This is the sermon I preached at St. Timothy Lutheran Church for Christ the King Sunday, 11/24/19. The text was Colossians 1:11-20.
Being part of our household can be quite an adventure, especially lately. You just never know where it may lead. With two wagging puppy tails, a cat and then of course, the humans: a woman who is not particularly coordinated or graceful and a blind guy. Inanimate objects suffer the consequences of getting bumped, knocked over, dropped and sometimes broken. We keep a good supply of duct tape, glue and other adhesives in stock. Things can be repaired or replaced. Super Glue is a wonderful invention!
But what about our hearts, our emotions, our families, our church? These are not as easy to fix. Super Glue is fine for things, but what about OUR brokenness? Who can rescue us?
The second part of our reading from Colossians is an ancient hymn. Here we learn about our rescuer, Jesus—who he is and what he does. The focus is on the supremacy of Christ before and above all other cosmic entities.
Jesus is the Image of God. Jesus “is not a copy or likeness of God but the ‘projection’ of God on the canvas of our humanity and the embodiment of the divine in the world of men and women” (Ralph Martin, Interpretation: Colossians). What we can know about a God that is beyond our sight we see in Jesus. Christ makes the invisible God visible.
Jesus is the firstborn of creation and before all things. This emphasizes the priority of Jesus’ rank as over and above all created things. Christ existed before anything else was created. Jesus is first place in everything. As one theologian says, “He is first in priority, before all things…first in importance, beyond all things…first in rank, above all things…first in origin, source of all things…first in order, ahead of all things…” (Audrey L. S. West, New Proclamation). This isn’t saying, “My Savior’s better than yours,” but rather that nothing exists anywhere outside of Christ’s domain.
Jesus is the Head of the body, the church.The word translated “head” means arch. It’s in the word monarch, meaning one ruler—Jesus is the ruler, the root, the principle, the beginning, the origin of the church. The church is more than those of us gathered here this morning. It is the beginning of a new people, a new creation reconciled wholly and completely with God. Just as Adam was the beginning of humanity, Christ is the beginning of a new humanity.
Jesus is the beginning, the firstborn from dead. Again, Jesus is called the firstborn, but this time it concerns his resurrection. He was the first to be raised from the dead.
This hymn also tells us what Jesus does. All things were created through him and for him (v. 16). Jesus is the creator of all things in heaven and earth, seen and unseen. The emphasis throughout this passage is on what God has done, not on what we have to do. This puts Christ above all things celestial and terrestrial. In Christ is where we find the means and meaning of creation.
Now as wonderful as all this is, it gets better. Do any of you remember hearing in science class about “cosmic glue?” It is that invisible substance that holds the worlds together. As Christians, we already know what this cosmic glue is. It is Jesus Christ, the creator of the universe. Jesus not only creates and redeems us but holds all of creation and us together.
I love the idea of Jesus holding everything together, as the Super Glue not only of the universe, the multiverse, but us and the church. The Greek verb literally means “stand with.” It could be translated, “all things stand united in him or combined in him” (Rob Myallis, lectionarygreek.blogspot.com). How amazing is it that we should be united in him and combined together in him? This certainly leaves no place for divisions in a congregation.
Jesus reconciles to himself all things. Did you notice the “all” in this verse? Not only is humanity reconciled, but all of creation. Christ’s role is emphasized, not only as the representative or agent through which all creation came into being but also the conduit by which all creation is made right with God.
Jesus makes peace through the blood of his cross. What a paradox, that Christ’s reign should be established through crucifixion. It is a reign whose freedom and peace are achieved through the saving power of death on a cross. He does not rule by threat or military domination. His kingdom stands in stark contrast to others. It is an entirely different sort of empire than that of Rome, for example.
God did all of this so that we may be made new, fixed, held together as individuals, a church, a world. We cannot hold ourselves together. Life is joyous, but it is also hard.
Let’s imagine an ideal ruler or king. Christ holds all things together, has first place in everything, embodies God and makes peace on earth and in our hearts. God is the strength from which his people derive their strength. God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
There have been times when I was desperate, the most recent being a little over two years ago following my back surgery, when I was lying in bed in the ICU of the hospital in Lockport. I had a fever and wasn’t acting right. Different antibiotics were tried until they came upon the most effective one. I overheard one nurse telling another, “We almost lost her last night.” I will never forget one parishioner saying after I had recovered, that she was just so glad to be able to pray for me to get better as opposed to praying that I would live.
Let’s look at the world around us as well—the one we read about, see on the news and in our neighborhoods. How are we to respond to our world and its issues? Racism, for instance, is rampant. Is it enough that we are not racists, that we have confessed to God and been delivered from this sin? The problem is far greater than our individual hearts—racism is inherent in many systems in our country and world. It is systemic. And so the call of the Christian life is to seek to transform those systems so that they emulate the grace, mercy and compassion we experience in the reign of God (Elizabeth Barrington Forness, Feasting On the Word: Year C, Volume 4: Season After Pentecost 2).
Just as Jesus is the image or icon of God, so in Christ, we are his image in this world of sin. In our involvement in our world on a daily basis—at work, school, with our neighbors; through us the systems of racism and every other ism can be systematically disassembled and destroyed because Christ is alive in us and the Holy Spirit’s dynamic power flows through us. In prayer we can have a tremendous impact on our world as well because God hears and answers prayer.
It may feel like everything is falling apart as we watch the “breaking news,” however, we follow and believe in the One who rules and reigns in righteousness and who holds all things together, including all the victims in our world; whether they are at our southern border or across the world. God’s objective, the heart of everything is summed up in the final verse, “through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
There is hope for us because of who Jesus is and what he has done. This is just the time we need to celebrate Christ the King and his reign in our lives. To call Christ the King is to call the church into mission, into the light, into the inheritance that God desires. (Fistler & McCoy, pulpitfiction.com).
Listen to the way The Message translation expresses our hopes:
He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. (Vv. 18-20)
Let us pray.
Christ our King, we bring our brokenness to you. As the glue that holds everything together, we ask you to fix us and heal us. Fit us together in vibrant harmonies of your love and use us to your glory. Amen.