(A sermon based on Colossians 1:15-20 for the 2nd Sunday of Easter 2014)
Last October, Amanda Fiegl of National Geographic asked National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorologist Stephen Corfidi why some sunsets are so spectacularly colorful. Here is his explanation:
When a beam of sunlight strikes a molecule in the atmosphere, what's called "scattering" occurs, sending some of the light's wavelengths off in different directions. This happens millions of times before that beam gets to your eyeball at sunset.
The two main molecules in air, oxygen and nitrogen, are very small compared to the wavelengths of the incoming sunlight—about a thousand times smaller. That means that they preferentially scatter the shortest wavelengths, which are the blues and purples. Basically, that's why the daytime sky is blue. The daytime sky would actually look purple to humans were it not for the fact that the sensitivity of our eyes peaks in the middle [green] part of the spectrum—that is, closer to blue than to purple.
But at sunset, the light takes a much longer path through the atmosphere to your eye than it did at noon, when the sun was right overhead. And that is enough to make a big difference as far as our human eyes are concerned. It means that much of the blue has scattered out long before the light reaches us. The blues could be somewhere over the West Coast, leaving a disproportionate amount of oranges and reds as that beam of light hits the East Coast.
Now that you have that explanation, you will enjoy and appreciate a gorgeous sunset more than you used to enjoy it, won’t you? Actually, you’re likely just to “ooh” and “aah” and to be amazed at the wonder of the thing and to give little thought to the very important and true scientific explanation of it.
Today’s passage prompts similar thoughts in me. Clearly, the passage is packed with much important Christology, with much important teaching about the person and nature of Christ the Lord. We could—and, one day, should—delve deeply into what these verses say about Christ.
But isn’t there something about these words that invites us to stare, our mouths hanging open and our minds stunned, at the wonder of it all? Listen to them again:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for 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. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He 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. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and 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.
Many scholars believe that this passage is an early Christian hymn that was incorporated into this letter. What do we do with hymns? We don’t analyze them (well, hymnologists do, we but we aren’t hymnologists) ; we sing them! How do hymns speak to us? They speak not so much logically as emotionally. Hymns are a means of celebration and praise—and that’s how we should experience these words.
And what is the impact of the hymn? It communicates to us in very powerful language that Jesus Christ is everything, that he is the all in all, that he is the one from whom all things come, in whom all things come together, in whom all things are being reconciled to God, and in whom all hope resides.
He is “the firstborn of all creation,” meaning that he is the source and origin of all that is created—every planet, every star, every plant, every animal, every person, every atom, and every quark. Without him was nothing made that was made. He is the centerpiece that holds everything together.
He is the “the firstborn from the dead,” meaning that he is the source and origin, through his resurrection, of our resurrection. He is thus the source of all our hope and of all of our life.
In Jesus Christ “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”; he was God in the flesh walking among us. If we want to see who God is, we look at Jesus. And, most amazingly, Jesus, in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, died on the cross, thereby reconciling us and all things to God.
We need to hear and to submit to this great truth; we need to stand in awe of this great God. Why? Because if Christ our Lord made everything and holds everything together, he is making everything and will make everything as it is meant to be. Because if Christ our Lord is the founder and the sustainer of the Church, he is making the Church and will make the Church everything that it is meant to be. Because if Christ our Lord is our Creator and our Savior, he is making us and will make us everything that we are meant to be.
And if Christ our Lord is doing all of that, then Christ our Lord surely can get us through whatever we are going through and can use it for good according to his purpose.
Christ is our joy. He is our peace. He is our hope. He is our life.
He is our everything!
Be aware. And be amazed …