6Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in him, 7by being rooted and built up in him, and strengthened in the faith just as you were taught, while you overflow in faith with thanksgiving. 8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, which are in accord with human tradition, namely, the basic principles of the world, but not in accord with Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, our Lord,
During World War II, portable bridges were key pieces of equipment that helped the Allies win the war. A civil servant in the British War Office proposed a bridge concept to speed up efforts for supplying troops with a remedy for crossing rivers (especially the Rhine). In war, holding or destroying bridges is important as this is a crucial part of the supply line. Bridges, not only are they important for military campaigns but they dictate the flow and speed of goods across our country. They can save time by crossing over a river instead of driving miles where you can find a bridge. Bridges make connections.
Today for the sermon, you heard the reading of Colossians 2:6-8. This served as a theme section for the 100th Anniversary of campus ministry in our Synod. The theme was Connecting Campus to Christ! Think of bridges and what they do. They connect two sides. They go over difficult or impassible terrain. As we gather and see what is here in this text, we see how there is a bridge – not made of steal and wood, but a bridge that close the impassible gap between God and sinful mankind. That bridge is Christ. Today as we focus on Connecting Campus to Christ, we’ll have that picture of a bridge. We’ll also pair the picture of a bridge with that of a field (that’s what was advertised to you a while back). We’ll look at three aspects to that field: 1) A Mine Field 2) A Fruit-bearing Field & 3) A Mission Field.
A Mine Field
We’ll keep the picture of warfare from the introduction. If you’ve read books or seen documentaries or movies on WW2 you know the soldiers had various scenarios and situations that were turning points in the war. Destroying and building bridges were a part of that. Another aspect before those soldiers could get to places like the riverbank, they had to cross some fields where mines where buried. Imagine crossing a field not knowing if you’ll be stepping on something that could mangle limbs and even bring death. Scary stuff!
That picture of a mine field appley describes a young man or woman going off to college. I’ll jump back to the verses you heard from Colossians – 6Therefore, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in him,…8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, which are in accord with human tradition, namely, the basic principles of the world, but not in accord with Christ. Stop and think about how much time and energy you’ve spent working with the young people within your congregation. Think of how many have been connected to water – not the crossing of a river – but being connected to their Savior through the waters of Baptism. You connected them to Christ through the water and the Word! They received forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation there at the baptismal font. Then you didn’t stop there. Think of how you’ve provided opportunities for Christian education with your school, your Sunday School, your Confirmation instruction, and then with involving your high school students. Mine fields are around them, but you’re there to lead the way. You’re able to keep watch over them. You’re able to avoid some of the pitfalls. You’ve directed them where to step and what to avoid. Now comes a time where they are off on their own. You’re not there like in their early and high school years. They are stepping foot on a campus where the devil has multiple tools in the toolbox from the university to go after your young men and women. Yes, there are the temptations of sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. But there are more. The gods of reason, emotion, and doubt. The mines where moments of loneliness are answered – their social outlets, their peers, and where they go to find meaning are craftily manufactured by the devil to disconnect them from their Savior. They are hollow and based on human traditions and principles of this world. Yes, it’s a mine field! And that’s where the encouragement of your congregation to keep them connected to their bridge, their Savior Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul encourages us to stay connected to our Savior. Continue to walk in him.
And as the other verse says,7by being rooted and built up in him, and strengthened in the faith just as you were taught, while you overflow in faith with thanksgiving. What does that mean? What does that look like?
A Fruit-Bearing Field
The Bailey bridge is limited. They can only be 167.3 feet long (51 meters) and 13.10 feet (4 meters) wide. Our human abilities are limited too. First and foremost, we’re limited because of the gap that existed between God and us. We’re sinners. We often intentionally step on the mines of the hollow and deceptive philosophies based upon human traditions and philosophy of this world. And you know what you need. It’s found here as we gather. We need what Christ did for us. We need to hear how he bridged the gap between our perfect/holy God and us. How did that happen? It wasn’t steel. It was with the promises spoken and fulfilled in the pages of Scripture as God sent his Son. The bridge was built with a perfect life lived in our place. It was built with wood but with wood fashioned in the form of a cross and nails driven into him as he died on the cross. It was built by the scorning by his heavenly Father as Jesus suffered hell on the cross. It was built with destruction – destruction of death as Jesus rose from the dead. Yes! Things you hear right here. Things you receive in Word and Sacrament.
What has this done? It’s produced more fruit. You are that fruit. You as fruit produce good works that serve your Lord and others. You live out your vocations as you care for your family, support your congregations, and reach out to your neighbors. Well, guess what? College students do that too. While you may have a limited reach – just like that Bailey bridge – that’s where sister congregations and campus pastors help. They get to serve those young men and women. Those young men and women also get to grow in their gifts and abilities too. The Lord not only keeps them safe but he builds upon their experiences, grow in their knowledge, and grow in their gifts. That’s a blessing of where there is a bridge between your congregation and the congregations where your students are attending schools.
One of those areas where that fruit often includes CONNECTING CAMPUS TO CHRIST as they are on Mission Field.
A Mission Field
A fact I’ve heard a few times (most recently from Professor Luke Thompson – he served in Ottawa, Canada and is now a professor at MLC), is the amount of loneliness young adults are feeling. For Christians I hear that they are wrestling with doubts. There are three types of doubts that are listed: factual doubt, emotional doubt, and volitional doubt. Of those three 80% is emotional – meaning loneliness. Again, a reason where our campus ministries/called workers are a blessing. A reason where you can be a blessing too.
Loneliness – why? Again, going back – it’s hollow and deceptive philosophy. It’s not rooted in Christ. Not only do we have these young adults that we’re connected to in mind but their peers, too. While it is exciting, it can be a very lonely time. This is where our campus ministries have opportunities to reach out and invite these searching students to something that has a solid foundation. Our students get to point others to Christ. They get to be bridges that take someone who is lost and searching and walk with them across the promises and work of our Savior. Remember how the devil is constantly at war with the work of our Lord. Yet we know he doesn’t win. Jesus wins.
This is yet again a focal point of what our WELS Campus Ministries have before us. We know there’s a mission field. You have one right here too. You have your own students that are members of this congregation. You have a campus that is not too far away. (Story of how this visit happened if applicable. Intent of visiting Tempe but learning that Grand Canyon University is pretty far from Tempe but close to Grace. The initial visit was to just see my good friend – Pastor Jacobson – but that visit turned into seeing how close he and his congregation were to GCU.)
Bridges are important. They make travel available between two areas where it’s either extremely difficult or non-existent. We all needed our Savior to bridge the gap between God and us. Jesus did that. Jesus also equips us to be a bridge – a connecting point – so that not just campuses can be connected to Christ, but your friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors can, too. Amen.