Summary: Everyday, we face powers and temptations that urge us to downplay Jesus' significance for our lives. But Jesus is the firstborn of creation and the firstborn from the dead, the sole source of redemption; the blueprint for the genuine humanness which is on offer through the gospel.
When I was a kid, one of my most favorite things to do was to get out some graph paper and draw house plans. Now, obviously, I didn’t have any idea what I was actually doing, that’s just what I liked to draw. I’d try to imagine the most unique mansion, and then I’d seek to capture it on paper. As you can guess, any architectural aspirations were pretty non-existent, but that particular activity, I think, was just an expression of who I am and how my mind works. To this day, when I “doodle,” I draw in lines and shapes, very geometric. That’s really irrelevant here, though, because what I want us to focus on today is that bit about the house plans. As I said, I was just doodling, but every building begins with a plan drawn out on paper, a “blueprint” we call it.
A blueprint tells the contractor how the rooms will be laid out. It tells the roofer how much shingle to order. It tells the electrician where to install the outlets. Every single detail of the building is drawn out on the blueprint. It is what makes building any new building possible, and it is also gives us any information we might need in the future when repair or renovations becomes necessary. In short, the blueprint gives all the information needed to move forward.
This morning, as we continue our time in Colossians, we begin with what basically amounts to an ancient hymn or poem. It tells us a lot about Christ, perhaps more than we can easily take in or understand in just the time here. But what it boils down to is that this is a blueprint of who Christ was, and who we should be as a result.
Like so many of the letters that are a part of the New Testament, this letter to the Colossians is trying to guide the new Christians in the way of Christ. This is completely new territory for them, especially Gentile Christians like those in Colossae, and the only way to navigate it is with a detailed blueprint. Paul told us in the letter to the Galatians that we have to be open to the movement of the Spirit, even when it leads us in unexpected ways. Now the author of Colossians offers a slightly different, but no less important, strategy. Follow the example that Christ has already set. And in case these Christians (or any of the rest of us) have already forgotten what that was, this hymn reminds us of all that Christ was and all that he did.
We heard last week the praise of the writer of this letter as he “gushed” over the faithfulness and fruitfulness of the Colossian Christians. Certainly, the young Colossian Christians were better off than the Galatians, but that does not mean they were without trouble. The Colossian church was standing firm and faithful, but they were doing so in the midst of great criticism and even persecution. History tells us that the Colossians were feeling pressure from all sides when it came to their faith. And to the point when this letter was written, these faithful Christians had not given in to the powers around them, but giving in is always a possibility when we stand with one foot in the world and one foot in the kingdom. So, the writer wanted to remind the Colossian church of the choice they must make and to urge them on in their faithfulness to Christ. Either we can give in to the powers of this world and be enslaved once again, or we can claim Christ as sole “head of the body” and be numbered among the “saints of the light.”
The truth of the matter is, this is a choice that must be made by all Christians; and not just once, but every single day. Because we are confronted by so many opposing powers in nearly every moment of our lives. And as we all know, all but one of these powers only enslave us in the darkness of this world. When we give in to the temptation and follow such worldly powers, it bores down within us, and it even can reach out beyond us and capture others nearby as well. Just think about how addiction works. We heard this week the sad news of the death of a young star from the TV show, Glee. We don't know yet the cause of the 31 year old’s death, but there has been much talk about his problems with addiction in the past. Unfortunately, this is really an all-too-familiar story. Addiction quite truly is a "social disease" with deeply personal effects and wide ranging devastation. Even entire societies can become addicted and enslaved by the powers of this world. If it's not addiction, the power that enslaves us might be greed, or jealousy, or pride, or even something as simple as doubt. Whatever it is, though, the result is always the same unless there is redemption: these powers, as we so often sadly see, lead to death.