April 11, 2021. Sermon Title: The Christ Who Calls Us

First Mennonite Church

April 11, 2021

The Christ Who Calls Us

Text: Colossians 1:15-23

Beginning today, I want to start a short series, which I have titled: “Who are we, as God’s people?” Although the answer to the question, that is my title, can be a no-brainer; however, any quick and simple answer is also likely to be one that is narrow and shallow. That is because the answer to this question from a biblical perspective is broad in scope and deeply implicating for any who claims to be a member of God’s people. From a biblical perspective, the answer to that question would involve, God and human interaction, human to human engagement, and human engagement with the rest of creation.

It is well known to us that in the last couple of decades, the Christian church began to experience an identity crisis. The church has tried to stay relevant in the midst of a rapid-changing society that continues changing every day. The church has tried to keep its influence in society; however, the increasing secularization of our society keeps pushing against any form of religious influence over it. But in its effort of staying relevant and influential, the church has inadvertently narrowed the character of its identity. That is, most of those who ardently speak on behalf of the church in the public square focus mostly on being pro-life and anti-gay. And although the church can argue biblical grounds for these two issues, however, by defining itself countercultural on these two points had led the church to forget, or maybe, to neglect other important aspects about it identity as God’s chosen people, who has called them to declare the praises of him who called it out of darkness into God’s wonderful light (1Peter 2: 9).

According to recently released Gallup poll, there has been a sharp decline in church attendance, from 70 per cent of Americans claiming to be religious 1999 to only 47 in 2020. [1]  The church has not only seen a steep decline in its membership, but also in its influence in society, which vexes the church.

Today, I will start by reminding ourselves of him who has called us. So, let us start by asking ourselves, why am I here today? Why did we set aside everything this morning to come to gather here? Even if I were to send you an invitation, you still had the option to come or not. But you came on your own. You came because you have a sense of calling, a sense of vocation that moves you to set apart this hour and come to join others for a very special purpose.

My dear sisters and brothers, we are here because Christ Jesus has called us and continues to beckon us to come together in his name. Just as God called Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Peter and all of those whom God called through the ages, he has also called you and me. Being part of God’s people is not the result of our being good people. Being part of God’s people is because God reached out to us through the good news of his Son. But once again, who is Jesus Christ? How well do you know him? If a friend of yours would ask you, “Can you please tell me who Jesus is?” What would you tell your friend? There are a few quick answers to that question. He is the Son of God, born to Mary, who died on the cross and who is Lord and Savior. And perhaps you might add that everyone who believes in him is saved.

All of that is correct, but Jesus is more than that. More importantly, however, how does all we know about Jesus made visible in our lives? What changes knowing Jesus has made in your life? Knowledge should be confirmed with life’s testimony. It is for that reason that we are called to grow in the knowledge of the Lord. We should strive to know him better, so that our lives would be transformed from glory to glory, as Paul would say in 2Corinthians (3:18).

Therefore, today I would like for us to take a fresh look at how Jesus is presented to the Colossian church by Paul. My invitation for you today is to allow this passage to reframe Jesus for you. In other words, let us pretend it is the first time we are learning about Jesus.  

Let us read Colossians 1:15-23.

In most Bibles, this passage is titled: “The Supremacy of Christ.” And the description given about Jesus is simply glorious, majestic, and supreme indeed. Alleluia! Christ Jesus is supreme and above everything, including the cosmos, every realm of power, whether visible and invisible and he is the head of the church.

So let us unpack this magnificent piece of Paul’s letter.

First, Christ is the image of the invisible God. Jesus himself said, “No one has ever seen God . . . but the Son and those to whom he has made him known” (John 1:18). The holiness, love, mercy, and power of the invisible God of Israel were revealed by Jesus Christ. He had no sin, his love was pure, his compassion was beyond anyone had ever witnessed. The power with which Jesus operated was only known of the God who delivered Israel from the Egyptian oppression. Or as the writer to the letter of Hebrews would say, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (1:3).

