Saturday, November 24, 2007

SUMMING THINGS UP

Colossians 1:11-20

It’s only the last Sunday of November, but for the church this is it. This is the last Sunday of the church year, and next Sunday when we get together to decorate the church before the service we’ll be starting over with a new year. Because it’s tradition to sum up the year gone by, I thought it might be worthwhile to sum things up this morning. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a statistical report, or even list all the things we’ve done this past year. Some of you might be needing a nap, but I’d rather not put you to sleep just yet.

Instead we’re going to consider this grand statement from the letter to the Colossians. There’s some question as to whether Paul wrote this letter, but for now we’re going to assume he did. It really doesn’t matter who wrote it because the statement holds true whatever the case may be. In this brief passage, we hear a call to kneel before our Lord and embrace him as our king.
1. THE PROBLEM OF POWER
Today is Christ the King Sunday. It brings to a close the church year by celebrating the enthronement of the one whose coming was promised during the season of Advent.

In this text Paul speaks of power and its use. Power is intoxicating, and as Edmund Burke wrote many years ago:

Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any emolument from it, even though but for one year, can never willingly abandon it.1

There’s much truth in this statement, which makes our nation’s history of peaceful transfers of power so amazing.

History teaches us that rulers and would-be-rulers fight for power and rarely give it up willingly. We know too that power tends to corrupt even those with the best of intentions. Consider that often quoted statement of Lord Acton: "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."2 Perhaps the reason why our nation has been able to peacefully transfer power is that Founders of the nation understood the difficulty of doing this. And so they established a Constitution designed to limit the power of any one person or group. That doesn’t mean that power struggles don’t happen, it’s just that limits have been placed on them.

When we look at things cosmically, we discover that power is ultimately limited because Christ is the King who reigns over all. We may think we have absolute power, but there are limits. But we only stop seeking power when we finally submit ourselves to another – and that other is the one who died on a cross outside Jerusalem’s walls.
2. SUMMING UP CREATION

If we’re to understand our place in the universe, we must look at things cosmically. In this passage Paul insists that the one who brings order to the universe and reconciles us to God is the one who is the image of the invisible God, the first born of creation; the one who is before all things, and in whom all things were created.
In this beautiful hymn we hear the gospel summed up. It begins with creation and moves toward reconciliation. It starts with darkness and moves to light. Four times our text uses the words "all things." In Christ, God created all things and in fact Christ is before all things. In Christ all things hold together and in him all things are redeemed. It’s not just some things, it’s all things that are made new.
This is a word of hope to those who live in a world that’s fractured and hurting. We can raise the bloody flag of violent resistance to those who would try to hurt us, but we soon discover that this isn’t enough. The cycle of violence only leads to more violence. This was something first-century Christians knew quite well. They knew of the peace promised them by Rome. It was a peace that came at the point of a sword – we would say today through the barrel of a gun. This kind of peace, however, requires subservience and a loss of freedom. It requires that we honor the emperor as Lord and Savior. This kind of peace is still with us, but it never lasts very long.
But there is another way. We can turn ourselves over to the one in whom "all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell." It is this one, whom we call Christ the King, who reconciles all things to God. In him there is peace and justice, but this peace comes not at the point of a sword, but by way of a cross. In Jesus God turns the tables on the powers and principalities of this world. In him, we are made whole and reconciled to God and to the creation itself.
3. LIFE IN THE NEW CREATION
To kneel before the throne of Christ the King is a life changing experience. We ended our reading this morning with verse 20, but the verses that follow remind us that although we were once estranged from God because we sought after the power to control our own destinies, things have changed. Here Paul writes:

You who were once estranged and hostile in mind doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him -- provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. (Col. 1:21-23).

In Christ we are a new creation. The old is gone and the new is here. Like a new born baby, we’re innocent and holy before God. Having been given this new start in life, we’re called to remain steadfast in this relationship, which God has established with us through Christ.

As we bring to a close this church year by celebrating the reign of Jesus the Christ, we look forward to beginning another year of living in the presence of God. We have been called to be servants of this gospel of peace and reconciliation, by walking humbly with our God and doing justice in the land (Micah 6:8).
1. Edmund Burke quote in Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3rd ed., (Oxford. 1987), 111:28.

2. Dictionary of Quotations, 1:5.


Preached by:
Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall
Pastor, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Lompoc, CA
Christ the King Sunday
November 24, 2007

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