November 18, 2019
The Proper 29C Sermon Starters include commentary and illustration ideas for Luke 23:33-43 from the Lectionary Gospel; Jeremiah 23:1-6 from the Old Testament Lectionary; Psalm 46 from the Lectionary Psalms; and Colossians 1:11-20 from the Lectionary Epistle.
Related Reformed confession: Lectionary Epistle: Belgic Confession Article 10
Author: Scott Hoezee
In most every language I have ever studied, it’s a tiny word. In fact, although I am aware of only a few languages amidst the plethora of tongues spoken on this planet, it’s striking to me that in the languages I know, this tiny word is about as tiny as it gets, consisting of just two letters. Si, Se, Ob, Ha, Om, Ei.
They all mean our English “If.”
But what a wallop that little word packs.
It’s amazing when we think back on our own lives how often we have done foolish things—or become irrationally upset and angry—just because someone lobbed that little word “if” our direction. How many foolishly dangerous or precarious things didn’t we do as little children just because some other kid on the playground said, “Go ahead if you’re not a scaredy cat, that is!” Even as adults we’ve had our moments of getting our backs up just because someone challenged us by saying, “If you are a real man . . . If you were a modern woman . . . If you really had integrity, then you would . . .”
Jesus began his ministry with the devil in the wilderness challenging him three times, and the way he tried to get under our Lord’s skin was to say “If you are the Son of God, then . . .” Now as the ministry comes to an end on a cross at Skull Hill, the devil uses some surrogates once again to lob this tiny word in Jesus’ direction: “Jump down from there if you are the Son of God! “If you are the king of the Jews, then do something.”
I don’t doubt it was a powerful temptation in the wilderness to give in to the “If” taunts of the devil and I don’t doubt it was powerfully hard to take when that same two-letter taunt came his way while on the cross. Jesus had already asked his Father to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing but it’s possible that what they did not know was the great irony of their taunts.
Because as it turned out, being the Son of God did not mean what everyone else thought it meant: namely, exercising raw power, proving your identity through some razzle-dazzle that would spell the end of pain and suffering for yourself. The truth was that Jesus in one sense gave in to the taunts on the cross—but in so doing he turned those taunts on their head. Being the Son of God meant suffering and dying. Coming down off that cross, inuring himself to harm and injury, would have been a profoundly wrong thing for the Christ, the Son of God, the King of the Jews to do.
The first half of all those “If” clauses were onto something: the reality and identity of the Son of God was about to be revealed and proven. It was the second clause that had it wrong. But who could have seen that coming? Well, obviously the devil himself did. The devil who was behind all those tongue-wagging deriders at the cross knew full well that the actual formula of the day was “If you are the Son of God, prove it by staying right where you are.”
That is what Jesus did, of course, and in so doing he turned not only those taunts on their head, he turned the whole of reality upside-down. And only by shaking things up just that much could Jesus save a world that had long ago convinced itself that up was down and black was white and might made right.
Luke 23 is where we go for “Reign of Christ” or “Christ the King” Sunday in the Year C Lectionary cycle. The cross is a strange place to go the week before we start our annual Advent trek to Bethlehem. But when you think about it, it’s an even stranger place to visit to celebrate the kingly reign of someone.
As Neal Plantinga famously said in a sermon some years ago, getting “glorified on a cross” is finally as nonsensical as claiming to be “enthroned on an electric chair.” Such an odd route to glory and power certainly was not on the minds of all those mockers who began so many sentences with “If . . .” that day. But that odd route is God’s route. It was no mistake. It led to the glory of salvation.
Thanks be to Christ Jesus, the King of kings!
Note: Our specific Advent and Christmas Resource page is now available for you to check out sample sermons and other ideas for the Advent Season of 2019.
Old Testament concepts of the afterlife are notoriously hard to nail down in that there appears to have been a little bit of diffuse thinking on this subject. Many Christians naively overlay the Old Testament with “pop” notions about a simple dichotomy between heaven and hell (good people go straight to God when they die, bad people go straight to the “other place”). But that is indeed naïve as the Old Testament resists easy systematizing into a consistent post-mortem schema of what happens to people after they die. At best it can be observed that Jewish ideas on the afterlife developed and were refined over time.