Anyone who reduces Jesus to being simply a sage, a great teacher, a miracle worker or any other way that denies he is the Incarnate eternal God, basically denies the first and foremost feature of his identity. God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, says verse 19.

Therefore, the one who has called you and me is none other than the one who represented the truth, love, holiness, righteousness, and all of God’s character. If we know Christ, we have also known the eternal, almighty, and righteous God. Thus, we should be moved by both joy and awe. We have been given the great privilege of knowing God, and because of that we should also live in awe, holy reverence before him. It’s a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, says Hebrews 10:31.

Secondly, Jesus is supreme because: He is the firstborn over all creation. 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. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Paul’s language here echoes that of Genesis and the gospel of John. Jesus is the Word of God, by which he created the world and everything. In him all things were created, from the microscopic organism to the gigantic blue whale, from the deepest point of the Mariana Trench to the farthest galaxy. Everything was created through Christ and for Christ. In this passage Paul does not say Christ created the world, but through him God created everything. When God pronounced the creative commands, “let there be light,” “let there be . . .,” the Word, which was in the beginning with God and who was God, created the worlds.

But we need to take note here. The world was not only created through Christ. Paul says, He is the one in whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created. Creation, my beloved sisters and brothers, finds its origin in Jesus Christ. The complexity, the order, and the magnificent purpose of the universe are all sustained and held together by the Lord. But that is not all, the destiny of creation is Christ, for all things have been created THROUGH and FOR him.

So, it is sad when Christians act indifferently to the environmental issues we are confronting today. We, as Christians, should be advocates of good environmental practices and stewardship, not because we agree with Y or X political view point. We should care about the streams, the oceans, the mountains, the atmosphere, the birds, fishes, and every living creature because they all come from Christ. They all give witness to the Creator God, and in the end, they all will find their destiny in him, because they were all created for him—Christ.

Thirdly, Christ Jesus is also supreme over all thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, says verse 16b. Every institution, every center of power, and every ideological force that either permeates or coerces people into behaving according to its tenets are subordinate to the supremacy of Christ. These centers of power can only fulfill their divine intention when in God’s providence and guidance they serve the purposes of Christ. They all will come under the judgement of the reign of Christ. Thus, we as Christians should never forget that Christ is Lord. Our allegiance to Christ should supersede any other allegiance we might have with these centers of power. In other words, our commitment to Christ, as Lord of creation, as Lord of every form of power and dominion, and as the full representation of God’s righteousness, should define whether we can support them. It should also be the criteria by which we judge them. I have said it more than once. If Christians were fully aware of the supremacy of Christ regarding power, dominion and authority, they would go to the ballot box with fear and trembling and not doing so for one or two issues they pick.

There is something called “wokism,” from the word “woke.” Woke is what people claim to have after they become aware or conscious about certain areas of failure within a society. It is a social awakening about something. For instance, when people see injustice, racial violence, economic inequality, and so on, they are awaken by these realities and become activist. So there are various movements advocating for various issues today. That is wokism. The church often see these movements with a certain degree of suspicion. Interestingly, however, is that the rise of these movements is due, in part, to the failure of the church in taking up its full calling by the Lord. As we see here, Jesus is not only interested in the souls of people, but of everything including those who have power and how they exercise it. Jesus sustains the entire cosmos, for it was created through him and for him.  

Fourthly, Jesus is also 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. Therefore, we should look up to him for guidance, wisdom, and grace in order to reflect what is in the mind and heart of Christ. The church as the body of Christ can only be alive when it remains attached to the head.

So now, let me just make reference to what I said at the beginning. Why is the church seeing a decline today? We just celebrated the resurrected Christ, last Sunday. Christ is alive. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Christ died so that he would never again die. Therefore, the church has a secure source of life in the living Christ. Could it be that church decline is a signal that it is detaching from its head? Could it be that the church is moving away from the center of its faith? So let us hear once again the warning of Paul give the church, verses 21-23:

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. Think about this. Pray about this. Amen!

Next Sunday we will consider the first 14 verses of Colossians chapter one. Please read and reflect on them this week.

Pastor Romero

[1] https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership, April 8, 2021