Colossians 1 v 15-20/ John 1 v 1-14Those of you who were here last week may recall that Keith began his sermon by suggesting that the Gospel can be summed up in one word “Reconciliation”.
That struck me as interesting as the passages he was preaching from did not really have that as their theme. There is a rich truth in what he said and this week the two passages we have heard read focus on Jesus and indeed on how He reconciles everything. Indeed the very word “Reconcile” appears in the letter to the Colossians that Beth read to us.
Reconciliation is one of those words that we hear bandied about in all sorts of different contexts.
When I was first starting to learn how to be a lawyer Andrew and I worked together on a divorce case. The parties had been trying to decide whether to divorce or not for a long time and we had prepared the court papers and sent them to court. They would reconcile so we would stop the court proceedings and then things would break down and we would restart the process. Each time we did this we had to amend the papers and use a different colour of ink to show the amendments – there is a prescribed sequence of colours to use – red, green, purple. Well we ran out of the prescribed colours and ended up with a rainbow effect on the papers showing the number of times that they had reconciled and separated.
Sadly they did eventually get divorced. Reconciliation failed.
At a completely different level you may recall that back in 1994 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was assembled in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid. This was designed to allow people to speak out about the atrocities of what they had suffered under that evil regime but then to move forward to heal the nation. The concept was that only from speaking the Truth could there be any real Reconciliation.
As we approach Lent and contemplate the events leading up to Easter today we are reminded of the nature of Jesus and just who He is.
Both of our readings are really quite complex descriptions and many, many books and articles have been written about each of them.
We could get very bogged down in theology here if we are not careful – so let’s try not to do that!
The opening of John’s Gospel is one of the most well know parts of scripture echoing the start of the bible in Genesis. It reminds us that Jesus was there with God the Father at the very moment of creation.
The Colossians passage is possibly a little less familiar. Paul is writing to a very new church where they are being led in all sorts of different directions by people who had their own agendas and teachings.
The passages both focus on the person of Jesus and the very central truth that He is God in human form, and from each passage I want to draw some thoughts together about being reconciled.
The dictionary defines reconciliation as “the act of restoring friendly relations” or “the action of making one view or belief compatible with another”.
However what we are thinking about in Jesus really goes a long way beyond those definitions.
We are being encouraged to see how through Jesus we are reconciled to God. We are brought to that point where we, in all our fragile humanity can be assured that God wants to be involved with us, with this world. How we enjoy all the fullness of God.
As we read those readings this morning we have to be amazed and awestruck that Jesus, who is indeed God, came to live on this earth to complete God’s work of reconciling all things.
That God would come and live amongst us changes everything then, now and for all time. This reconciliation between God and all of His creation is not temporary nor is it fragile.
Let me read to you again those last two verses of our Colossians reading
“For in Him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him (Jesus) God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things whether on earth or in heaven by making peace through the blood of His cross.”
Reconciliation is the Work of God
We are first of all reassured that God took the initiative to bring about reconciliation.
I don’t know if you have ever had an argument! However if you have you may well have had the all too familiar experience of having to go and say sorry to the person you were rowing with. That step of seeking forgiveness can often be really tricky and humiliating. That is however the first step to being reconciled.
We learn here that it is God who takes the initiative. It is God who desires reconciliation and who acts to achieve it.
Paul writing to his readers in Colossae assures them that God was
“pleased to reconcile Himself to all things”.
Those are remarkable words. If you know your history of the people of Israel in the Old Testament you will know that God had been constantly rejected by them. And yet ultimately God sends Jesus to earth and He is pleased to be reconciling all things.
And this is not just a promise that the Jewish nation would be reconciled – look at what it says in the Gospel reading
“He came to what was His own and His own people did not accept Him. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God”
The reconciliation is not limited. It is open to all of us – there is no limit.
The work of reconciliation is a work already done –there is nothing we need to do.
And of course, again as we were reminded last week in what is the ultimate paradox, reconciliation between us and God is achieved at the cross.
