Read Colossians 3:1-17
When I was in Rockford, Ill, in June of 2013, with a group of our Junior High youth on a mission trip, we got to know people from a local church who took us to visit their beautiful church building. And when we entered the huge sanctuary, we could see this towering pulpit and a huge second floor balcony. Well, naturally, there were two things that all the youth immediately wanted to do: they wanted to go up to the pulpit and then they wanted to go up in the balcony, and look down on everything.
And isn’t that typical? There is something inside of us that needs to climb to the top and get the view from above.
When I was a boy, my friends and I loved to climb trees, and sometimes we would find some planks of wood, and a hammer and nails from some dad’s workshop and build little tree-houses for ourselves up in the branches and spy down on the world below.
Why do we need to do that? What’s inside of us that makes us want a view from above? Psychologists have an answer. They say there’s a sense of power that comes when we stand above the world. We can play “god,” looking down on everything. It’s a kind of “Goliath complex” in us. You remember Goliath in the Bible? He stood nine feet tall, and he thought his size made him invincible. That’s what we all like to feel, now and then – A sense of standing over everybody else.
But there’s another reason we like the view from above, something not quite so selfish. It’s a sense of perspective. When you look out the window of an airplane, you see how things fit together, how the hills and valleys interlock, how the fields form a painting, of sorts, and the towns have some shape and definition.
That’s the idea Paul has in mind when he says in our reading today, “So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (3:1) He says that if we want to get a sense of how our lives fit into the bigger picture, we need to get the view from above. And so, we’re going to look at two important truths that we can see from the vantage point of Christ risen and seated at the right hand of God.
The first is this: we see Jesus enthroned as the king and ruler of all creation.
The right hand of God, where Jesus sits, is a place of authority. It’s what we confess in the Apostle’s Creed. We say, “On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” It doesn’t mean that God is right handed. Rather, it means that Jesus has authority, that he is king and Lord of all.
That’s the faith we profess, Jesus is king and ruler of all creation. But sometimes, that kind of hard to believe isn’t it? We read the news and it’s hard to believe that Jesus has everything under control. Just the opposite seems to be true.
John Steinbeck earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1940 with his book, THE GRAPES OF WRATH. Many High School English classes are still reading this book. Tom Joad is the main character. Tom’s Grandpa homesteaded a farm out on the prairies. He broke the sod. He worked the land. He raised his family. And when he died, Tom’s Pa took over. The land was good. God blessed his efforts. And all was right in the world. But then the bad years came. The rains stopped. The grasshoppers ate their fill. And one by one, the farmers went bankrupt. First they borrowed a little money, just to feed the family. Then they couldn’t pay it back. And finally the sheriff comes out, and tells them to get off the land; it’s not theirs anymore! But whose land is it? Well, it belongs to the bank. So they go to the bank. “I’m sorry,” said the bank manager. “I can’t help you; the Board makes the rules.” So they go to the Board of Directors. “We’re sorry. It’s the shareholders you see….They’re the ones who tell us what to do.” And Tom Joad’s father wants to hit somebody. He wants to punch somebody in the face. But nobody’s to blame. There’s a monster that controls everything. And nobody can help it. And nobody knows what to do.
We’ve all been there, at one time or another. Life spirals downward, we hit the bottom, a loss of a job, a death of a loved one, a devastating diagnosis at the doctor. We say, “why me?” Where’s God in all this? And Jesus comes and says, “I’m right here, where I’ve always been.” And he says, “I love you, I am with you, I will never leave you. This is not the end. I still have plans for you. I will walk with you through this valley.” God’s ways are sometimes a mystery to us, but it doesn’t mean that he’s not there with us, or that he no longer cares for us.
That’s what Paul means when he says, “Your life is hidden with Christ is God.” (3:3) People used to say, “Get a life.” Well, in Christ Jesus you have a life that can never be destroyed. That life is hidden with Christ, at least for now. Not everyone can see it, and we don’t always fully understand it, but it’s there…your life, in Christ. It’s a life that is secure, eternal, full of hope and peace and joy and love, and nothing and no one can take it from you. Jesus has hold of you, and cares for you, and there is nothing, no power above or below, that could ever make him let us go. That’s the first thing we see from the vantage point of Jesus seated at the right hand of God.
And that brings us to our second thing to see: our King, our exalted Christ, has a purpose for our lives.
When we see Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, we see he’s not just watching the world go by. No, rather Jesus, the King of creation, is also Jesus, the Savior of our Souls. Our Lord is putting to death the old, and raising the new…in us! This is the work of the risen Jesus in our lives. The old way of life: the life of disobedience and rebellion toward God, the life of sin and deceit, evil desires and greed. These are being put to death in us.
And we are being raised, with Christ, to a new way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness, love, thanksgiving and gratitude.
Last summer, my wife and I took a trip to Columbia with the Southeastern Minnesota Synod. Our Synod has a mission partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Columbia. I really didn’t know what to expect. I wondered if perhaps, we would be able to be tourists and see all the interesting sites in Columbia. We had a room in Bogata at the church office, with a view of the mountains. Very lovely and scenic – the kind of view you see in a travel magazine. But what we saw when we traveled to those mountains changed our perspective. We saw deep poverty and need. We saw people who had been displaced, members of their family killed, land taken from them. They now lived in the foothills of the mountains, those same mountains we could see from our room. There were no paved roads, no gravel, only muddy, bumpy, dirt paths to drive on. We saw children, sleeping in houses with dirt floors and no doors. I got a view of the ‘much’ that I have in comparison to the ‘very little’ that these folks had, and I heard Jesus saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength …and…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
That’s what Paul means when he says, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Paul is saying if we see our life from the perspective that Christ Jesus is Lord, then we can live as if that’s the case! With his help and by his power, we can let his new creation come alive in us, the new “us” that is clothed in compassion, kindness, meekness, patience, forgiveness, love, thanksgiving and gratitude.
Let us remember, that in Christ, we have a new perspective from which to see our lives. Let us remember that Jesus is King over all, and that we belong to him, and that nothing can separate us from him. And let us seek his help to have his new creation come alive in us, and in all that we do, in word or deed, to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”