Lectionary Reflection—20 November 2016
We also pray that you’ll be strengthened with all his glorious power so you’ll have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He’s enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. For he’s rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created
and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers,
and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He’s the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he’s first in everything.
For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
This is one of those passages that people just don’t seem to wrap their heads around. It’s so uplifting, so life-affirming, that people just can’t really believe Paul said what he said. Let’s see if we can break it down a bit.
“[God’s] enabled you to share in the inheritance…” This is an interesting statement to make, don’t you think? The Greek word Paul used, translated here as “enabled,” is ἱκανόω (hikanoō) and it means “to make sufficient or competent, qualify” (MOUNCE). In other words, we’re just average. What God’s given, or enabled, in the followers of Jesus at Colossae isn’t something extraordinary but just ordinary. Plain. Sufficient. That means there’s really not that much difference between them and the rest of humanity. This can be extrapolated to us today. There’s nothing “special” about followers of Jesus today; we’re just like everyone else. In fact, elsewhere Paul states that people who follow Jesus are the last one’s people would pick out of a crowd for becoming anything exceptional (1 Cor. 1.27-28). Nothing, that is, except this…
“…[God has] rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son…” There’s an eschatological element to this statement. That is, Jesus proclaimed that the Gospel was the coming of God’s Kingdom (Mark 1.15). God’s Kingdom began on Resurrection Sunday (the “first day” of New Creation; John 20) and was finally established with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Between the resurrection and 70 CE, there were two ages—two creations, two kingdoms—the “kingdom of darkness” and the “Kingdom of light” or “the Kingdom of [God’s] dear Son.” The people who followed Jesus during this interim period, Paul said, were “transferred” from the “kingdom of darkness” to the “kingdom of [God’s] dear Son.”
But this, too, can be extended to us today. It goes back to something I’ve said a couple of times recently and I’m starting to see it more and more—people who follow Jesus now are priest for the rest of humanity (God’s children) and creation (part of God’s Realm) until the time when all humanity and creation is perfectly restored (see here for more on this topic). We’re the ones who bring Christ to our sisters and brothers and to take their pain, concerns, praise, and repentance before God. While God’s Kingdom has been firmly established, it’s still expanding. It’s a kingdom that “has no end” (see Luke 1.33; cf. Isaiah 9.7; 2 Samuel 7:13, 16; Daniel 7:14, 27). In other words, we’re part of God’s kingdom now to be God’s co-workers until the whole earth is filled with people who know God like the water fills the sea (Isaiah 11.9; cf. Habakkuk 2.14).
The reason Paul can say these truly incredible things is because—
“[Jesus] purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.”
Let that sink in.
Look at the past tense verbs.
When Jesus said, “It’s finished” (John 19.30), he meant it. That’s why, in the passage above, Paul can go on to say that God has reconciled (again, past tense) everything and made peace with everything. It’s all been done! This is how we can say, without any speculation, that all people are now part of God’s family (though, they may not even know it yet) and that all creation is now moving toward the day when heaven and earth become one (Revelation 21.1-5).
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC