pastor and now was with Paul in Rome. Paul says that this man “has a great zeal for you, and those who are in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis.” He knows where they are situated, he knows them personally and in prayer, from 2000 kilometers away, he communes with them. Luke and Demas send their greetings and then Paul asks that they, the Colossians, would take this epistle to some of the other Christians in the area, to Laodicea and Hierapolis. The letter was to be read aloud to the congregations there, it would be a communion of the saints knowing they were together in Christ. There was even a letter from the Laodiceans which Paul had also written that they were to pick up and bring back to Colossae, a letter which is now not known. Perhaps it was what we would call Ephesians or perhaps it was lost altogether. Either way the Laodiceans were included in this communication. Then there’s this particular direction that Paul gives. “And say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.” Archippus may have been the pastor at Laodicea but the intent of this comment is that words of encouragement and reminder and perhaps even correction would be given from the people to the pastor. But these are words for each of us to the other as well, for you have all received a ministry from the Lord and it’s possible that we neglect that call. It’s possible that to commune can also mean to encourage and to correct each other. The communion in communication is not just about two or more people talking, it’s about Christ, it’s about the body of Christ and how each part is connected to the other. Look at how he closes this letter, “Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Amen.” It is an intimate call of communion, it calls for prayer to share the weight of suffering, to commune with him in Christ. It’s the communion of communication, in prayer with the Lord, in contact with those outside of Christ and in the church. So, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”