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What a wild ride we’re all on. Even though we’ve been into this Pandemic for a number of weeks, it still feels surreal. We have resolved to make the best of this situation; to be creative, to be awake and alert, to be looking for opportunities to make a difference in whatever way we can.
There are two words that we want to focus on during this season: Connection & Compassion.
We will do whatever we can to stay connected with one another.
We will show compassion: which means doing our best to be aware of needs around us and serve those needs with whatever resources we have.
There’s no avoiding it, so let’s walk through this, together, hand in hand, learning along the way, loving those around us, and living our best life in the worst of times.
I wanna take you back to 1989, my first everyday summer job. Landscaping. I was pumped. I had aspirations of cutting grass, building patios, laying down asphalt. That would come eventually…
But first…laying down sod…a massive park need resurfacing…and my first job was…watering the grass.
Here’s where it gets fun…the space was so big that we got to use a fire hose. Imagine a teenager, allowed to use a fire hose and spray wherever he wanted to? Ya. A blast. Both my twin brother and I were on this job. The fire hose did get us in a ‘little’ trouble. By brother lost control of the powerful hose and it veered in the direction of a city inspector. Not good. However, we quickly found out that this inspector was not well liked by the city crew. While she was very upset at this incident, her crew was very happy that we soaked her (by accident). How’s that for a first day on the job?
Our instructions? Don’t stop watering until the water gets through the sod and it’s drenched underneath. Why? That’s the only way for the roots of the grass to attach to the soil. So…I watered, and watered, and watered…
Later in life I’d often see these kinds of projects in new developments and subdivisions and say, ‘they better water their grass well, otherwise it ain’t gonna live.’ Very judgemental, I know. But true.
If you want green grass, water it well, period. The roots have to go deep for the grass to last! (sorry to my environmentalist friends who believe grass is a weed like all others and should be left alone. They have a point)
– – – – – – –
Two reasons why we’re talking about grass:
It’s the day we spring time forward, so we’re hoping for sunny days, enjoying the plants, grass, trees with friends and family.
We have arrived at a point in Colossians where we hit the title track. (i,e. title track of a record)
Our title is : ROOTED.
– – – – – – – –
If there’s one thing that Paul thinks brings this whole letter together, it may be this one word – rooted.
Some writers agree that Colossians 2:6-7 is the centre of this letter. What come before and what comes after, hinges on these 2 verses. I would agree.
Let’s see what they say (2:6-7)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Paul starts with really good advice: What you’ve received is to be lived out!
- I receive Jesus
- I live my life in Jesus
- I receive a gift
- I use that gift
- I receive…____________
- I live out…____________
How many times have we wasted a good gift or a blessing? Lost or didn’t use a gift card with a substantial amount of money on it, didn’t put your mom’s (free) food in the freezer as you were told, never wore that great piece of clothing you got for 70%, never got around to learning on the guitar your inherited from your uncle or grandfather or elderly neighbour?
What you have received…you must live out.
The question is, what does living in Christ look like? Glad you asked? Paul gives us 4 words to help us get there: ROOTED / BUILT UP / STRENGTHENED / GRATEFUL.
When we think about this word, we think of depth, digging deep, building foundation, strength under the surface – that is in fact what Paul is getting at.
When we ask, what are your roots? We’re curious about where someone came from, what experiences has shaped them, what kind of family are you from, where did you go to school, grow up, experienced childhood. These make deep impressions in us.
What are the things that are deep within you that have shaped you thus far?
Last week we dove into Col 1:15. Paul’s manifesto about Jesus. Image of the Invisible God. This is who Paul wants us to have roots in. Jesus.
The word used for rooted is exactly what we think it is: a tree with roots deep in the soil.
– It’s in the perfect tense, so there’s a sense permanent strength, solid foundation, something that won’t be moved easily.
The cool thing is that it’s connected to the next word…
This word is in the present tense, indicating a continual process.
Start with deep roots, let them settle, and then you have the foundation to build your life, one step at a time.
I love this metaphor, and especially the balance between roots (down deep) and built up (upward motion). So interconnected.
You can only go as high as you are deep.
You can also only build your life up one step, or one brick at a time. Never worth getting too far ahead of yourself.
It’s not worth worrying about too many steps in front of you. The best way and only way is to do well with the one step you have to take today, the one brick you have to lay today, the rest will take care of itself.
DEEP ROOTS and a well structured BUILDING will lead to a life that can withstand storms, and crisis, and pain, and suffering.
STRENGTHENED (in the faith…)
What is one thing we can count on? Storms. Sickness. Pain. Uncertain circumstances. They will come.
