Nov24SunA sermon on Colossians 1 for Christ the King Sunday November 24, 2019
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father…
Today is Christ the King Sunday,
sometimes referred to as Reign of Christ Sunday.
It is the last Sunday of the church year.
It’s kind of like New Year’s Eve,
we look back on the church year behind us,
and look forward to a new Year, to Advent
and the coming of, the arrival of Jesus as a baby at Christmas.
On this Sunday, at the intersection of old and new years,
we explore the Multiple meanings of Christ’s identity:
Aspects of Christ that are seemingly at odds with one another:
For it is the
“Same Christ who is hailed as king,
who suffers a cruel death at the hands of the state.
It is the same Christ who rules over all creation
but also enters the world as a vulnerable baby.”
Christ really is a different Kind of King.
My sermon today is on our 2nd reading from Colossians, chapter 1.
“Paul” wrote a letter to the church in the quite large city of Colossae,
in present-day western Turkey.
He quotes a hymn, the so-called Christ Hymn,
that no doubt the Christians in Colossae were familiar with,
to make a point.
He wants to remind the Colossians that you don’t need more
than Christ in you.
If you have Christ,
that’s all you need.
Paul reminds us that
“What is accomplished in Christ has actually liberated the believers
from the powers of the universe
and given them proper access to God.”
Christ, the ruler, the liberator, the redeemer,
is all we need.
That is the hope of glory.
The “Christ Hymn” Paul quotes is a beautiful song.
It’s a hymn of so-called High Christology,
a song exclaiming an exalted, lofty portrait of Christ,
focussing more on his divinity and his closeness to God,
than on his humanity.
And it summarizes three key issues.
On this Christ the King Sunday,
we remember that as Christians “we are subjects of Christ
and Christ alone”.
Christ’s power transcends all powers.
Christ’s power is greater than all powers.
Most rulers have limited jurisdiction.
Queen Elisabeth is queen of the commonwealth,
but not of Germany, or the United States.
Prime Minister Trudeau is the leader of Canada,
but not of Mexico.
But Christ is king over all.
Normal Kings and queens are born into a royal family,
but Christ was begotten before all creation,
before any royal families were around.
Christ is before all.
There are no limits to Christ’s reign.
Neither time nor space bound Christ’s reign.
And so Christ is ruler of all people, all creation.
But Christ’s rule is also different than that of any ruler who has ever existed.
It is a rule that is bizarre, and bewildering.
Christ’s reign is a Paradox. A seeming contradiction.
“Christ’s reign is established in a paradoxical way,
For the first time ever, with Christ,
we learned that
through suffering comes true power
(not through domination.)
A King who becomes King on a cross,
this was something never done. Ever.
But then again,
God’s Kingdom is so different than all the Kingdoms of the earth,
God’s Kingdom is a kingdom where
the meek are blessed,
the poor and suffering are lifted up,
and the rich go empty away.
It is a kingdom where a man on a cross can be king.
This paradox, this bizarre reality, is best summed up
in the image of the crown of thorns.
Now a crown of thorns is painful, and causes bleeding,
and was meant as a humiliation,
to make fun of Jesus,
but it is a crown nonetheless
(Barbara Blodgett writes:)
The crown of thorns is used in art and literature to depict Christ’s redemptive suffering for others.
An example is Peter de Vries’ 1961 novel “The Blood of the Lamb”.
A desolate and desperate character named Don Wanderhope,
who has just lost his daughter to cancer,
has defaced a statue of Christ by throwing a cake at it.
The pastry lands squarely on the face,
just below the crown of thorns.
But Wanderhope experiences the power of redemption offered in this symbol of sacrifice:
Then through scalded eyes I seemed to see the hands free themselves of the nails and move slowly toward the soiled face.
Very slowly, very deliberately, with infinite patience,
the icing was wiped from the eyes and flung away.
I could see it fall in clumps to the porch steps.
Then the cheeks were wiped down with the same sense
of grave and gentle ritual,
with all the kind sobriety of one whose voice could be heard saying:
“Suffer the little children to come unto me…
for of such is the kingdom of heaven’
In this story, Christ seems to say:
don’t worry, you can be angry at me, I can take it,
I have had worse done to me, come to me,
tell me your worries, your sorrows, your anxieties,
all is well, and all will be well.
I know what suffering is like,
rest your head on my shoulder, and ease your pain.
Perhaps using a welcome gesture like with our Thorvaldsen statue up front.
2. Christ is the first of all creation and he is God’s image.
When we see and know Christ,
we see and know God.
In him all things in heaven and on earth were created
(the whole universe, actually)
(Not to say the Big Bang didn’t happen…
that’s astronomy, but we’re talking theology here.)
Christ is before all things,
he is the glue that holds everything together,
come to think of it.
As Christians, we cannot think of it any other way.
Christ is the image of God.
We can’t see God (because God is invisible)
but we can see Jesus…he’s a lot closer…
he was a man who walked, talked, ate,
slept, suffered, just like us.
He is God incarnate.
God in the flesh.
He embodies the
Fulness of God,
He personifies God completely.
3. Christ is the head of our church,
he is the reason we gather on Sunday mornings,
and everything else is secondary.
We gather on Sundays because it is the first day of the week,
the day that Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death,
conquering all evil powers,
all powers of darkness, despair, sadness,
all forces that separate us from God and one another,
and forces that separate us even from ourselves.
Christ is the head of the body, the church.
the firstborn from the dead
so that he might come to have the first place in everything.
Christ is numero uno.
Something fairly obvious…we are called Christians after all,
We gather on Sundays to celebrate the resurrection,
when God was pleased to reconcile himself to all things
(on earth and in heaven)
by making peace through the blood of Christ’s cross.
one problem with this whole idea of Christ the King is this:
How do we reconcile proclaiming Jesus is Lord,
with the common claim or belief in society
that all paths lead to God,
or all religions lead to God?
Sometimes when I tell people I’m a Christian,
they answer: “oh that’s nice, but I believe you have your way,
I have mine, and all paths lead to God,
it doesn’t matter what you believe”.
What do we do there?
One way of getting at this is to acknowledge that
words do shape us, they shape our belief.
This is why we say the creed after the sermon in worship.
We respond to the words read or preached with words of our own.
Old words. Words almost 2000 years old.
The Apostle’s Creed, or the Nicene Creed.
The major part of our 2nd reading today, the Christ Hymn,
is also creed, a statement of belief.
We often recite the creeds
although we may not fully believe every last bit of it.
I certainly do that sometimes.
What happens when we say the creeds over and over?
There’s the story told of a young monk who went to his Abba[his mentor]:
“Father, what am I to do? I cannot believe.”
“Say the creed, my son”
“But how can I say what I do not believe?”
“Say the creed my son. Even when you do not believe, say the creed”
Fake it till you make it.
In Christ, meaning is found,
that’s why we gather here in church.
That’s why we sing old hymns,
that have been sung by Christians for decades, and centuries.
That’s why we say these old prayers, these creeds,
that have been said by Christians for centuries, for millennia.
They help us orient our life,
they help us believe,
they give us a solid foundation to ground our lives.
5. And Because we believe Christ is the King,
we should have patience with all that befalls us,
and give thanks to God who has given us all we need.
Paul blesses us with his words to the Colossians:
(in the translation of Eugene Peterson);
We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives.
It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy,
thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.
We can withstand the tumults of being a follower,
we share in this inheritance of the saints in light
because we are children of God.
We therefore can praise and magnify and thank God for everything.
So today we proclaim Christ as King,
so we can continue in the faith,
we proclaim Christ as a different kind of King,
so we can live more fully, more justly
and more at unity with all creation. Amen.