(Note, in the past I did not post my weekly “newsletter” articles. I don’t know why. I used to tell myself they seemed more congregation specific. But more specific than the sermons which I do post? So, I’m going to start posting them. In the newsletter they are called “Pastor’s Corner” and so that is the category you will find them under. They often, although not always, are reflections on one of the other lectionary texts of the week.)
Did you catch the first images from the James Webb satellite telescope? The one that basically replaces the Hubble that was deployed over the summer? Here is a link: https://www.nasa.gov/webbfirstimages. I know people have alternate responses to such things. The militant atheists took the photo of that stella maris, the now much bigger sea of stars, and quipped “imagine thinking that you are in any way consequential.” And if I am staring at those photos as a pure expression the holiness of God, yeah, I get it. A holy unknown god should cause stark raving terror at the vast gulf between it and us. There is something mischievously funny that every step we seem to make in knowledge of the universe, it reveals that the universe is both infinitely bigger and more strange than we thought. It is almost like God chuckling, “oh, you think you have plumbed my depths and now comprehend the foundations, that you could answer my question to Job “were you there (Job 38:4)” with a yes? Well now, take a look at this.” That vastness of space stares back at us as a metaphor for the unknown god. And if god was simply unknown I think my conclusion would run along the lines of H.P. Lovecraft. But God has not remained unknown. God has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ.
When I think of the last Sunday of the Church Year, sometimes called Christ the King Sunday, my mind takes me to those cosmic images. That is where our Epistle reading for the day (Colossians 1:13-20) goes. The first thing that the Apostle Paul wants us to know is that “The Father has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son.” We have been removed from staring at that vast dark cold sea of stars and been placed in Christ. The impersonal has been replaced with the named. The second thing Paul wants us to know is that this is good news. You could (or at least I could) image a deity where that unknowing and uncaring space was better. You don’t have to think too hard. Any of the idols or the old pagan gods would be such. The pagans didn’t seek the gods so much as give their sacrifices to keep them away, to ensure they continued to slumber. Because being on a first name with a pagan god usually ended poorly. But what Paul wants us to know is that in the Kingdom of Christ we are not insignificant slaves. In Christ, “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
And in Christ we are far from inconsequential. In some of that cosmic language Paul wants us to know exactly who this Christ is. “All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” That entire sea of stars – “the visible and invisible, thrones, dominions, rulers, authorities” – is his. Yet in Jesus “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” God was pleased to reveal himself in Jesus. And He revealed himself for this purpose, “to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” God revealed himself to make peace. God revealed himself by putting His “skin in the game.” And more than just skin, His blood. God left that vast sea of stars to dwell in fullness with us, to save us.
The God who hides behind that sea of stars has come to us. The God who has the power to make the stella maris, placed all that power in Jesus to save us. Far from inconsequential, you have been invited into that divine life. You have been transferred from the darkness to the Kingdom.