In the case of the word “paradise,” which occurs in the gospels only once right in this lection of Luke 23:43, the word generally had three referents: the original “Paradise” of the prelapsarian Garden of Eden, the intermediate “Paradise” which was a kind of pleasant waiting area for the redeemed prior to the final resurrection of the dead (in contradistinction to Hades/Sheol, which was a rather dank and unpleasant holding cell for the dead), and the ultimate or final “Paradise” that would be the fullness of “heaven” or of God’s new kingdom. In Luke 23, it is all-but certain that Jesus was using this word in its second sense of the intermediate abode of the faithful.
Some while back I was taking a walk through a neighborhood near where I work and I witnessed something that we’ve all seen and even participated in at one time or another. In a corner of a fenced-in backyard, four children between the ages of 4-6 were playing. And in the 45 seconds or so during which I could observe them, it was clear that one little girl was calling the shots. “OK, Billy, you stand over there and you have to watch for wild animals. Jill, you have to sit behind me and get me things when I need them. Eric, your job is to . . .” Again, we’ve seen this scene before. And we know what it means. In that little backyard this little girl was establishing her kingdom. And she was the kingdom’s Sovereign.
In his fine book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard claims that we all have our little kingdoms in life. A kingdom, Willard says, is any area of life where my will and my desires determine what happens and what does not happen. “A man’s house is his castle,” the old, rather sexist, adage says. And indeed, in our homes, at our places of work, we all have little spheres of influence, little patches of this earth where we make a kingdom for ourselves, where we try to arrange things so that what we say, what we think, what we believe determines the shape of life.
The kingdom of God is where God’s desires, God’s dreams for this creation, God’s will and God’s intentions rule. The kingdom of God is where the shape of life mirrors God’s design for life.
As Willard writes, the kingdom is real and it is real now. We can see it, right now, today. The kingdom is present wherever people pray the way Jesus taught us to pray. The kingdom is present wherever Jesus nurtures certain behaviors and lifestyles that we call the fruit of the Spirit. The kingdom is present wherever people pour water over the heads of babies or take bread and wine to their lips all simply because Jesus told us that this is the way we are to act in remembrance of him.
The kingdom is present wherever a believer somewhere refuses to go along with some scheme because she believes it is untruthful and that going along with it would make her less transparent to Jesus. Whenever and wherever a woman says no to abortion, whenever and wherever a college student refuses to participate in some binge-drinking party, whenever and wherever someone refuses to cut corners on his taxes, whenever and wherever a kindly old woman brings light into a neighbor’s darkness by speaking a word of peace, whenever and wherever a man sits down to tutor a homeless child, and whenever and wherever all such things are done because all these people believe there is a cosmic Lord named Jesus, then there–right there and right here and right now–the kingdom of God is present because the effective will of Jesus is calling the shots.
When the Son of God came to this earth, he announced the arrival of the kingdom. It’s not pie-in-the-sky and far off in the future. It is now.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Thanks be to God, he has remembered each one of us and we are in his kingdom, now. Today.
Author: Stan Mast
All over the world the church celebrates the reign of Christ the King today. For many of us, that is very good news because we live in places where there is huge controversy over the leadership of our countries. Whether it’s Hong Kong where protestors clash with police over increasing communist control, or it’s Canada where old pictures of Prime Minister Trudeau in blackface raise questions about his fitness for office, or it’s England where the rough-hewn ways of Boris Johnson make Brexit even more difficult, or it’s America where the country is divided over President Trump’s international dealings, people everywhere are questioning the leadership of their country.
Into this cultural moment steps the prophet Jeremiah with a word from the Lord about “the shepherds” of Israel. It’s a word of sharp criticism about shepherds who don’t tend their flock, a word of promise that God will replace those shepherds with better ones, and, most significantly, a Messianic promise about the ideal Leader who will come sometime in the future. It’s a word of warning that today’s leaders would do well to heed, and it’s word of hope for those who despair about the possibilities of ever finding a leader who will do the right thing.
