The selections for today from Colossians seem to me like a banquet overflowing with meaning - I could probably find something to say or wrestle with in each sentence.
So let me just simply start with a taste at the table: the flavour in every verse, in every iteration of what it looks like to be a follower, and a faithful servant, is no mystery, but clearly Christ: "Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27)
That's the first rule of engagement in any negotiation, any successful action: define the terms, and know where the power lies.
As we think and reflect this week on what church is, what our calling as community is, what we want for this city, and all the dreams, visions and programming ideas that start to flow out of our passions and personalities - it serves us well to be reminded of where it all begins: "He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ." (Colossians
Therefore, because of, in light of - these are all phrases found before the instructions on how to live lives of compassion, holiness, and faith.
So often, we start things in mid-stream, jumping in and never considering where all of these actions and plans need to flow from.
And I've found that if I read quickly through the preamble and jump right into the text of Colossians, I quickly start to drown in guilt, in a sense of unworthiness, in a realization that I cannot possibly be or do all the things that are set out for me as one of God's chosen people. What begins as hope and inspiration devolves into duty and yet another list that I cannot consistently or honestly live up to:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)
Being honest with ourselves about being in Christ, however, is much harder than having a list. It means we have to examine our hearts, come to terms with the places we have shut Him out of our lives, and let Him in again. Programs are much easier to maintain, aren't they? Put in a little passion, get lots of people involved, and let the structure dictate the content as things roll along. And we've all been apart of programs and groups and churches that roll along - based on great administrative planning, and smart programming, and maybe, somewhere back in history, a reason that was Jesus. I know I've felt the emptiness of that at times - the lack of responsiveness to the Spirit as a status quo forms and we make ourselves comfortable - get caught up in the process and the details.
Being in Christ, in contrast, is about letting go of our agendas and daily coming to a place of surrender and repentance, and making room for the work of the Lord, which then flows out into practical applications and initiatives in our communities - we follow His lead, and use our skills and human hands to join in on the process of renewal and redemption that Christ has started, and will finish:
For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:16-18)
The good news is, once we are willing to kneel, to pause, to look up and let go, He is near. He has done the impossible work of redemption for us:
"Giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:12-14).
Take some time today to remember why you started going to church, and what keeps you coming back. And take some time to look in the mirror and ask yourself: are you in Christ? If not, why not? Maybe you've been swept up by the movements of the church, and left your personal relationship with Jesus behind. Maybe you just need, as we all do on a daily basis, some fresh mercy and renewed surrender to Him. Maybe you need more time with God - just as Mary sat at His feet, soaking up His presence. Not so that you can be a more effective person, or a better church goer. But simply because you understand where the water really comes from, truly understanding God's grace, and you want more of that grace, not just for yourself, but for your family, for your community, for this city, for the world:
"In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace." (Colossians 1:5)
- Sarah Kift