Sermon from Christ the King: The Firstborn of All Creation
The Firstborn of All Creation
Christ the King; November 24, 2019
Paul touches on a mystery here and I propose we dive into it, briefly this morning, to shine a little light on your faith. In Colossians 1, Paul takes a deep dive into metaphysics; as a branch of philosophy, metaphysics is a subject of great interest for people who are into such things. These words about Jesus Christ, however, are not merely academic: for those who follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and who want to know him, they are vital. I yearn always for you to know Jesus more closely as the years go by, and so we’ll look into what is here about Christ with respect to God, the Creation, and the Church.
First, what the writer says something about how Christ relates to God. Parenthetical comment: one of the hardest things in Christian theology is the doctrine of the Trinity, that God is One and God is Threefold. Both. It is also essential for a living Christian faith, and I think I need to talk to you about it more in the future. For today, we see one aspect of it, that Christ “is the image of the invisible God.” Now that almost sounds like a contradiction; if God is invisible, how can God have an image, a reflection in the mirror? The word is “icon” (eikwn); yes, like those images on your computer screen that you double-click in order to open a program. When you look at your computer screen, you can’t see all the code that is Microsoft Word, but you can see the stylized W that is its icon. That icon is the presence of the program on your screen. It is also a constant reminder that the program is present (This comment from a listener in the congregation). I’m not sure how good my example is, but I think it heads in the right direction. Our traditional terms for the Threefold God are “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;” the Son’s relationship to the Father is as icon to the Father, the window to the Father in the world.
This icon of God is the “firstborn of all creation… all things have been created through him and for him.” On Christmas Eve, one custom I love to keep is to recite the prologue of the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… all things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (John 1:1, 3). God speaks the Creation into existence. The moment of singularity, when the infinitesimal something begins to expand rapidly into galaxies and stars, is when God says, “Let there be light,” or so we gather from the Book of Genesis. And when life begins to emerge on earth, God says, “Let the earth put forth vegetation” and “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures” (Genesis 1:11, 20). God speaks life into being. Christ is the creative Word that God speaks, the Word that comes from the mouth of God – “Let it come into being!” – is Christ.
When you say something, the word you say seems to come and go, to be gone as the sound fades away. Yet in a sense, the word is always there; only the act of your speaking it goes away. If you have said something encouraging to somebody, that encouragement lingers. If you have spoken scornfully or cruelly, the pain persists. When Jean-Luc Picard says, “Make it so, Number One,” the sound is then gone, but the task laid on Commander Riker is set in motion. Christ is the Word God speaks to create; Christ is the Word that stays present in Creation as long as Creation endures; Christ is the goal toward which Creation is moving. Oh, I shouldn’t bring that up without giving it more explanation, but time is short and I’ll leave that as an exercise for your prayer this week. All that is expressed in calling Christ the “firstborn of all creation.”
And, third, Christ is the Redeemer, the Head of the Church, the One who gave his life on the Cross for the redemption of Creation and to give life and being to his Church. Most of us identify with a number of different tribes, different groups, some of them formal and some of them not. We have civic clubs such as Lions and Rotary; choruses such as the Omaha Symphonic Chorus and the Heartland Harmonizers; bowling leagues; Scouts; sports leagues; and then groups we create for ourselves, perhaps with names such as Alpha Omega or the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. And we have political entities, such as nation-states.
Each group has its identity and its way of organizing itself, its terms of belonging and its rules and procedures. And there is the Church. The uniqueness of the Church is that it is always more than it appears to be. Our Head is not an elected President. Our identity is not in a shared oath or a flag or political boundaries or a mascot. Our Head, our identity, is centered firmly in the firstborn of all creation, the image of the invisible God, the creating Word by whom and for whom all things exist, who also gave his life on the Cross for the redemption of that creation.
You knew that, but it helps to be reminded. When we look only at a baby in a manger, or a tired carpenter walking the roads with twelve friends, or a convicted criminal on a Cross, we may forget that all of these embody the Firstborn of all creation. So remember that. Remember that when we are part of the Church, we haven’t just joined another social organization; we’ve become part of a kingdom. As it says here in Colossians, “God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Remember that, people of Christ.
Robert A. Keefer
Presbyterian Church of the Master