Isaiah 42:5-9, Colossians 1
August 4, 2013
Today we ponder one of the deepest mysteries of our faith. Maybe even of life itself. Here, in this first chapter of Colossians, Paul wrote how he was called “to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now made manifest to all the saints. To them God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” That’s what I want you to think about for today. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Before this, in the “olden days,” God was seen as one to be honored, worshipped, and even feared. God was to be searched for. People were to seek him out. Now, it was different! Now, God has sought us! Now, the unsearchable, all powerful, creator God, has reached out to us!
Before, people believed that they were to work to make themselves worthy of God. They had to take certain steps in their religious life, in order to better themselves, and in order to make “atonement.” Now, God has made the atonement for us. Now, God has made us worthy of him!
Before, people were to always trying to find God. They sought to find him in places where he dwelt. They gathered in sanctuaries where they believed he lived. They went to the mountaintops to try to experience his presence there. Now, it was different. Now, in this the greatest of mysteries, God dwells in us! We could stop right there and go home and think of nothing else, and that would be enough! But we won’t, of course. Because there’s more!
God dwells in us! Paul called that “the great mystery hidden for ages and generations.” “Now,” he said, “Christ is in us.” In other words, some part of the spirit of Jesus Christ is in us. Paul says this in many places in the New Testament. We looked at one a couple of weeks ago form Ephesians. If you remember, he was writing about his prayer for them – and for us – “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. That you being rooted and grounded in love, may have the power to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and breadth and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” There’s that same thought. That “Christ may dwell in you hearts.” And “That you be filled with all the fullness of God.” There it is. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Now, it could be said that our parents are in us. Either they are part of us through our DNA, or in the way our particular unique brains are wired that might be very similar to theirs. Or they may be in us through the habits, interests, and lifestyles they showed us in the environment they provided, or in the example they gave. (And of course that example can be good or bad!) And of course, they are also in us, in the sense that we hold them dear in our hearts. And I suppose that’s more of what this is about. But its even more.
You see, Paul believed that some part of the spirit of Christ actually dwells in us. Not just his personality, not just the teachings he imparted to us, not even just that whole “made in the image of God” thing. But some part of him and his spirit is inside of us. That’s an amazing thing! It was a thing that was unheard of before! And can you imagine what that meant to this curmudgeonly old Pharisee? Can you imagine what that was like for him, of all people, to discover such a God who is that close, and who even dwells within us – despite the fact that he couldn’t begin to understand it? We could ponder that, not just for 15 minutes here, or for 15 years, but for 15 lifetimes, and we could never fathom the depths of that mystery!
I’ve had a similar thought for years. Think about this. In I John 4:7 it says, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” For years I have believed that – literally. God is love! When we love, when we have those warm, caring, selfless, affectionate thoughts and feelings for another, thats actually a little part of God inside of us! I believe that’s what John meant – literally! I can’t explain it further than that, but I believe it! The love we have in us, the highest and the best love we feel and live for others, that’s God in us! For God is (literally) love! It’s one of his characteristics.
Well, this is a similar thought. We have “Christ in us!” Paul calls that “the hope of glory.” Frankly, I dont think he could have explained it any more than that. It’s so deep a mystery! But he believed it in the very depths of his once cold, persecuting, now changed, heart.
So, I bring this up because of the” spiritual metaphor” we celebrate today. Here, at this table, we celebrate – we share in – what we call “Holy Communion.” And in this sacrament, in this sacred ritual, we literally “take inside us” these elements, elements, which represent for us the body and blood of Jesus. That’s the metaphor for “Christ in us.” Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters believe literally that these elements actually become the body and blood of Christ. And sometimes I think maybe they’re on to something! Maybe they have a slightly better understanding of that mystery of “Christ in us.”
Whatever the case, I’ve been hoping this week, that we can let these elements represent for us that great mystery. And I’m not saying were taking on the Roman Catholic understanding of this. But, as we partake of this sacrament, as we ingest these elements, maybe they can be – among many things – a reminder that, as his people, we have Christ in us. And again, we’re not simply talking about that in terms of his teaching, his characteristics, or even that image of God thing. We’re talking about” Christ in us” in some way, literally. Because, as his people, “Christ dwells in our hearts by faith.”
So then, let us consider that as we prepare our hearts and minds for this holy communion, with Christ our Lord, and with our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Eternal God, we cannot begin to fathom the mystery of how you have called us, you have sought us, you have redeemed us, and you have put your spirit within us. But for now, we ask that you would simply remind us! Help us to know you are part of us. Help us to feel your spirit moving within us. Help us to hear you speaking to us. Help us to know the hope of glory you have placed in our hearts. These things we ask in Jesus’ name, and for the sake of his kingdom, Amen.