There can be little doubt that the shepherds about whom Jeremiah speaks are the kings of Judah. That interpretation is in line with the well-known Near Eastern custom of calling Kings “shepherds.” And in the previous chapter God has indicted the most recent kings of Judah—Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Jehoiachin—so one would expect to hear a similar indictment of Zedekiah, the next king in the line of Israel’s Game of Thrones. Instead, we get a summary judgment of all of them, followed by a description of the ideal king whose name will be “the Lord our Righteousness,” which is almost exactly what the name Zedekiah meant. Instead of the failed kings of Judah, God will send a King who will be absolutely righteous.
How had those earthly kings failed? They had not “bestowed care” on their flock, the people of God. As a result, the flock had scattered and was being destroyed. In a stinging verdict of poetic justice, God says that because they “have not bestowed care…, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done….” In both instances, the word “bestow” is the same word in the Hebrew. The divine punishment of those failed kings will fit their sins exactly. They have not been just, but God will be.
Indeed, that was precisely the sin of those kings, as indicated in God’s description of the ideal king in verses 5-6. They did not rule justly. As one scholar put it, kings were responsible “for the maintenance of justice and order in the community, a responsibility that often seemed to get lost in the shuffle of military endeavors, political maneuvering, and economic aggrandizement.” They were more committed to maintaining their own power and prosperity than to caring for the common people, especially the marginalized.
If you think that last phrase is a bit of left leaning political commentary, listen to the way Psalm 72 talks about the ideal king. “Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. He will bring prosperity to the people…. He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death….”
In addition to visiting justice upon the failed kings, God will provide new and better ones. Indeed, says the Lord, “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture….” Clearly, this is a reference to the Exile, which was caused by the failed kings (as well as the sinful people), but was done by God himself (“I have driven them”). When Yahweh brings the remnant back to the Land, he will provide better shepherds who will do what Kings were supposed to do—“tend them” so they “will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any of them be missing….”
But after centuries of experience, there was a dawning realization that no human leader can shepherd properly, something we ought to know all too well many centuries later. Only God can tend his flock like a shepherd. And that’s the background of the most explicit Messianic prophecy in Jeremiah. “The day is coming (a typical introduction to a prophecy, indicating its certainty) when I will raise up to David a righteous branch….” This is a reference to the word of God to David in II Samuel 7 that “your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
With the fall of Judah and the end of the line of David, it looked as though that promise was a thing of the past. But here God says it is a thing of the future. After all those failed kings in the line of David, God would raise up in that line “a righteous Branch,” a new shoot from the stump that looked dead. It looked like the end had come, and it had, but it was not the End of the Line of David.
What would make that king “righteous?” Two things—he will reign wisely and he will save his people. The wisdom of this King will be demonstrated in the fact that he will always do what is right and just. I think of the story of Solomon and the two mothers, one with a live son and the other with a dead one. In an impossibly complicated situation, Solomon’s legendary wisdom enabled him to make a decision that was just and right. Those two women appealed to the king for justice, and he did the right thing for them. This greatest Son of David will rule his people with justice and righteousness particularly for the oppressed (see Psalm 72 and Jesus’ first sermon in his home town in Luke 4:18, 19). Under his reign, all God’s people will flourish.
We still await the earthly manifestation of that righteous reign, but we have experienced the second work of that righteous king. He has saved his people, so that they live in safety. Most of the Jewish people are still awaiting that salvation, because they are focused on the liberation and security of physical and ethnic Judah and Israel. Most Christians believe that the church is the new Israel and Jesus has already accomplished their salvation. The Jews have always looked for a political and military Messiah, and they rejected Jesus because he didn’t fill the bill. We believe Jesus brought a kingdom that was not of this world and gave a different kind of salvation.
Jesus was a different kind of King, as demonstrated most vividly as he died on the cross (see the Gospel reading for today, Luke 23:33-43). The sign over his head said, ”This is the King of the Jews,” and the Jews along with the Roman soldiers mocked him because he so clearly wasn’t. But he showed his royalty when he forgave those who hung him there and welcomed a criminal into his kingdom in paradise. His was a kingdom not of power and glory, but of mercy and grace.
That helps us see the full meaning of the name given to the Branch of David, “The Lord Our Righteousness.” It surely means that this promised King, sent by the Lord, will embody all the righteousness God always wanted in his appointed kings. Among all the other things he will be, he will be first and foremost righteous. After all these centuries of questioning God and challenging God and blaming God for all the “bad” things God has done or allowed, we can look at this new King of grace and mercy and know that the Lord is Righteousness in person.
