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Colossians 1:15-20

Some of  people of Colossae had some beliefs that we would consider pretty strange.
They seemed to believe that the god who created the material world was an evil god, not the one true god, but something called an emanence. They believed Jesus was an emanence too, and just one of many.

In a crude way, their belief about getting to heaven was sort of a spiritual version of Mario Brothers video game.
There were ladders to various levels and along the way you had to avoid or battle emanences who would derail or block your progress. They believe in rank upon rank of angels and spiritual beings.

The whole thing was so complicated, that it really became a kind of first century version of dungeons and dragons, for the elite.
It was way too complicated for ordinary folk.

Colossians 1:15-20

Some of  people of Colossae had some beliefs that we would consider pretty strange.
They seemed to believe that the god who created the material world was an evil god, not the one true god, but something called an emanence. They believed Jesus was an emanence too, and just one of many.

In a crude way, their belief about getting to heaven was sort of a spiritual version of Mario Brothers video game.
There were ladders to various levels and along the way you had to avoid or battle emanences who would derail or block your progress. They believe in rank upon rank of angels and spiritual beings.

The whole thing was so complicated, that it really became a kind of first century version of dungeons and dragons, for the elite.
It was way too complicated for ordinary folk.

Paul learns of life in the church in Colossae and writes a letter. By the time of this letter, the town of Colossae had shrunk to the point where it was really not a place of much importance. One of Paul's most beautiful letters is written to a rather insignificant church in a dwindling town. The neighboring cities of Heiropolis and Laodicea were of much greater significance.

But we have this letter and we are fortunate, because it is an epistle of enormous importance today.
What the apostle is telling them is that Jesus is not just one of a group of spiritual players, but Jesus is the highest of the high.

Not only is Jesus the high God of eternity, but was this while living in a fleshly body, something this group within the church would have considered ridiculous. To them, all matter was evil and a god who lived in a material body was no God in their estimation.

I don't know if there is a modern exact equivalent or not, but the issue is just as relevant now as ever.

Hillary Swank, 1999's Oscar winner for Best Actress and wife of actor Chad Lowe, was asked, "Where does Jesus fit into all of [your and your husband's success]?" She responded:

It's not like we're Catholic or Christian or Episcopal or practice Judaism or Buddhism even. We just kind of believe in a higher power and that doesn't mean a man God, or someone on a cross. It just means that we all have god-like qualities. We have the power inside of us to do good things. But I don't want you to write it like I'm freaky1

What Hillary Swank is saying is a very common belief system in our world.
People think that Jesus is cool.
But Buddha is cool too, and so is the Dali Lama.
I have no doubt the Dali Lama and Buddha for that matter are and were very wise, compassionate and enlightened people.
But I am on the apostle Paul's side on this one.
Jesus is above and over all.
Those people are part of the created mortal order.
Jesus is the eternal one.

I like the way Eugene Peterson translates this passage in The Message:

He is supreme in the beginning--and leading the resurrection parade--he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he is there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe, --people and things, animals and atoms--get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood poured down from the cross.


Jesus is the hinge of the universe. All meaning turns on him, his death and resurrection.
Moses and Mohammed, Buddha and Mary and Mother Theresa and the Dali Lama put together times ten cannot come close to touching the depth and fulness of who Jesus is.
Jesus is the agent of all creation and Jesus is the one who holds our world together with meaning.

Peter the fisherman told his friend John Mark about an event that happened on a high hill one day. Mark wrote about it. He said that Jesus took Peter, James and John up a mountain. When they were at the top, suddenly two other people appeared. They somehow knew it was Moses and Elijah, two of the most important people ever to have lived.
Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking!
Peter was so impressed that Jesus knew the other two. That must put him into a very special category.
But then Jesus and his clothes began to shine like the sun and a cloud came over them all, and Moses and Elijah disappeared.
Out of the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him."

After Jesus resurrection, they understood what was meant: as important as Moses and Elijah were, we are to keep our attention on Jesus. He is way above them in authority.

I know that twelve step programs direct people to a higher power and I understand why they use that terminology. I do not argue with their means or their success. But if you want to know the name of the Highest Power, it is Jesus.
Nothing else is even close.

Comparing anyone or anything to Jesus is like comparing a AAA battery to a lightning bolt.
But we also have in Jesus, the exact likeness of the invisible God.

Origen, a church leader from the third century made this comparison. He said that there was a village that had an immense statue. It was so big in fact that people could not make out its features. Finally someone made a scale model of the enormous statue and people could see the person it honored. 2

Jesus is the self representation of the invisible God. In fact God exists bodily in Jesus.
God is not ashamed of the material world. It is His creation.
God is not ashamed of your material existence.
It is one thing that you share in common with Jesus--a fleshly body.
Jesus was not ashamed to live a human life and neither should we.

There is nothing about being human that is shameful or beneath God own nature.
God knows our struggles, but God also honors our struggles.
That's right. Your ordinary struggle filled earthly life is honored by God and is something sacred in itself.
Every human being carries the image of God and lives in a body just as Jesus did.

I think one of the reasons that our world has cheapened human life and robbed ordinary people of their sacredness is because our world has forgotten who created it and who chose it as his own for a time.

When you visit ancient and important places, its natural to be impressed by the people who walked in the same streets.
You walk the corridors of the Tower of London and you imagine Henry VIII, Anne Boelyn, Elizabeth I, Walter Raleigh and a host of others walking the same passage ways.
You go to Egypt and see the pyramids and its a bit awesome to imagine yourself standing looking at the same scene as pharaohs.
I want to go to Jerusalem and look at the city from on top of the Mount of Olives, and pray in Gethsemane and know I am in the same spot as Jesus.

But something maybe more important is to remember that this body is just like the body that the God of all the ages chose.
In fact my flesh is home to God's Holy Spirit.
Your body, your flesh, your life are holy ground. Never forget that.
They are the creation of the Master and they represent the Master in this world.

Today we honor Jesus as King of Kings, Lord of Lords.
Let us do the only appropriate thing and stand quietly in honor and reverence.
                   (pause in silence)
Prayer: Lord we stand before you today to honor you. There is so much we do not understand, but we understand that you are the first and the last, the holy one. We also understand that you took an earthly body like ours. Help us to learn to respect you more and to honor you in our lives and in the lives of others. Amen

Preached  November 21,2004
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia


Notes
1. Jeff Johnson, "I am Hillary Swank's Bestest New Girlfriend," Jane (October 2001), p. 128
2.  Dale Bruner, theologian, from "Is Jesus Inclusive or Exclusive?" Theology, News, and Notes of Fuller Seminary (Oct. 1999)



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