This past Sunday I preached at The Falls Church Anglican on one of the most confusing and important verses in the Bible: Colossians 1.24 “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”
For most of us, this is a strange verse when we see it for the first time. We ask, “How could anything be lacking in Christ’s afflictions?” It’s a good question, and the answer is revolutionary.
So finally from a pulpit I had the chance to unpack all that, and explain just how stunning what Paul is saying, and what the truth, is.
I’ll give the short answer below, a quote from the sermon, but to get the background and context and implications of it all, check it out the video here:
Near the end I was able to introduce our upcoming trip this October to El Paso, TX and Juarez, Mexico and Guatemala, and why, and was grateful to be able to tell the story of Stanley Rother, America’s unknown martyr. We’ll be talking about that trip very soon.
And, though I didn’t mention this in the sermon, what I preached is deeply deeply what Coracle is all about, “to inspire and enable people to be the presence of God in the brokenness of the world through ‘spiritual formation for Kingdom Action’”. See if you hear that in between the lines. This is what we’re all about, precisely because of the Bible, and specifically texts like Colossians 1.24.
So often we throw the term ‘Body of Christ’ around in a way that is abstract and somewhat mystical, in a sort of hazy ‘all Christians everywhere’ sort of way. And while the magnitude of that is true, the body of Christ IS all Christians everywhere, it is profoundly tangible, and not mystical at all. It means that you, and me, are, if we believe and follow Jesus, are his corporeal presence on the planet now. We are his flesh.
Paul’s use of the language of “the Body of Christ” is profoundly NOT a metaphor, it is accurate language of a deep reality.
Christians are in fact and are called to be, the ongoing incarnation of the Incarnation. You and me, individually, and all other Christians, each one, are one of the main ways by which Jesus can still be seen in the world. While Christ our head is with his Father in heaven now, now we, the body of Christ, are to put him on display in the world now.
Do you know this in the marrow of your bones?
Does this reality orient your decisions?
Does this fact impact how you treat others, both Christian and non-Christian?
Does this truth enable you to rejoice in your own suffering?
Brothers and sisters, let us not forget our dignity, and the tremendous invitation, lo even our magnificent vocation to be the ongoing presence of Christ in the world, with his spirit living in us, so that he in all of his glory continues to be seen and known by those around us. Christianity is about following Jesus, yes, even more so it’s about being Jesus, because it is him who lives in and through us for love’s sake.
On the journey…
“Soundings” posts are aimed at considering together topics that are important for our society, for the Church, and for our own spiritual journeys.