I read this quote
“The Christian claim is that through the execution of a particular Jew by a provincial governor in an eastern outpost of the Roman Empire during the first half of the first century God was doing nothing less than saving the world. We should never lose sight of what an astonishing and even absurd claim this is. Nevertheless it is an absurd claim that the Christian faith resolutely affirms. How God saves the world through the execution of Christ is a deep andmany-faceted mystery and one that does not give way to simplistic or formulaic explanation. But the church has always affirmed that the cross is the locus of God’s saving intervention as he acts within history.”
As we come to communion in a few minutes we will be taking bread and wine and reminding ourselves of the cross. We will remind ourselves that through the death and resurrection of Jesus God’s work of reconciliation is completed.
The Consequences of Reconciliation
So what does this reconciliation mean for us?
The reconciliation between God and His world is not a temporary fix. There has to be a response in the way we live. There are three simple things to learn.
- We have already reminded ourselves we are reconciled to God
- We need to be reconciled to others
- We need to be reconciled to the world God created.
Reconciled to Each Other
Let me read you a verse from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5
“So when you are offering your gift at the altar if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you leave your gift before the altar and go first be reconciled to your brother or sister and then come and offer your gift.”
This works on an individual basis for certain in our relationships one with another. And then this works on a different level.
We know all too well that our brothers and sisters are not restricted to our blood relations or those who are like us. We are called to be reconciled to all.
I am dismayed when I hear of groups of people who are thought to be less than another or not their equals.
That may be someone without status to live in our nation; it may be someone who lives with a disability; it may be someone who has no home at present.
What does it mean for us to be reconciled to them?
There is no group to whom the reconciling of work of Jesus is unavailable.
So why would we exclude? The verse from Colossians rings in our ears
“God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven”
Reconciled to The World
We have concentrated on the relations between us and God and then our relations one with another. I wonder whether we have missed something though here. Our passages have all reminded us forcibly that Jesus was there at the beginning of creation.
Our reading from Colossians tells us that God reconciles “all things” to Himself. Surely all things must include the world in which we live?
It seems to me that as well as being reconciled to each other in the Kingdom of God we are to be reconciled to the world in which we live.
The creator of the world Himself comes to reconcile the world to God. Surely there is a lesson there that the world which God created is to be treasured.
The idea that we should look after our planet was once confined to the likes of Greenpeace and hairy hippies. But now even the Tory party have suddenly become very keen on reducing the use of plastics. The way in which we think about our world has changed. Who now goes to a shop and pays for a plastic bag? We now think nothing of having a separate bin for the recycling.
Slowly we have come to the realisation that the world which God created is not our playground, some of the natural resources we have taken for granted are running out.
The food we eat is not always the best use of our environment. When we eat beef then we are party to deforestation of vast parts of South America; when we change to eating quinoa there are issues too about increasing the price of a staple diet of some; when we use palm oil from Malaysia the habitat of the orangutan is destroyed.
We have destroyed the ozone layer; the ice caps are melting.
Our passage from Colossians says
“For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible.”
“God was pleased to reconcile to Himself all things whether on earth or in heaven”
I want to suggest to you that God the creator is interested in all of His creation and when Jesus came and dwelt on earth, as Paul says
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
And so it seems to me that as people of God’s Kingdom we have work to do to see that God’s creation of our amazing earth is not forgotten.
As Keith reminded us last week the Gospel is all about reconciliation.
It is all about Jesus doing God’s work of reconciliation. I read this quote which clarifies our focus
“God has made Jesus the agent of reconciliation for all just because there is no other mediator capable of reconciling any.” 
As we head towards Lent and so consider again the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem let’s continue to work out together what a Gospel of reconciliation looks like, for our relationship with God, our relationship with each other and for the universe God created.
 Brian Zahnd Beauty Will Save the World page 61
 RC Lucas Fullness and Freedom IVP page 58
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During this Harvest season (in the church’s calendar) I have been thinking out God’s Creation and our part within it.