The only way to be ready for this is, as Paul says, to be strengthened in the faith you were taught. (the faith we received)
The 3 words up until now all identify what is going on inside of us. Roots, Foundation, Strength. They are often unseen, but it’s what inspires your actual life, your outside life, your external life.
The funny thing is that we often focus on the external, and don’t pay attention to the internal. That kind of thinking is dangerous and will lead to a fall.
ABOUNDING IN THANKNFULNESS
Paul ends with the external – gratefulness.
That word again? Feels like we can’t get away from this word. (if you’ve been tracking with us this winter, the word thanksgiving keeps popping up)
For good reason – Paul uses it 26 times in his writing.
Thankfulness is the spontaneous response that flows from the deep roots, the strong structure, that our life is built on.
Think of improvisation, in music, in acting, in spoken word. We think to ourselves: How did they come up with that? How did they know what notes to play, words to say, expressions to use?
Here’s how? After hours of work, digging deep into scales, theory, words, lyrics, stories, phrases, etc. Then when the time comes, they can draw on what is deep inside of them.
The sports world lost an icon a few weeks ago. KOBE…an artist on the BB court…top 5 player ever…was the first in the gym, the last to leave, worked harder, often when no one was looking…but then, when on the court, was able to do things others didn’t. He, and other sports legends like him, were able to drap from their depth of practice, routine, structure, developed skill, and come through in the clutch when most needed.
How did they do that? I couldn’t do that?
People say the same thing when they see others being grateful when life stinks: How can they be grateful at a time like this? How can they live with that kind of joy?
Not just any kind of thankfulness, but overflowing with thankfulness, like a river overflowing at it’s banks.
‘Overflowing’ can also be translated as ‘abounding’. More thankfulness, joy, peace, grace, love, than is expected or possible.
Only because we are ROOTED, BUILT UP, STRENGTHENED…in and through JESUS.
– – – – – – –
So…where and how are you digging deep?
Where and how are you building your life up?
What steps, bricks, pieces, are you adding, daily, that add to your life of faith? That are making you a person of Jesus who is ABOUNDING in good things?
– – – – – – – – –
We all want the green grass on our side of the fence.
But the only way you can have that is if you take the time to let the roots go deep, build the surroundings conducive to growth, feed it, nurture it, water it, be intentional about it, and then, even during and after a dry season, your grass will pull through and be strong and beautiful and useful.
We will often only know we went deep with our roots, and wise with our building blocks, when life is tough. Then we’ll be glad we dug deep and built strong.
Jesus said (Matt 7:24-27), “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
I think that’s a good place to end.
This weekend our students are at a Retreat. We’ve been praying for them. I, like other parents had to get our kids to the meeting point for departure…
– 5pm arrival, 5:15pm departure
– As usual, one of my kids was ready, and the other, well, wasn’t (not revealing which one).
– Wanted to be there on time, the leaders were using our car for the trip, I wanna say hi to people, etc.
– Already late, we’re turning onto Brock Street (towards the meeting place), and my ‘late’ child says, “Dad, um, I forgot my contact case & solution”
– This led to some interesting conversation which led to this statement, It’s not my fault that I can’t see well” (HA. Very True.)
Seeing clearly is a beautiful gift. I am just now starting to feel like I might need a little something something to read. I’m putting it off, but eventually I too will need some spectacles.
I fondly remember my old church’s foyer having a bin to collect eye glasses so we could send them over seas to those who didn’t have any. Amazing right?
Seeing clearly is wonderful…especially when things get fuzzy…it becomes very frustrating.
– an image on your phone isn’t as clear as you’re used to
– watching TV/sports online when the wifi isn’t so good
– driving the first few minutes on a cold day (anybody do this? looking through the one part of your window that is semi-clean?)
– if you’re like my dad, who waited what seemed like forever to turn the wipers on when it was raining
In addition to our eyes, we also look for words, tag lines, phrases, that bring it all together for us…bring things into focus…sum up our values, our purpose. Why? Because we want a clear path to where we’re headed.
– – – – – – –
We dove into Colossians last week…
As we walk through this small book we will discover so much about Jesus.
Paul wrote these early Christians a gem of a letter…with a few very crucial parts, and none perhaps more important than the text we’re going to walk through today, 1:15-23.
A clear picture of Jesus is painted in this old poem or hymn. More than that, it tells us that Jesus himself is the clearest picture of the God we’re looking for.
– – – – – – – –
Let’s read this poem/hymn together… (1:15-20)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 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. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 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.
