Keep Living 2
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to
have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to
reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behaviour. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Friends, last week we reflected on Paul’s great theme of thanksgiving for this little group of Christians in Colossae who had been transformed by the good news of Jesus.
Even though they are God’s people, resurrected in baptism, made Jesus’ new creation who will inherit the new heaven and earth, they still have to live together facing the two threats of their time.
The threats we can see from this letter are;
- From the Jewish community: Returning to earning God’s blessing and love via the Jewish law, and,
- From the prevailing pagan culture: Doing what they liked in life, but paying off many gods of the surrounding pagan culture to avoid much suffering or disaster.
The threats are still real in our time.
We have this tendency to not trust that Jesus’ forgiveness is for us. So, we try and earn God’s favour without Jesus’ forgiveness – never admitting we are weak or wrong or too strong. So, we try to be nice and be good and never make a mistake and hope that God is happy with our efforts.
Or, we live like what someone called ‘practical atheists’ where we talk about God and even come to church or are happy to tell people we are a member of a church or a Christian, but when it comes to making decisions, conducting our affairs, and dealing with difficulty, we rely on ourselves or what the world tells us to do way more than this Jesus and his wisdom and his hope for our future.
For us ‘practical atheists’ or ‘rule keepers’, Paul’s direction in living a life in Christ’s hope, faith and love is thanksgiving. He calls the people to practice thankful living or ‘Thanks-living”, as we heard last week.
He leads by example in this letter. From a deathly dark isolated prison, of all places, Paul calls the people to learn to live in this thanksgiving – or ‘thanks-living’ as he does.
But why and how?
Now Paul says why they can be so thankful and learn to live a thankful life no matter the threats to being established, root, grounded in Jesus’ love.
Wisdom – the other great theme in this letter – wisdom – Jesus, the Wisdom of God – the supreme wisdom of Jesus for all of life, the reason we can live thankful no matter what.
Jesus is supreme. That is Paul’s bold belief. Paul seems to use poetry (in the original language) to express the supremacy of Jesus in all things.
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together…
Wow! Jesus is supreme. This Jesus was there even at creation, creating all things!
The one who saved this world created this world. Jesus does it all.
He saved the place he created by defeating its greatest enemy and neutralising its greatest threat – death, brought on by the very people he created and whom he loves!
This image Paul uses is of Jesus being the great Caesar marching into the new city in full regale celebrating his victory as he ascends the throne of grace where he is still ruling by grace.
Jesus is supreme:
Jesus is wisdom in a person. In him all God’s fulness lives. If you are rooted in him, grounded in his grace, you gain wisdom – being a more integrated, genuine and understanding person.
Jesus is the new temple – the place where God has put his name to forgive and resurrect all people. Jesus is the place where human beings made in God’s image come together with the God who made them in his image, and as they met together, the light shines into the darkness of the world.
Jesus is the Lord of all, ruling in grace and love over death and hate. All this came to be in that cross, that blood, that suffering man given for us.
And what about us? What about the church? ‘Wow’ again!
18 And he is the head of the body, the church; …21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behaviour. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation –
We are deeply connected with this risen Jesus, the wisdom of God, the supreme ruler over all creation. Paul puts this little church community, and all church communities right in the centre of the action. We are the community through whom this whole community is being made new.
That is what Jesus is doing with us.
He is welcoming the aliens. Reconciling the wrong. Raising the dead. Declaring the guilty, innocent – all by the physical human blood of the cross poured out for the life of the world which we carry to our little world here.
And the Colossians probably thought they were nothing very special or important! Maybe we came here this morning thinking the same. Well, you don’t leave here thinking that.
That is what the Accuser wants us to think of ourselves as – nothing special, nothing of any great movement or change in the world, just a comfortable association of like-minded people, and that is about it.
With the Jewish people telling them they would never be good enough for God and the pagan people telling them they don’t need to care about being good enough for anyone except themselves, they could have easily severed ties with Jesus. It would be easier.
But Paul is urging them to rethink and repent! He is saying, come back, listen up, draw close again, be new again, take up your task again because the world’s future depends on Jesus working though you.
This letter screams the truth that this church community of Jesus does not exist for its own security, comfort or desires. This is the body of Jesus ruling in grace, reconciling the wrong, welcoming the alien, raising the dead, restoring relationships. healing the sick, finding the lost. This a community not founded on accusation but affirmation. A community who is called to work with Jesus here, not just work for our own comforts or likes there.
Friends, we are called to …
23 … continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature …
If we are deeply grounded in Jesus and his Word then we are his ‘commissioned servants’, as Paul names himself.
Paul says his suffering and theirs is a sign that God is at work in him and them because the new creation is coming to be up against the old one with its destructive accusations and unwise behaviours.
Friends, the wise King Jesus is our head and our life here. He will get us to this glory of a new creation complete. Paul delights in this truth even in very tough times. We can too in our time.
Paul calls the Christian community in Colossae to bank on Jesus and his future for them despite the threats they face.
He calls them to ‘live thankful’: To practice ‘Thanks-Living’ as they live in Jesus’ supreme wisdom and power.
It is the way to stay rooted and grounded or established in all he is and all he has done and will do.
It is the way we will act wisely and live lives with meaning and purpose that is much bigger than even owning a home or raising children or being good at what we do.
As we stay established in the gospel we know, we will be people through whom countless other aliens to God are found, accused ones find peace, dying ones find life, despairing ones find hope and join us in the glory of life together with the supreme wise ruling Jesus in his new garden city; this new creation.
Know joy today. Jesus is your joy and his future glory our hope, no matter what.
Give thanks today for what you already have been taught, what you have known and understood of this Jesus and who he is and who he has made you to be.
In this way you will stay connected, stay established, stay grounded. It is the way we will bear his light where he has placed us, no matter what comes.