Friday, November 29, 2019

Reign of Christ • Christ the King 2019

Colossians 1:11-20

11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued [exodus, a new deliverance, a new freedom from slavery] us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.

19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and 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.

Although Colossians is one of the epistles attributed to Paul of Tarsus, vocabulary, sentence structure, syntax, and overall style indicate he almost definitely didn't write it. Using someone else's name was common, legitimate practice back then, and wouldn't get you in trouble with the law or with the person whose name you used. It was a compliment to the person, and (as Pastor Peg has mentioned more than once) you were more likely to get your writing read if people thought someone well-known wrote it.

Every year the church's year of grace concludes by acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord of all. This first chapter of the letter to the Church at Colossae brings us the pre-existent cosmic Christ who created everything, who was firstborn from the dead, who reigns over all creation. The Gospel according to John, the fourth canonical gospel, also has the pre-existent Christ: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God."

This is the last Sunday of Luke's lectionary year. We've seen how Luke's story of Jesus particularly emphasizes women and other marginalized people, table fellowship, history, prayer, activity of the Holy Spirit. Like Jeremiah and Deuteronomy that also come up frequently in Luke's lectionary year, Luke's Jesus is about the other than us, the neighbor, neighborology. Of course, to everyone outside of us, we are the other, we are their neighbor.

As we hear about and affirm the glorious rule of the Cosmic Christ, we also need to remember how Martin Luther reminds us that in order to see the fullness of God's power, sovereignty, and lordship, look to the Bethlehem manger. Look to the Calvary cross. God's ways are so very different from human imaginings of power, glory, fame.

Last week I quoted from Gian-Carlo Menotti's one-act opera, Ahmal and the Night Visitors:
The child we seek holds the seas and the winds on his palm.
The child we seek has the moon and the stars at his feet.
Before him, the eagle is gentle the lion is meek.

On love, on love alone will he build his kingdom...
His might will not be built on your toil.
Swifter than lightning he will soon walk among us.
He will bring us new life and receive our death.
And the keys to his city belong to the poor.

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