It’s hard to express how much is in these few short verses – So much about Jesus – So much about Paul and the early church’s subversive language (more on this at the end). So much about why Jesus is everything and more, to them, and to us.
There are 6 words that you wanna focus on and really think about today and onward…
IMAGE / FIRSTBORN / HELD TOGETHER / HEAD / FULLNESS / RECONCILIATION
He is…the image…of the invisible God…
The most important thing we read here is that Jesus makes God visible.
What was once ‘unseen’ is now ‘seen’.
Eikon is the greek word for Image in this text. It can mean likeness (Hebrews 1:3). It can also mean manifestation. Those two meanings may tell us enough. However…
This word for image was also used as the word wisdom in Proverbs 7:26. So maybe Paul is also saying that Jesus is the wisdom they’ve been searching for – the image of the goodness and wisdom of God.
And…the word is the same as used in Genesis 1:26, ‘man in our image’. Humans were made in the image of God, but sin of course ruined this and messed this up.
All those things lead us to this: Jesus is…the image of God, the portrait of God, the clearest picture of God, the wisdom of God.
And if this word for image in Genesis has any connection…we can also say that he’s the clearest picture of our best selves. Jesus is what humanity looks like when it’s at it’s best…it’s intended creative purpose.
He is…the firstborn…over all creation…
Jesus was before and still is before. Jesus was part of creation. This puts Jesus at the beginning of the story, not just the end.
He is…the glue…that holds all things together…
“All things are held together through him”
This is a continuing theme of creation. If Jesus was there at creation, then and all created things are held together in him.
Paul probably says this to also combat the Gnostic philosophy that was prevalent in the 1st century. Gnostics believed that the earth was evil and the spirit is good. They created this divide between good and evil, but mainly saying that all things earthly are evil. But…All is good if Jesus created it. Of course there broken things, and sinful things, but in there original essence, God created all things good.
He is…the head…of the church body…
This is consistent with Paul’s thinking in other letters, reminding the Colossians that the church is a body, made up of many parts, with Jesus being it’s leader, it’s brain, it’s head. (an amazing metaphor)
The metaphor informs this idea: If Jesus is the head of the church, the body, then we are a living organism, we are limbs, we are connected to each other, while everything we do, inspired by and directed by, Jesus.
As much as this says about Jesus’ role as the head, it also very much tells us about our role as the body of Jesus.
He is…the fullness…of God…
This adds to Paul’s initial idea that when you see Jesus, you see God. So the fullness of God is in Jesus.
He is…the reconciler…between God/us…us/others
This last word is important for many reasons.
One – it’s reflection of our relationship with God, and Two – it’s reflection of our relationship with others.
Peace is always in high demand. If it was a stock, it would always be way up. And Jesus, according to Paul, is the one who brings two sides together, the one who breaks down dividing walls.
(Worth noting: When we build walls of conflict and hostility, we are actually working against the mission of Jesus – yikes)
– – – – – – –
We don’t have much time to go through 1:21-23. However, these verses continue this theme of reconciliation, and add a profound understanding of how God brings us close to himself.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 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—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.
Think about being in a big Mall…Yorkdale (a huge and classic mall in Toronto) maybe… and you go to the Map to find out how to get to the new chick-fil-e…or Drake’s OV store…or… (fill in the blank).
Once you find out where the store is, you look for that red symbol that says, “YOU ARE HERE”.
In order to get to where you have to go, you have to know where you are.
Paul, in these final verses says that there was a time that we weren’t even on the MAP. And now, not only are we on the map, we have found the store – we have been reconciled to GOD.
(We can tell Bono/U2 that we have found what we’re looking for – pun intended)
What a beautiful gospel message:
ONCE YOU WERE _____________
BUT NOW YOU ARE ____________
– – – – – – – – –
Now, back to the first verse, about Jesus being the image of the invisible God. HE. JESUS. Is where God and Humanity Meet.
When we see Jesus, we say, God? Is that you?
– – – – – – – – – –
This was subversive language in the 1st century. This poem was treasonous in a world populated by images of Caesar. A slap in the face to the Roman Empire.
Paul calls the Christians to bear the image of Jesus in shaping an alternative to the image of the empire. (Brian Walsh, Colossians Remixed)
Think about the images we wear, we represent, we give money to – the images that hold our attention. In this ancient poem, as much as it’s a theology lesson on who Jesus is, Paul is also challenging the images that take up too much space in our lives – that have become ‘god’ to us.
Only one image, one icon, leads us to the divine, that’s Jesus. May we see him for who he is, and trust him for all he does. He’s the only one who gets us from where we are to where God is.