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Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Today’s Reading | Colossians 1:15–23
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 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. 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.
And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him—provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel. (NRSV)
My first reaction to this passage was unrest. Frankly, I got caught up with the fact that for women this passage can feel pretty exclusionary. “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God.” I read the verse, and my mind jumped to another passage: “We are made in the image of God, male and female alike.” “Where am I,” I thought, “in this passage about Jesus, a male, being made in the image of God?”
The purpose of the writer of Hebrews is far from exclusion. Rather, it is to defend the status of Jesus as the image and fullness of God, to affirm his humanity, and, therefore, all humanity in opposition to Gnostic heresy. The Gnostics believed that knowing God required supreme intelligence and the ability to navigate step after step of an arduous journey toward that knowledge. For them, salvation was intellectual knowledge. Very few could know God. Furthermore, Gnostics believed that all creation was evil. For that reason, they thought, God could never have created the world. Some lesser, more evil being was responsible for creation. The Gnostic system of belief was a bleak picture of creation and humanity.
Paul’s words affirm Jesus as the image (eikon, in Greek) and fullness of God. His words affirm humanity and flesh. They affirm God’s initiation in reconciling (bringing together) humanity and divinity. The words are meant to shout out again that we are one with God—not separated by layers and layers of some sort of pecking order or levels of intelligence or because of our humanity or because of race or class or gender. God has reaffirmed in Jesus the image and fullness of God and has drawn us fully into that of the divine and sacred. All of us. Thanks be to God.
Dear God, I thank you for your affirmation of our humanity in Jesus. I thank you for creating this world, for the assurance that this world was created as good. I thank you especially that I am created in your image, along with all else in creation. Amen.
Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care
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