Friday, September 18, 2020

Colossians 1:15-20

Colossians 1:15-20 
English Standard Version 

  This passage is an incredible journey -- we start with the invisible God, and we end at the cross.  It's remarkable that this is about one person, one incredible person who had every privilege in the universe and laid it all down -- the one who holds the universe together set down his life so that you might have life.  Not just anyone -- but YOU.  What Christ did is an individual act that would have been performed for you if you were the only person on the planet, such is the love of God.
  I've heard it described this way before -- when we think of the invisible God, it's hard to know a God who is outside of time and space.  It's like a character in a book trying to understand the author of a book -- there's simply no way to understand, unless the author writes himself or herself into the story so that the characters can communicate directly with the author.  
  This is what God does -- God enters into creation in Jesus Christ, and the same person who walked the dusty streets of Palestine, healing lepers and talking with children, is the same person who is the firstborn of all creation.  We can say that it would have been easy to believe if we had been alive then, but the Pharisees couldn't figure out who Jesus was, and they were supposed to be experts!  Even the disciples didn't seem to fully grasp it most of the time.  Faith wasn't easy then, and it isn't easy now.  But the disciples came to believe and grasp the wonder of God in Jesus Christ, and so they're trying to tell us, to tell you -- that the person who loves you enough to die for you is powerful enough to lead you through death and into eternal life.
  Place your trust there.  You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Colossians 1:9-14

Colossians 1:9-14 
English Standard Version 

  There are lots of ways to pray for people.  We often pray for health and for healing.  We pray for comfort in difficult times, and for consolation in seasons of mourning.  We have prayers of gratitude for our blessings and prayers of blessing upon new ventures and relationships.  
  Here, Paul uses an interesting phrase -- they have not ceased to pray for the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God's will, with the idea being that knowledge of God's will would make them live in ways that are pleasing to God.
  The prayers aren't to change God's will or to change the situations in the lives of individual Colossians -- it's to understand the will of God in their present lives.  Paul is praying in such a way that people understand the scope of God's work, which spans farther than our eyes and hearts can grasp.  I think we all have moments in which something our hearts long for the scope of eternity, but often we're trapped in the here and now, and we can't see much farther.  How much easier would we be able to deal with suffering if we fully grasped the scope of eternity?  How much less frustration might there be in our lives if we fully understand the good intentions that God has for us, and the desire of God to deliver us and redeem us, so that we might enjoy the ultimate glory of the Kingdom of God.  Having an understanding that God's will is to save you and enjoy you forever would help you deal with setbacks in life, and it would keep things in perspective so that we could better understand how to rejoice and give thanks even in difficult seasons.  To understand the will of God is to understand the heart of God that carried Jesus to the cross -- a heart that beats to save God's beloved creations.  You are precious in God's sight and worthy of saving, and to grasp the fullness of that -- to really grasp that, in the depths of our souls, changes us, because once we realize how fully God intends to save and deliver us, we deal with every aspect of life through a different lens, one colored by grace and gratitude.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Colossians 1:3-8

Colossians 1:3-8
English Standard Version 

  It seems as though the world is in a hurry to divide itself into various segments.  I think humans have likely always trending in this direction -- finding tribes, then looking for tribes within tribes -- it gives us a sense of belonging.  Problems arise when tribes drift apart, however, and lose sight of the commonality between us.  When the world or the country or our communities become 'us' and 'them', we cease to look for the good in our neighbors.  
  One of the countless amazing things is about the church is the idea of being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.  Close your eyes and imagine -- believers in every time and place make up the church universal, of which you are a part.  Your membership is not only in a particular community, but also it belongs to something that transcends the divisions of the age.  
  When Paul is writing to the Colossians, he is reminding them that they are being prayed for.  They are not alone, they are not isolated, they are not a solitary tribe, a lone boat in the midst of a stormy sea.  Surrounded by a church that is not limited to a single place, the encouragement of the Gospel is to press forward with the confidence that we belong to something far, far bigger than ourselves, and we want one another to experience the fullness of Christ's hope and joy.  When we want the best for one another, for the riches and treasures of the Gospel to fill one another's lives, then we are embracing what it means to be one connected community of faith.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Overstory

   What if I told you the Douglas Fir, in the moments before it dies, releases all the nutrients stored up in its trunk back into the ground as a gift to the soil?  Or that trees of different types will have root systems that interconnect in a forest?  Or that trees communicate to each other and warn of predators?  

  They are truly remarkable creations.  In Richard Powers' The Overstory, each page is filled with new marvels of trees.  Objects that so often fade into the background of our lives are brought to center stage, and they star.  At one point, two people stay twenty stories up in a redwood, discovering salamanders and a 6-foot tree thriving in this separate ecosystem.  What wonders God hath wrought!  

  The  Overstory is one that I couldn't put down.  It's the story of disparate individuals that eventually come together, united by the trees in their lives and a struggle to care for the treasures of creation that are being wasted.  The reader is reminded that many trees count centuries in the way we count decades, and many will be around long after us.  They contribute countless riches to the environment, and we would be wise to be good stewards of the trees and the forests in which they dwell.

  It's very easy to think of things in this world as disposable.  With this mindset, it's easy to be a consumer.  With a consumer mindset, I think of the world's resources as objects to support me.  I don't always think of how I give back to the world.  It's not a big leap to see other people through this lens, and to avoid appropriately caring for people.

  God certainly calls us to be good stewards of creation.  In caring for our children, it's also important to think about the world we're going to leave them.  The Overstory calls me to stop and appreciate the beauty of the trees that I see, and in doing so, makes think about how my life is contributing to the richness of all of creation.  It's a book that asks difficult questions and makes me think, which I deeply appreciate.