Christ was Born for This 12.2.18

Colossians 1: 15-23

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for 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. 17He himself is before all things, and in* him all things hold together. 18He 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. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and 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.

Back in 1996, I read the Bible from cover to cover with a group of people at my church. It took us a year. We had a list of daily readings that, if we kept up, would allow us to complete the task. I have to tell you that from time to time it got really hard. Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, the Prophets were hard to get through. At times the reading seemed repetitive, hard to understand, and tedious. As the year went on, I alternated between absorbed, enlightened, fascinated, puzzled and bored. And then in October, I read today’s scripture. I was profoundly moved. I read it over and over and over. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in* him all things in heaven and on earth were created in* him all things hold together … in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, … by making peace through the blood of his cross.
 
Paul tells of a creative power that is unlimited, eternal, and holds everything that exists together. Paul tells us that our existence is not by chance or happenstance. Paul tells us that our lives are not at the whim of some impersonal cosmic force. We exist because it was intended that we exist. Paul tells us that creation in both the heavenly and earthly realms has beauty and goodness and purpose because it was all created through Christ and for Christ. And when we do our best to tear apart what God hold together, God forgives us and redeems us and fixes what we broke. He does this at the cross.
 
I found great comfort in this passage. When I read this passage, I think of two stories. The first one is about me and my son: Some years back, I went to Universal Studios with my family. My son made me go on a roller coaster called “The Incredible Hulk”. We sat down on the seats and a harness was lowered down over our shoulders. As it locked in place, it was hard to take a deep breath. Then the floor dropped away. Our feet were dangling. There was no getting off. Then it took off! Zero to 60 in about ten seconds. Up through a dark tunnel then out into the daylight and immediately upside down. Off on a wild ride. Cork screw, loop d’ loop, rapid ascent and downward plunge. No way to get off until it was over. The only thing keeping us from flying off into space was this little seat and the harness holding us to it. That harness was our safety line. That is what God does for us in our lives. God is the harness that keeps us from flying off into space. God holds us to our seats as we travel that wild ride of life. We should be comforted and just enjoy the ride, right? Unfortunately, not always. Some of us … all of us really …  spend a good amount of time trying to get out of the harness. To be the ones who stand up on the roller coaster because we think that makes us look cool, daring, fearless, independent. We want to be in control, not God. Right up until we go flying off into space.
 
Want proof? Take a look at the news. We are early in the 21st Century. The world is a far more dangerous place than it has ever been, ecologically, politically, internationally, morally, ethically … We are like the ancient Israelites, given everything we need to survive, but who constantly strive for more, even when to achieve our goals, we must break with God, removing the safety harness of our lives. And when we do, we are led to bad places. Dark places. Places where God does not want us to go. Roller coasters without harnesses. We start to realize we are about to go flying off into space. We are in incredible danger. And we don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to get back into the harness. We need a rescue. Someone to come and get us. As human beings, we seem to like stories of rescues. Numerous movies and books and television shows tell tales of great heroic rescues. People lost at sea are rescued. People trapped in fires are rescued. Soldiers behind enemy lines are rescued. Kidnap victims are rescued. Missionaries are rescued. Spies are rescued. Animals are rescued. You can probably name many others. Here is one of my favorites.
 
In August 1957 four climbers were climbing the 6,000 foot North Face in the Swiss Alps. The Eiger. The climb was very dangerous and the timing of the effort was not so good. A storm came up before the climb could be completed. Two climbers disappeared and were never found. The other two climbers were stuck on two narrow ledges a thousand feet below the summit. The Swiss Alpine Club was charged with saving climbers in trouble but would not try to save the two climbers because it was simply too dangerous. So, a small group of climbers undertook a private rescue effort to save the Italians. A climber named Alfred Hellepart was lowered down the North Face on a cable, a fraction of an inch thick. The goal was for him to find the climbers, get them attached to the cable and haul them up to the top. Here’s how Hellepart described the rescue: As I was lowered down the summit … my comrades on top grew further and further distant, until they disappeared from sight. At this moment I felt an indescribable aloneness. Then for the first time I peered down the abyss of the North Face of the Eiger. The terror of the sight robbed me of breath. …The brooding blackness of the Face, falling away in almost endless expanse beneath me, made me look with awful longing to the thin cable disappearing about me in the mist. I was a tiny human being dangling in space between heaven and hell. The sole relief from terror was …my mission to save the climber below. He got to them and saved them both, despite the fact they got themselves into their trouble.
 
This story reminds me of Jesus. We are in deep trouble because of the dangerous or ill-timed things we do. Like taking off the harness on the roller coaster. Despite the fact we got ourselves into our individual or communal messes, Jesus lowered himself down to us. Not on a cable, but through Mary. He came to save us. To rescue us from the edge of our individual and communal cliffs and pull us into his kingdom. We all need rescued. We have all taken the harness off at one time or another. And we all feel like we are about to get thrown off into space. The darkness Paul refers to. But then, kind of out of the blue, we see this hand reaching out to us. A hand with a nail hole in it. The mark of someone who got hurt badly in the rescue effort. We have to decide if we will take hold of it … or not. If we do, Jesus will hold on and pull us to safety. As Paul says in verse 13: He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son… Why would he do such a thing? Because we are created for him. Because we are loved by him. Because he was born for this. Thanks be to God.

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