Summary: If you had a chance to rewrite your obituary, what would you say? This sermon looks at what it means to put to death the old self and to walk in the newness of life.
Well, it is the week after Labor Day, so I’m going to take a cue from Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby, and start talking about Christmas! How many of you have a favorite Christmas movie? Call out your favorite. Did anyone say A Christmas Carol? You have a lot of versions to choose from if that’s yours—everything from Mickey’s Christmas Carol to Scroog’d, to the Jim Carrey version that came out a few years ago. But all of them share the same basic idea: a mean, greedy, selfish man gets a visit from the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. He gets to evaluate decisions he had made in the past. He gets to listen in on what people think about the person he is. But what really causes him to change is when he sees a vision of his own funeral. He sees what his old life had led up to. He hears how he is remembered. And once he sees the death of his old self, he decides he is going to rewrite his own obituary. And from then on, he becomes kind, generous, and beloved.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. It’s way too early to be thinking about Christmas movies. Who do we think we are—the Hallmark Channel? So let me switch gears and talk about a real life Ebenezer Scrooge.
His name was Alfred. Alfred’s family was well known in the weapons manufacturing industry. Alfred’s father built underwater mines for Russia. Alfred himself was famous for developing new types of explosives. He had 355 registered patents for detonators, blasting caps, and smokeless gunpowder. In 1867, he invented dynamite. He had built a tremendous family fortune and had built almost 100 factories to keep up with the demand for explosives and munitions.
In 1888, Alfred’s brother Ludvig died from a heart attack. But a local French newspaper mistakenly reported that it had been Alfred who had died. The headline read “The Merchant of Death is Dead!” And it went on to say, “The man who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before died yesterday.”
It wasn’t long after that Alfred sat down to rewrite his will. He stipulated that the vast majority of his estate, the equivalent of $265 million in today’s dollars, would go to the establishment of annual cash prizes that would go to those who, “in the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” The most prestigious of the awards was the peace prize—awarded to the individual who has “done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace.” The Nobel Peace Prize remains to this day one of the greatest honors that can be given to a human being.
You see, Alfred Nobel—for that’s who we’ve been talking about this entire time, got a glimpse of the death of his old self. And like Scrooge, it gave him an opportunity to write a brand new ending for his life. And today, no one remembers him as the Merchant of Death. Instead, they remember him as the promoter of peace.
Both the fictional Ebenezer Scrooge and the real-life Alfred Nobel were given an opportunity to rewrite their life story after being declared dead. Today as we observed the ordinance of baptism, we get to celebrate with five people who have been declared dead, and now have the chance to live a brand new life.
If you are physically able, please stand for the reading of God’s Word, from Colossians 2:10-13:
and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. … 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. And 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,
This passage in Colossians 3 really builds off an idea Paul introduced in Colossians 2:12, which you have printed on your notes page. This is the same phrase we have printed on our baptism shirts here at Glynwood. When someone trusts Christ to be their savior, we recognize the commitment he or she has made with the ordinance of baptism. We don’t believe that it is the ceremony itself that saves someone—it is just the outward sign to the faith community that they have already been saved. We think water baptism—baptism by immersion—is the best way to symbolize the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. And it also symbolizes our own death and burial. Colossians 2:13 says we were dead in our sins, but God has made us alive in Christ. So this morning I want us to look at what gets buried, and then what gets raised, according to Colossians 3.