Read Colossians 1:11-20 here.
I have to warn you that I’m going to be talking about something quite heavy today, something that brings us all down – gravity.
It IS heavy. John Mayer says so in his song: “Gravity wants to bring me down.” Drop something and you’ll see that John Mayer is right. Gravity brings everything down.
We probably don’t think about gravity all that much, but it’s very important. It’s the reason that we don’t fly off into space. The world is spinning at 1000 miles an hour. If you put something in a centrifuge, everything is drawn away from the center, so shouldn’t we fly off the earth as it spins? But we don’t. Gravity holds us down.
We make all sorts of little decisions based on gravity. When we put things on a shelf, we expect them to stay there and not float off. We set the furniture in place and trust that it won’t move. Gravity holds it in place.
Paul says in our reading today from his letter to the Colossians that “in Jesus all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17) So is Jesus like gravity? Yes.
Jesus is our rai·son d’ê·tre, our reason for being.
Jesus is our everything.
Like gravity, Jesus is holding all things together even if we aren’t thinking about him all the time. The invisible force at work in us is God’s love in Christ. Today is Christ the King Sunday, so we intentionally take time to remember and give thanks for Jesus –for who he is and for what he does and for who he makes us.
Our text for today from Colossians is perfect for this because Paul is writing to the people in Colossiae about Jesus. He’s never met them, but he’s heard that they’ve been given some plausible but incorrect ideas about Jesus (Col 2:4). We can imagine how easy it must have been for that to happen. There was no Bible yet. Their only way to learn about Jesus was from what people told them. So Paul makes sure they have his words in writing to counter the plausible but incorrect arguments they were hearing about who Jesus is.
Who is Jesus?
When we profess our faith, we say that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. In saying Jesus is our Lord, we are acknowledging his power and authority over us all. This is what makes us Christians. The word Christian has Christ in it because trusting and following Jesus Christ is what makes us Christians. This is what makes us unique.
A few weeks ago, I heard a sermon at the Sterling College Sunday night chapel about why students at a Christian college still need the church. The preacher, Caleb Barrows, pointed out that the difference between a church and a Christian college or any other organization is their purpose. The college’s purpose is to teach. Jesus is definitely in the mix, but for a college Jesus is not the main purpose. But for us, for the church, Jesus is the main thing, the top dog, the guy in charge, our reason for being, what we’re all about.
Our session, the governing board of our church, has been having some conversations about our purpose over the past couple of months. We decided at our last session meeting to revise our existing mission statement just a bit, so that it’s more clearly our mission and purpose statement. We put it in our bulletin today:
As followers of Jesus Christ, in obedience to the Word, we covenant to be a nurturing community that challenges and equips one another to know Christ, grow in Christ, go with Christ.
In our scripture reading for today we see Paul challenging and encouraging us to know Christ, grow in Christ, and go with Christ. Paul spends a good bit of time on statements that help us know Christ.
Paul says Jesus is… “the image of the invisible God” (v15)
- Jesus told his disciples, “When you have seen me, you’ve seen the Father.
“…and the firstborn of all creation for in him all things have been created, and all things were created through him and for him. (v15)
- We’re getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and we easily get the idea that Jesus didn’t exist until he came to earth, but Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58). Jesus existed before the world was even created, and Jesus was there in the beginning with God at creation (John 1:2).
- We find similar words in our Nicene Creed: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father; through him all things were made.
Paul says in v 19 “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”
- Or, in other words, as we say in our Brief Statement of Faith: We trust in Jesus: fully human, fully God.
Paul tells us in vss 13 and 14: “For he has 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.”
- Jesus is our rescuer, the one who bought our freedom and forgiveness with his own life.
Verse 20 says, “…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.”
- We call Jesus our savior because he saved us from eternal separation from God. He’s our reconciler and our peacemaker.
We talk about Jesus all the time because he’s central to our faith, and so it’s important to know who Jesus is. If you were to write something like Paul did, how would you explain who Jesus is?
