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.
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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.
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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)
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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 ____________
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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?
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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.