To the Church in Exile,
Please note: Pastor Doug has also included a video version of today’s devotional. For some of you, that version may be more accessible – you can find it by clicking here.
The peace of Christ be with you. I want to talk about holding things together. I think we’re all struggling with that in this season. We have difficulty holding it together worried about our family, or being patient with our family. It’s hard to hold it together waiting for that unemployment check, dealing with work stress, or with being cooped up so much inside. And of course, all the loss and grief of this time make it difficult to hold things together.
I think our lectionary reading is a great help. St. Paul is quoting what most scholars believe is an early church hymn to Christ. So, these words on Jesus would have been familiar and comforting to the people he writes to:
15Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
That phrase, “in him all things hold together” just jumps out at me in our context. There are two things in this hymn that are key for Jesus’ ability to hold things together. First Jesus Christ is the creator of all things: “all things have been created through him and for him.” Creation is not foreign territory for Jesus; he was and is involved in creation. I have been shaped a great deal here by a native-American theologian Randy Woodley. For Woodley, Jesus isn’t simply “Christ the reconciler” or “Christ the Son,” but he respectfully calls him “Creator Christ.” That’s good Trinitarian theology. So often we make the mistake of thinking that God the Father is one who does creation; that Jesus Christ is the one reconciling; and that it’s the Holy Spirit that is engaged in transformation. But we must remember that all three persons of the trinity are involved in all the action of God. The Son and the Spirit were at the creation of the world. God the Father was at the Cross of reconciliation. Christ holds all things together, because Christ created all this; it’s not unknown to him.
But Christ also holds all things together because he is the great reconciler: “Through him God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself, whether in heaven or on earth, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” Christ has reconciled all things to himself. That gives me confidence and comfort when I’m having difficulty holding it together, that the Creator Christ is this impressive reconciler who has brought and is bringing all things together.
I think there’s a challenge here, as well, to join Christ in his reconciling work. I’m thinking about racial reconciliation and gender and class reconciliation. But I’m also thinking of reconciliation on a more personal level. Let me get to it right now: are you estranged from someone? Maybe today during this crisis, when we are all asking questions about what is important in life and what really matters, maybe now is the time for you to pick up the phone to that one person and say, “I’m sorry.” Or perhaps you have been unwilling to forgive someone, and they are all too aware of your long memory. Maybe today, it’s time to write that note and offer those liberating, reconciling words, “I forgive you.”
Remember, life is short. And we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those traveling the dark journey with us. O be swift to love. Make haste to be kind. (Henri Frederic Amiel)
Gracious Christ, who holds all things together, through whom and in whom all things were created, and in whom God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself, do your job. Hold it together when I can’t, when government can’t, and the church can’t. Work in your creation now to bring healing from our nemesis. Reconcile us to this time and to each other. Bring us together. In your powerful and mighty name. Amen.
Peace in Christ,
Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor
Bethany Presbyterian Church
(206) 284-2222, x11