Maybe just as important is to know who Jesus is to you. Last year we were asking the question, “How is Jesus making a difference in our lives?” It’s important to notice and to keep noticing how the answer to that question is changing as we…
Grow in Christ
Knowing can be external and disconnected. Even the demons know Jesus.
For example, I know who Brennan Riffel is, just because he’s the principal of the Sterling grade school and many people know who he is. But I don’t really know Mr. Riffel. I seldom see him or talk with him. For a relationship to develop, I would need to spend time getting to know Mr. Riffel more and listening to him.
To grow in our relationship with Jesus, we need to spend time talking to him, listening to him through his word and through prayer, and letting those words sink in and affect our thoughts and actions. Wrestling with him over our questions and challenges. And as we learn more and more, and let Jesus work in our hearts and minds, as we let Jesus be a part of the inside, we grow more and more like him.
A man went to the doctor for his annual physical, and while he was there he told the doctor, “My wife has gotten so hard of hearing that often she doesn’t hear me…but she refuses to get her hearing checked. What can I do?”
The doctor said “Here’s a way to test it. When she is not looking, say something to her and see if she hears you. Then see how close you have to get before she hears you.”
So the man went home and saw that his wife had her back to him as she was getting dinner ready, so he went to the far end of the room and asked in a normal voice, “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?” As usual, she did not respond. So he took a few steps closer and said again “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?” Again, she did not hear him and there was no response. So he took a few steps closer and asked a third time “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?” Again there was no response. So he got right up behind her and asked again “What’s for dinner tonight, honey?”
She turned around and said, “For the FOURTH time, Beef Stew!!!!”
I wonder if God feels like that with us? It’s why Paul writes to help us truly hear. Later on, in the 3rd chapter of this letter, Paul encourages us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)
The more we do that, the better we’re able to see and hear and give thanks, and to
Go with Christ
At the beginning of the scripture we read from Colossians today, Paul prays for us to grow and go with Christ. He says,
“May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father…” (Col 1:11-12)
Jesus goes with us in the form of the Holy Spirit, strengthening us and helping us to be patient and thankful and joyful.
Know Christ, Grow in Christ, Go with Christ.
This can be a linear progression that starts when we first come to know about Jesus.
But it’s also a circle because we continue to learn new things and remember old things that help us grow. And as we go out and live our lives, our experience challenges our understanding, so we take another look at what the Bible says, and we ask God to help us understand, and we discuss it with others, and all this can help us to see something in the scripture that we didn’t see before, to understand something about God that we didn’t know before, and so we grow, and we go out and put that new understanding into practice in our lives.
All that going around in circles could make us fly off in all sorts of different directions, but we don’t when we keep our eyes on Jesus, our gravity, the one at the center, the one in whom all things hold together.
The Message version puts it this way:
We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. (Col. 1:15-18 MSG)
Jesus is the head of the church.
None of us are in the center of that circle, we’re all at various points in that orbit around Jesus who is our center. I am blessed and thankful to be your pastor, but I am not the head of the church, Jesus is. Many of you have been traveling around that circle for longer than others, but you are not the head of the church, Jesus is. Some of you are new to traveling around that circle, and you are not any less or more the head of the church than any of the rest of us, because Jesus is the head of all of us.
This is the basis for the fellowship we share with other churches, as well. Jesus is the head of every church that professes that Jesus is Lord.
This is the basis for connecting with and having conversations with our neighbors, whether or not they know Christ, because everything and everyone got started in Jesus and finds their purpose in Jesus. We go out to share the love and grace that we know through Jesus.
This morning, as we get ready to dedicate our pledge commitments, we are taking this opportunity to consider and honestly assess our lives and the degree to which we have allowed Jesus to be our everything.
If we honestly assess our lives, what has power over us?
Are there areas of our lives in which we have not let Jesus take control? In which we have not trusted Jesus as Lord?
How might our lives look different if Christ were truly in charge in all those areas?
Let us deeply consider all that we have and all that we are because of Jesus, and joyfully give thanks to Jesus for everything.
 The Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “A Brief Statement of Faith,” Book of Confessions, PDF Edition (Louisville: 2014), p343, 10.2.