(Colossians 1:9-20; Luke 23:33-43) – J G White
11 am, Sunday, November 24, 2019 – UBC Digby
There are plenty of powerful phrases in Colossians chapter 1. This is the one that caught my attention: May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power.
So… there is glorious power, available to us? Among the millions who follow the Way of Jesus, many can struggle to find the strength to live life better.
Another old friend dies, another memorial service is held, and we are a year older too. Not to mention another cancer diagnosis, or ALS, or kidney failure, among our friends. After a while, the losses add up, and it takes strength of spirit to be positive.
Another threat comes to a community – a business fails, or a danger to the local environment arises – or new crime spree starts up. And it takes strength for people to team up and work for better things.
Another news report on radio or TV, and another city is filled with protests or riots, another drought with wildfires rages, another political leader seems out of control. What strength do we have to pray earnestly, and speak prophetically, and do something local for the sake of justice?
Is the glorious power of Jesus for such times?
We are about to enter a special season all about Jesus Christ. Let us dwell upon Him. Look intently upon Him. Discover something more of how we are made strong by Jesus.
Here in Colossians 1 is an amazing section, verses 15-20, a hymn to Christ, as it were.15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;
This is the beautiful, powerful thing about the so- called Christmas story: the incredible God gets to be seen among us as one of us, a person, a human. This is the profound way to know the Unknowable One: in Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. A big door opens for us to meet up with the Everlasting One: Jesus is the door. When you are weak, isn’t it amazing to know how one can meet the Divine Source of everything?
C.S. Lewis’ celebrated children’s book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, tells of the adventures of four children in the magical kingdom of Narnia. The story is an allegory of Christ and salvation, with Christ represented by the lion Aslan. When in Narnia, the children meet Mr and Mrs Beaver, who describe the mighty lion to them. “Is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr Beaver sternly. Certainly not. I tell you he is King of the wood and the son of the great emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great lion.”
“ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man.
Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and no mistake” said Mrs Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” The animals in the novel meet Christ as one of them, a lion. In real life, we meet Christ the man.
16 for 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.
We had a memorial service to say goodbye to Carl, and Rene Melanson, yesterday. I shall always remember my chats with Carl, and how he spoke about his talks with Jesus. Sounded to me like Carl regularly talked with Jesus. And just like my visits with him, Carl did most of the talking. It is a very important thing to know that the Great Mystery behind this all can be talked to, like any person. Jesus – God from the beginning – opens the lines to talk, to fellowship, to friendship with God. This is a source of strength.
17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Ya know, we can be stronger when we find out we don’t have to hold our world together. We don’t have to save ourselves or anyone else. We don’t need to have it all figured out. We can rely upon Something else. We can trust that Goodness is the Power, and gets the last word.
In Jesus all things hold together.
18 He is the head of the body, the church;
Our denomination – and some local congregations – have used the theme statement: ‘We Are Stronger Together.’ I believe there’s a lot to be said for being together, being a team, being united in our spirituality. As I always say, ‘religion’ is a way of people sharing in common their spirituality; and ours is based upon Christ.
I believe there is real togetherness, and there is strength for us in being together. I barely need to tell you this; but we are called upon to help others know this. We are told this is a day and age of isolation, of loneliness, of people not joining groups. But the yearning for togetherness can be so deep. I even hear that atheists in some cities have formed ‘atheist churches’ in order to be together like we are!
he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.
We are about to start telling the whole life story of Jesus all over again. We begin next week with preparation for His arrival, born in the Middle East two thousand years ago. In April we will retell of His death at age thirty something. And how He comes back to life, before He leaves His followers on earth.
We are told Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. Born after death. And the first. So there will be others. We will get to be born after death. Jesus is the first, and opens the gates to life for us. We know the strength, week by week, that people get from trusting in the eternal life promised to people after death.
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
We get reminded that the human, Jesus, was also completely God. Fully human and divine. We, mere humans, get strengthened by this connection between Creator and creature, this Jesus.
Ever wonder what humans are capable of? Perhaps we all have had times of pondering this. We read of people who are amazing athletes – running long distances, or swimming, or biking, or whatever. In the last couple years, two friends of mine back in Windsor have ‘everseted.’ They went up a steep hill near their home, 64 times in a row – to equal going up the same elevation as Mount Everest. Adam rode his bicycle up the hill 64 times, Andrew ran or walked up the hill that many times.
Who knew a person could even do that? I was amazed, a year ago, when I took twelve months to learn that I could walk 80 kms at one time, in one day. I would have never guessed I could do such a thing, just a couple years ago!
Amazing physical achievements are one thing. Personal transformation is another. Some people learn to be incredibly generous. Others take a spiritual journey to forgive those who have done terrible and violent things to them. And so on.
It says that in Jesus, the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. In Jesus we see a human capable of everything, even more than we can imagine. As we learn to put on Jesus Christ, more of God fills us.
20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven,
Reconciliation is a powerful thing, today. There is so much brokenness, between people. This is perhaps simply a symptom of how distant people are from God. But we teach that this God is pleased to reconcile all things back to God. It pleases God to do this. As one Psalm says, the LORD takes pleasure in His people. (149:4) Enjoys making things right. This includes all creation, amazingly.
Billy Graham came out with a book in 1952 called Peace With God. Graham wrote: If you have been trying to limit God—stop it! Don’t try to confine Him or His works to any single place or sphere. You wouldn’t try to limit the ocean. It is unlimited, what is to be made right in this world. When we start to get reconciled to God, we join a reconciling team in this universe.
Our profound paragraph in Colossians ends with this about Jesus: by making peace through the blood of his cross.
And this is where the scene of Jesus’ execution comes in. The Cross. Here is a King who does not save Himself, but saves others. He does not wage a military war to win a political victory. He submits to the evils of the whole world, so that they will be snuffed out.
This ‘King of the Jews’ prays forgiveness over all those who are aiding and abetting to His death, or just approving of it. “Father, forgive them.”
We are in pain. Jesus Creator feels our pain.
We fail and falter. Christ comes to carry us.
We get lost in this life. The Good Shepherd seeks out our souls, leads us back.
We are frightened by the wrongdoer inside ourselves. The Saviour defeats the evil one and gives us a new birth, goodness from the inside out.
We are weak in this world. The Mighty One becomes our strength of spirit. And we are not alone.
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power! AMEN.