But could this ancient Hebrew title also be a reference to the New Testament doctrine of imputed righteousness? We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but now there is “a righteousness from God [that] comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe… (Romans 3:21, 22 and see Philippians 3:9).” The Lord Jesus is our righteousness before God. Because of his finished work, we live in eternal safety.
However we interpret that ancient title, Jesus made it very clear that he was the fulfillment of Jeremiah 23 and that he has a flock much larger than Judah and Israel. “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me… and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:14-16)
Here in the US we are in the heat of political races. Candidates have wildly different platforms and promise a whole variety outcomes if they are elected. Can you imagine a politician who stood for just one thing—righteousness? Can you envision a candidate who said, “I promise to be righteous and to do justice and righteousness for all our citizens regardless of their status in society?” Do you think such a candidate would be elected? Would anyone believe such a person? With centuries of evidence that no leader is righteous, I don’t think so. But we can believe God and trust in “the righteous Branch.”
Author: Scott Hoezee
It probably counts as something of an irony that for all its soaring comfort in proclaiming the sovereignty of God and God’s rule over all things, Psalm 46 is invoked most often precisely in those times when it is most difficult to believe that a good and loving God is providentially in charge of the world. Those who surveyed the churches in North America the Sunday after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 noted that Psalm 46 was one of the most commonly preached texts that week. Substitute “falling skyscrapers” for “mountains falling into the sea” and you could understand why so many pastors made this Hebrew poem their go-to text on that disorienting Sunday after disaster had struck.
But history is doubtless replete with such examples of when Psalm 46 was evoked. And, of course, the psalm itself licenses such use by beginning with an acknowledgment of the fact that there are plenty of times when disaster does strike, when the earth trembles and everything that once seemed solid and secure—like immovable mountains—seem to be melting away. Opening this psalm just that way counts as a mighty big nod toward realism. This psalmist is not an eyes-shut sort of person who manages to hang onto his faith only by virtue of shutting out inconvenient truths.
No, the poem comes directly out of times of trouble and war. God may be said here to shatter spears and shields and cause wars to cease but at most any given moment in human history, war was being waged somewhere. Today too, of course.
But that makes Psalm 46 only more plucky. Its realism reassures that faith need not be shipwrecked on the shoals of today’s troubling headlines nor on the shoals of the hurts we all bear in life. God is our refuge but to state the merely obvious, a refuge is a needed thing only in those times when there is something FROM WHICH you need to hide and be sheltered.
In this final Year C Lectionary text for “Reign of Christ” Sunday, we are reminded that Christ became our sovereign Lord and King on a cross. As noted in also the Gospel sermon starter from Luke 23 for this week, being exalted and coronated on a cross is about as strange a specter as getting “enthroned” on an electric chair or glorified on the fatal end of a hangman’s noose. It was an odd way to become King but then again, it was the most realistic way for Jesus to do so because the troubles of this world—all its surgings and quakings and tumultings—was precisely why the Son of God was incarnated into this reality in the first place.
It is precisely by recalling this reality also in the context of Psalm 46 that we preachers can proclaim a peace and a hope that fits people whose lives are often plenty tumultuous. At my seminary we use Paul Scott Wilson’s “Four Pages” template and if you are familiar with Wilson’s homiletics at all, then you know it is motored along by a consideration of some Trouble and then a corresponding Grace. But as we remind our students, the one thing we preachers never need to do is generate Trouble. People come to church each week with plenty of that already. The wise pastor learns how to name the Trouble in people’s lives. The tougher part of preaching is to find a realistic Grace that can reach into those issues and questions and outright crises that people schlepp with them into the sanctuary every Sunday morning already.
We ought not preach Psalm 46’s depiction of uproars and a shaking earth in the abstract. The earth moves under people’s feet far more often than any literal earthquakes that strike now and then. The earth moves when a cherished job is taken away or when the prospect of a new job is not realized. The earth moves when families rattle apart and marriages crumble. The earth will probably move for not a few families the week of Reign of Christ Sunday when in the U.S. people gather together for Thanksgiving only to find some political argument over impeachment shattering any Rockwellian sense of family unity around a well-bronzed roasted turkey. The earth moves when people begin to see a loved one drifting away through one form or another of dementia.
