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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, July 13, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Colossians 1:15–28

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. I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. I became its servant according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (NRSV)

“Christ is the image of the invisible God . . . in whom all things hold together.” What is your most familiar image of Jesus Christ? Perhaps it is a picture of Jesus holding a lamb or interacting with children. Maybe it is a portrayal of Jesus on the cross, our Savior who gave his life for us. But neither Jesus the compassionate nor Jesus the crucified Savior were images lifted up by Christians in the first century. Their image of Christ is called the Pantocrator, the ruler of everything. You can see it where Christianity first put down roots, painted or in mosaic tiles in the high domes of Eastern Orthodox churches. One must look up to see it. It is a large, commanding image declaring that Christ rules from the heavens over all: the cosmic Christ, sustainer of the whole creation.

The early Christians focused on such an exalted Christ because they were challenging the Roman Empire. They sought to establish Christ rather than Caesar as Lord. The Caesars of the first century were named gods as soon as they took office. Citizens were supposed to worship their statues all over the empire. There was a battle going on over who is Lord of the world. Is it Jesus Christ? Or is it Caesar?

In the exaltation of Christ—like with other exalted rulers—it is easy to overlook his teachings, his life among us, and his call for us to embody love for others. Chapter 3 of Colossians says if you want to be exalted with Christ, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. . . . Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

Cosmic Christ, remind me often that your supreme love rules over all. Rule in my heart. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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