Before we dive fully into this scripture this morning, I’d like to, for a moment, take you to seminary. Because this scripture is PACKED with high level theological claims about Jesus, and I think we need to unpack it little bit before we hear it in order to better understand it.
Now today class, we'll be lookin at the area of theology that is focused on understanding Christ... which we call Christology.
There are two ways to approach Christology... High Christology or Christology “from above", and Low Christology or Christology "from below”
Low Christology starts from a low vantage point.. Looking at Jesus’ humanity. Starting with Jesus the person, who was born, who lived and breathed and ate. Jesus: who has friends and family, who walks this earth, who breaks bread and goes fishing, who preaches and teaches and heals.
A Low Christology starts down low here on earth but moves upward... seeing Jesus’ divinity as something that was revealed throughout his life and then ultimately in his death and resurrection. When we look at Jesus from a low vantage point, beginning with his humanity, it shapes how we see and how we understand who Jesus is...
A High Christology starts on the opposite end of the spectrum, beginning from the very high vantage point of Jesus’ Divinity. We start with the concept of “the Christ," the Anointed one, the long awaited messiah. Who is the Word
of God, the Logos. That is co-eternal with God the Father. That existed before creation, and was there with God the father and God the Spirit when the whole cosmos was created.
The Christ who is the Lord over all creation, ruler over all of the cosmos, redeemer of everything... savior of the world. A high christology starts with this high lofty Christ who becomes low... taking on flesh and blood in the person of Jesus Christ. When you look at Jesus from this high vantage point, seeing him as The Christ, before you ever meet Jesus the person, this too shapes how we see and understand who the Christ is.
I think its fair to say that most modern day protestants like ourselves are far more familiar with a low christology. We meet Jesus in the manger, at the communion table, in the streets among the crowds, and ultimately on the cross and from these low places we let our minds drift upwards trying to understand how this humble person could be so fully divine.
As your about to find out, our Scripture today is decidedly not an example of “Low Christology” so it might be little hard for us to wrap our heads around at first. The language feels lofty and uncommon, and the phrases present concepts we could spend a lifetime contemplating, so I’ll try to take my time through the reading of the first part.
But fortunately for us, it quickly takes a deep dive downward... to the Jesus we have met, the tangible Jesus we know, the Jesus we encounter in and through our world... landing on Paul’s answer to the question... how is the Christ who redeems all of creation still present and acting in our world?
Listen for God's word to us through Colossians 1:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation, Because all things were created by him: both in the heavens and on the earth, the things that are visible and the things that are invisible. Whether they are thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him.
He existed before all things, and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the one who is firstborn from among the dead so that he might occupy the first place in everything. Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him, and he reconciled all things to himself through him— whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood of his cross.
Once you were alienated from God
and you were enemies with him in your minds, which was shown by your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death, to present you before God as a people who are holy, faultless, and without blame.
But you need to remain well established and rooted in faith and not shift away from the hope given in the good news that you heard. This message has been preached throughout all creation under heaven.
And I, Paul, became a servant of this good news.
Now I’m happy to be suffering for you.
I’m completing what is missing from Christ’s sufferings with my own body.
I’m doing this for the sake of his body, which is the church. I became a servant of the church by God’s commission, which was given to me for you, in order to complete God’s word.
I’m completing it with a secret plan that has been hidden for ages and generations
but which has now been revealed to his holy people.
God wanted to make the glorious riches of this secret plan known among the Gentiles,
which is Christ living in you, the hope of glory.
This is what we preach as we warn and teach every person with all wisdom so that we might present each one mature in Christ.
The word of the Lord Thanks be to God
The Author and Franciscan Friar, Richard Rohr has a beautiful quote about Jesus and the incarnation in his most recent book that I think perfectly captures this passage from Colossians... It’s a quote that is hard to forget and so it’s gotten quite a popular following, are you ready for it?
“God loves things by becoming them” and Jesus’s life was meant to declare that humanity has never been separate from God —except by its own negative choice.