“Be still and know I am God” the Lord counsels via the poet in Psalm 46. Much easier said than done. Because when do we need to “be still”? Well, exactly in those moments when there is the most to scream about. Exactly in those seasons when what we most want to do is shake our fists in the direction of heaven to let loose with a psalm of lament. And it is legitimate to do that at times, as the Psalms of Lament in this same Psalter validate. But there is also a time to be quiet, to take a deep breath, to try to see through all of life’s haze and smoke and fog a God who somehow still has got this thing. And we can know this because the hands that hold “the whole world” (a la the old song) are now pierced hands. Forget crowns and scepters and thrones—for Christ the trappings of royalty are the scars of suffering—indeed, the scars of suffering from the same hardships and outright tragedies that most of us know about only too well.
Advent 2019 is right around the corner. And there will be plenty of pressure on all us pastors to prop up Advent/Christmas as a serene season in which “all is calm, all is bright.” But it’s not true. Psalm 46, for all its lyric comfort, hope, and assurance, comes to us as a gritty piece of realism just when we need it most. Just when the people to whom we preach need it most.
There is something about the Louis Armstrong spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” that smacks of Psalm 46’s own combination of realistic admission of trouble in life and yet a bold proclamation that there is hope to be found in the God who can still receive us like a refuge and silence us long enough to hear God’s reassuring voice. Trouble and sorrow in the Armstrong song is nonetheless followed up with “Glory, Hallelujah” as well as the line that then reveals how any sense of praising can come in a song that otherwise centers on suffering: namely, the only one who really does know the troubles any of us see is Jesus.
Author: Chelsey Harmon
What a weird place to start our lectionary selection for Reign of Christ Sunday and the close of Ordinary Time. We get the last few verses of Paul’s thanksgiving prayer section, then all of the Christ hymn, but not the verses that describe the community’s reconciliation. If it’s “application” that we’re after, wouldn’t verses 21-23 do exceptionally well? It may be worth considering doing a little maneuvering of your pericope.
Nonetheless, verses 11-14 do connect well to the Christ hymn. Paul describes for the people following Jesus in Colossae their personal truth borne out of their experience, then he blows it wide open with the cosmic picture painted in verses 15-20, showing that their story isn’t something “local,” but in fact, this is the story of everything.
This hymn about Jesus Christ tells the whole story of everything: creation, redemption, and consummation (the final reconciliation). This hymn is a summary of the entire Scripture narrative. This hymn is built on what I have heard described as the “bedrocks of praise” in Scripture: God’s creating power and God’s working of salvation. All things point to Christ. It is narrative and metanarrative. It’s everything.
In his commentary, Ben Witherington III says that this hymn—the whole letter to the Colossian Christians really—is what happens when your Christology is “deficient.” Witherington posits that the rest of the letter addresses all of the beliefs and things the Colossae church has done to try to address the gaps and holes left by their deficient Christology on their own, and what Paul offers here in this hymn is the foundation of their much needed theological corrective.
Taking the historical context one step further, in their commentary Colossians Remixed, Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmat argue that this hymn is also paramount to treason! Not only was the church’s theology about Christ lacking, but they had a ready made substitute that could easily engulf and control their imagination: that of the Roman Empire and Caesar. Tracing through each line of this great hymn, Walsh and Keesmat lay out how each line challenges how the people have been shaped to see the powers of this world and Paul’s disruption of that view with the supremacy and truth of Christ.
For instance, Caesar’s image was everywhere and he was described as the “Beginning”. Yet here, Paul boldly proclaims that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and not only is he the source of all that is, but everything finds their true purpose and fulfillment in him. Christ is sovereign, not the nation. Christ is sovereign, not the Emperor. Christ is sovereign, not the economy. Christ is sovereign, no one else. And the world would be a better place if we all sought to live within his sovereign will.
Our theology doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and if our view of Christ is too small, then our view of everything else will be too big. It’s fascinating to see how Paul communicates that indirectly in this hymn as compared to the other hymns he shared with communities of faith. Perhaps the most well-known hymn is the one found in Philippians 2. As Witherington points out in his commentary, consider how the hymn in Philippians 2 differs from the one we have before us in Colossians 1. In the Colossian hymn, there is no talk of Christ as servant, humbling himself. No, in this hymn, the cosmic Christ is at center stage, the mighty one whom all other people, places, and things have to thank for even having the chance to exist. Talking about making your view bigger!
