Seward United Methodist Church
Thursday, July 09, 2020
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Worship the King

Luke 23:33-43 and Colossians 1:11-20

We decided back in September that today would be our Praise and Worship Sunday. But today is also Christ the King Sunday, a day when we celebrate Christ as King of all creation and anticipate the day when his reign will be fulfilled. I think those things work together. If Christ is King, then we should worship him. If he is King of all creation, then our praise should be like the praise we give to none other.

Our New Testament text is from Colossians 1. And a lot of what Paul writes there is directed against one of the first heresies the Church dealt with: Gnosticism.

Gnosticism was a religious-philosophical shape-shifter that had been around for a couple centuries before Christ. There were certain basic Gnostic ideas, but they were applied in different ways in different situations. Whenever it touched a new religion, it changed its form to fit that religion. The basic ideas were applied in different ways. There’s an old horror movie called The Thing, about an alien life form that takes on the shape of whatever living thing it touches, but it’s the same monster inside. I never saw it; I’m just familiar with the plot. Well, that was Gnosticism. There was Jewish Gnosticism, Christian Gnosticism, Zoroastrian Gnosticism, and so on.

The Gnostics said God didn’t create the universe; it was made by a lesser and evil being. They said Christ is not unique; he is only one of many lesser beings that come from God. They said Christ never took on human flesh. That would have made him evil, because in Gnosticism all material things are evil. They said Christ is not the way of salvation. Salvation comes by having special, secret knowledge. And not all can be saved, for not all are capable of grasping this special, secret knowledge.

We can see how Paul refutes these beliefs with the truth of Christ all through this passage. Christ is the visible image, the EIKON, of the invisible God. He is the manifestation of God. He makes the invisible visible. Human beings were created in the image of God, but that image in us is damaged by sin. So Christ is a restoration project; not just showing us who God is, but also showing us who we were meant to be.

Christ is the firstborn of God, which is a more literal translation of verse 15. We think firstborn means first in time, but in the Hebrew mindset, firstborn was more a title of honor and authority than time. Psalm 89:27 describes the Messiah saying “I will make him my firstborn son, the mightiest king on earth.” Also, the firstborn had the

responsibility of redeeming a kinsman who had become a prisoner or slave. That will be important to understanding this whole passage.

Christ is supreme over all creation. Indeed, he is the one through whom God created all things, both the visible and the invisible. Both the physical and spiritual realms are under his authority. They were created through him and for him. Christ is also the end, the goal of creation. And he sustains creation, holding all things together.

Christ is the head of the Church. Head in biblical thought is not just the authority over something, but also the source of something, like the “headwaters” of a river. He is the head of the Church because he is the firstborn of the resurrection people. Again, remember firstborn is not just time, but also authority and preeminence.

And so Christ is first in everything, for God in all his fullness (PLEROMA) was pleased to dwell in him. And by him, God reconciled everything to himself. Reconciliation is the restoration of a right relationship. And the right relationship of creation to God is subordination; that it is brought under God’s will.

The first four verses of our text deal more with what Christ has done than who he is. Christ has given us a share of the inheritance of God’s people. Our inheritance is a share of the new creation, the New Heavens and New Earth.

How did God through Christ do this? He ransomed us. He has rescued us from a kingdom of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son.

In the ancient Near East world, there was this idea of a “kingdom transfer.” When a king conquered a foreign land, he would often move most of the people of that land to his own territory, and then move his people in there. The idea was that you crush the identity of this captive people so that they would not rise up to seek independence. That’s what Assyria and Babylon did to ancient Israel. That idea is in mind here, but here, Christ has conquered the powers of darkness and rescued us. He has brought us out of the kingdom of darkness, this world, and into the Kingdom of God. He has rescued us from darkness into light, from confusion and doubt into truth. He has rescued us from slavery to sin and death into freedom. He has rescued us from condemnation to forgiveness. And he has rescued us from the power of Satan to the power of God. We are brought out of a rebel kingdom to serve the rightful King.

Such a King is worthy of our love, our devotion, our loyalty, and our worship.

The other text we read this morning was from Luke 23. In Luke 23, even those who nail Christ to the cross call him a King. Yes, they said it in mockery, but even so, they said it. They proclaimed the truth, even in mockery.

How do we respond to the King? Do we bow down in praise? Or do we mock him? To do anything other than worship Christ and submit to him as King is to make a mockery of him. Anything less than full surrender to the King of Creation is a mockery of his reign. Half-hearted discipleship, wishy-washy obedience, and reluctant worship are not fit for the King of Creation. If Jesus is King of all creation, ruler of all things, the maker and sustainer of all things, then we must give him praise that is worthy of him.

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