Sunday 7 February 2021: Second before Lent
Christ before all things
Proverbs 8:1, 22-31; Colossians 1:15-20; John 1:1-14
Context: a large and varied congregation in a country market town
Aim: to emphasise the centrality of Jesus
Covid Christmas 2020 has been quite an experience. But now with Candlemas celebrated and the crib packed away, we’re beginning the journey towards Lent and Easter. How strange then to have John 1 – the Christmas Gospel today. We’re being reminded that Jesus isn’t just for Christmas. John 1 isn’t only about the birth of Jesus. It signals everything that Jesus was and is and his centrality in our lives.
Our readings remind us that God in Jesus is over all, in all, through all. Travelling back to creation or forward into eternity God was, God is, and God shall be. John writes of The Word – who was with God and who was God. John is linking the Jewish idea of Wisdom, as an integral part of creation, and the Greek idea of the word as the principle underlying the universe. This abstract principle Wisdom or Word – holding everything together – becomes tangible in the person of Jesus Christ. ‘The Word’ goes back to before the beginning of time. Nothing was made without the Word – God spoke ‘let there be light,’ and there was. What God says, happens. In Jesus, God is saying again ‘let there be light’. Creation, light, hope, and healing come to reality in Jesus in whom we experience the fullness of the glory of God. We learn what God is like by looking at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Word was in the beginning with God. So, when we look at the breath-taking beauty of creation it points not just to God the creator, but also, because of the Word – to Jesus – instrumental in creation too. Proverbs speaks of Wisdom, at the dawn of time, like a master worker delighting in both God and humanity.
SUPREME AND SUFFICIENT
The Colossians had grasped the importance of Jesus, but they were still looking for the next thing. Paul reminds them that Christ is supreme and sufficient. Everything we need to fully belong to God can be found in following Christ. Jesus is the head of the body. Jesus is the beginning, the origin, the first-born from the dead: the one in whom we see that eternal life with God is promised and fulfilled. We don’t have to strive to achieve it. In Jesus, God loves us as we are, completely, unconditionally. In Jesus, God comes to us and brings us home. Nothing and no-one is beyond the range of God’s love and reconciliation. A body cannot survive without a head. We can lose limbs and even organs but without a head, there’s no life. If Christ is not our head, not our origin and goal then other lesser things will flood in and steal our attention. Worship, prayer, service, and witness can become ‘a take it or leave it hobby’. Those around us will then see faith as marginal rather than central to life itself.
LORD IN OUR LIVES
For first Century Christians following Jesus meant a completely different life-style – a dramatic change of direction. Faith was dangerous. Persecution, ridicule, loss of family, friends, and status, even martyrdom were part of faith. Following Christ meant everything. Is that true for you too? Does Christ come first for you in all things? Does Jesus underpin your thoughts, and words, actions, and decisions? Ask yourself – is Jesus Christ Lord in my life?
In the past year, the way we’ve worshipped and served has changed. Being the church, being the body of Christ has had to be adapted. Worshipping, meeting, being community and serving others are being re-shaped in response to lockdown and physical distancing. Is your relationship with Jesus stronger or has it dimmed? Lent is a good time for renewing and remaking our faith, learning to follow Jesus down fresh paths, learning to place Christ before all things once again and in new ways. In Jesus we’re called to discover what being human, made in the image of God, means in practice wherever we find ourselves. Opening ourselves to Jesus and allowing his Holy Spirit to guide and shape us, enables us to be the body of Christ in and for our community whatever the future holds. Christ himself is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. (Col 1:17)
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