Thinking about the inclusion of verses 11-14 in the lectionary selection, then, is it comforting or awe-inspiring, dazzling or fear-inducing, to think that what God has done for you is just a drop in the bucket of who God is? That God would care enough to lift you out of darkness so that you could find your ultimate purpose and end in this earthly life as well as in life eternal, and that God cares just as deeply and widely about EVERY SINGLE THING THAT EXISTS?
Thinking about such things, God gets so much bigger, and everything else gets a little smaller. The dictators and the corrupt politicians get a little smaller when we view their evil deeds as a matter of rebellion from their intended purpose. The diseases and sicknesses that plague us get a little smaller when we consider that our ultimate end is already settled with, through, and in Christ. Every “no” to a dream, a job interview, a hope here on earth is never the last word because we trust that God’s purposes for us will be complete, opening up for us a life, not of closed doors, but of continuously seeking the Lord and his Spirit at work in our midst.
In him, “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” Paul writes. And we are in him. We are saturated in the fullness of God even now while Jesus is in heaven. Because of Jesus Christ, we are connected to this stream of heaven and earth and all things.
I had this teacher in grade two or three who was so excited to go on a mission trip to Mexico. I remember so vividly that we were walking one day at lunch and she dropped an M&M on the ground, getting it covered in dirt. She picked it up, wiped it off and practically yelled, “What do I care?! I’m going to Mexico!” before popping it in her mouth. Her enthusiasm left quite the impression on me because it was so wholehearted. I think it’s the sort of effect we’re meant to experience from this hymn.
In verse 11 Paul prays that the church and its members in Colossae will “be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience…” In other words, “may you be able to say ‘What do I care!? I’m in Christ!” once you take a moment to reflect on the MASSIVE, all-encompassing, without end quality that is the glorious power of Jesus Christ. Then, finding yourself in the ever present flow of such power, you’ll fall on your face in praise and thanks for getting to be a part of it, knowing peace—a peace that passes understanding.
There are so many other powers and principalities, images and rulers, trying to be our source, our end, our God. Like the church in Colossae, our national identity seeks to have first place. Our Western consumer culture seeks to have first place. Our families seek to have first place. Yet, they all must become less, our place in them smaller so that we are closer to reality—reality being, of course, that our God is great, greatest, biggest… God and his will are the only things that are forever. That’s what this hymn points us to, and its very existence means that this proclamation means something for our lives today. Most of the things that we think or pretend or play at being “forever” are not truly that. Only God and his designs for eternity are forever. May we confess our sins and find Jesus leading us again out of the darkness of our small-mindedness, into the great and open expanses of the mystery that is life in the light of being in Christ.
Ben Witherington III also notes that this poem or hymn follows a common V structure. What’s interesting, he points out, is that the phrase at the nadir of the V isn’t about Jesus’ death on the cross or even about the resurrection, but about the church. Right smack dab in the middle of this hymn is the line: “he is the head of the body, the church.” What are we to make that our attention is focused on Jesus and his church when every other line pulls our attention bigger and higher and further from ourselves?
The structure gives us the same feeling that the words do: Christ surrounds everything, is before everything, in everything, after and at the end of everything. And everything is in Christ. We look out from within Christ and all we see is other Christ-touched things. And maybe there is comfort for us humans who so easily put ourselves at the center of our universes—that God will let us start there because God is already there, has already been there a long time, and will always be there. In other words, we are not left alone, but if we follow the lines, we’ll find ourselves lifted into something of the grandeur and mystery of the Godhead through Christ.
Walsh and Keesmat write that one of the key things we need as a faith community “is to so immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, so indwell their narrative, be so permeated by their images, that our imagination is transformed according to the image of Christ.” Perhaps this is why Paul’s hymn all about the great Jesus has this line about the church right smack dab in the middle of it: to teach us our place in the grander narrative.
We would like to thank Chelsey Harmon for writing the Epistle sermon starters this fall while Doug Bratt has been on sabbatical. Doug will return next week.