Texts: Col. 1:15-20;
- “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Remember all the images of Saddam Hussein everywhere in Iraq. It was the same in the first century — images of Caesar everywhere. Firstborn: that’s how the next king comes about.
- “…for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him.” Paul is saying, “Our faith in the way of Jesus isn’t a tiny religion in the Roman Empire; the whole Empire is a dirty little neighborhood within the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
- “He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and 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 don’t know what we’re saying when we sing about the cross. But in the first century they did. What was the secret to Caesar’s success in the first century? A new torture technology, the technology of the cross. They only crucified rebels, insurrectionists, political revolutionaries, who dared challenge the authority of Lord Caesar. Imagine the power of a naked body hanging there for days, saying, “Who has the power now, Mr. Rebel?” Caesar used that to put the fear of the God Caesar into them. That’s how he achieved the Pax Romana, the Roman peace.
- Can we catch the power of this last line of the song? He makes peace, but not by shedding someone else’s blood. He makes peace by hanging naked on the cross, offering himself, and saying, “The way of the Kingdom of God is not by domination and revolution and scapegoating. The way of the cross is the way of a man, bearing the fullness of God, suffering and forgiving in the midst of the pain, not pledging revenge.” It’s amazing. We don’t sing songs like this anymore. But maybe we will. Songs like this can change the world. A message like this can change the world.
Delivered at Prince of Peace Lutheran,
Portage, MI, July 20-21, 2013