“God loves things by becoming them”
Coming down from the lofty enormous cosmic visions of who Christ is, describing how long Christ has been in relationship with Creation, and how Christ’s rule of love is at the root of everything that has ever existed.. Paul lets us in on a little secret. A “plan” hidden for ages and generations, but now revealed,
A mystery that is the completion God’s word.
A secret mystery which is good news and full of glorious riches... for the body of Christ, for the church, and also for the gentiles... the people who are outside of this inner circle of God’s holy people.
And this revealed secret mystery is this...
This cosmic Christ, This high christological figure. This exalted divine Jesus who is the firstborn of all creation...
...this Christ lives within you.
Out of deep sacrificial love, This Christ reconciled the world to God, reconciled the world to himself. This Christ brought us back into the fold of God... You and me, and all things seen and unseen, all that is now and ever shall be
... And so now the lines between heaven and earth have blurred. Christ lives here... within us, marked on all of creation...
God loves thing by becoming them…
Its a beautiful image, and a fascinating revelation about our world. Richard Rohr, calls this the “Christ Mystery.” and it is a concept he’s spent his whole life contemplating. He defines the “Christ Mystery” as “The indwelling of the Divine Presence, in everyone, and in everything since the beginning of time as we know it.” [The Universal Christ, Richard Rohr, pg.1]
His most recent book is a large scale exploration into this Christ mystery, which he has titled: “The Universal Christ: How a forgotten reality can change everything we see, hope for, and believe”
He begins his book with a story illustrating this mystery from the autobiography of Caryll Houselander, a 20th century English Christian writer and mystic, who on a mundane, ordinary commute on a subway experienced an extraordinary revelation. She writes:
“All sorts of people were there jostled together, sitting and strap-hanging
—workers of every description going home at the end of the day.
Quite suddenly I saw with my mind, but as vividly as a wonderful picture, Christ in them all. But I saw more than that; not only was Christ in every one of them, living in them, dying in them, rejoicing in them, sorrowing in them— but because He was in them, and because they were here, [it was as though] the whole world was here too . . . all those people who had lived in the past, and all those yet to come...
I came out into the street and walked for a long time in the crowds.
[And] It was the same here, on every side, in every passer- by, everywhere — Christ —“
“Christ is everywhere;” she continues "in Him every kind of life has a meaning and has an influence on every other kind of life. . . . Realization of our oneness in Christ is the only cure for human loneliness. For me, too, it is the only ultimate meaning of life, the only thing that gives meaning and purpose to every life.”
“Seeing Christ in the Face of others”
This has been our church’s unofficial tagline for quite sometime. You've no doubt heard it here before... in a sermon, or on the poster with all of our directory photos making up a picture of Jesus downstairs. But something incredible happens when we see this concept not as just some passing lovely thought, but live it out as a deep truth of God’s ordering of the world, a secret mystery long hidden, but now revealed... something happens when you begin to live your life as though all of life has Christ within it...
If we see that the world holds Christ within it, everything becomes a whole lot more holy to us... more deserving of respect and reverence...
If Christ lives within me... not only can I love and value myself more... but my thoughts, my words, my actions, are not just my own... but they are also Christ’s...
If other people hold Christ within themselves,
they become a lot harder to hate and judge, and easier to love and treat with dignity...
This is the good news of the Gospel... This is the message that Paul is preaching...
This is the secret mysterious plan that God had in place at the start...
We may try to ignore this... we may try to turn away... we may try to live as though it’s not true...
God knows that we have tried that method of living again and again...
Sometimes too, the message may fade away and feel weaker... we might become distracted from it, or lost sight of it all together.
But again and again, the truth reveals itself...All of God’s creation bears the image of Christ... in you... in me... in we... in all of it.
God has reconciled all things seen and unseen to himself. When we discover this truth... when we seek Christ everywhere... when we treat everyone and everything as though we were encountering Christ... we are live as God intends.
May we know this truth in our hearts... and may we live it out...