3D 7.26.2019

Colossians 1:15-28 NRSV

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for 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. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. 21And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him- 23provided 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. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. 24I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. 25I became its servant according to God's commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. 27To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

This passage, much of it an ancient Christian hymn (verses 15-20), may enlighten us about the early stage in the development of belief about Jesus and it may also help in our endeavors to understand both the humanity and the divinity of Christ. But first we must start with the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead. Otherwise, there is little incentive to think of Jesus as any more than a Jewish prophet, sage, social revolutionary, or healer. But once we share the same essential starting point with early Christians, we face similar questions about the status of the resurrected Jesus.
Study of the hymn shows that early Christian thought moved from what was believed about Christ on the basis of his resurrection and of believers' experience of salvation through him to what he must have been from before the beginning of time. In the Christian belief expressed in the Colossian hymn, the movement from Christ's role in redemption to his role in creation is made by redirecting to Christ as the one God active in creation and the world. Now as the embodiment of God, Christ is the agent of the one God in creation, the one through whom creation continues. He is the one whose death and resurrection reveals and accomplishes God's purposes for humanity. In Christian belief Jesus of Nazareth is seen as the point at which the particular and the universal, the human and the divine uniquely intersect.
Having difficulty following this? Well, read again and again the following verses from this Colossian hymn and just maybe it will begin to dawn on us. Do not work too hard to understand what I am trying to say. Just let this part of the hymn find its melody in your soul. After all, music most often speaks to the soul before it speaks to the mind. "There's within my heart a melody..."

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 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. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together....For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."

Thanks be to God! Amen.
Ken Casey


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