Transfer of Power

TransferofPower“Transfer of Power”
Colossians 1:11-20
Sunday, November 24th, 2013
Christ the King Sunday

The Colossian Church faced a challenging struggle with heresy…There was a big difference of opinion regarding the true divinity of Christ…Some believed that all physical matter was evil and, since Christ took on human form, he was inferior to the angels and could not be God…They also believed that angels and other cosmic powers, as agents of God, were worthy of worship…They taught that these powers, along with Christ, made up the fullness of God; if this is true, then faith in Christ is not enough to guarantee salvation…These beliefs had a variety of sources and Paul viewed them as a threat to Christianity.  Paul wrote to the church to firmly establish correct teaching and eliminate this heresy.

In order to appreciate Paul’s message this morning, it is helpful for us to go back and include verses 9 and 10 of this letter…
(9) For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you.  We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,
(10) so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,
(11) being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,
(12) and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.

You see the Lectionary asks us to begin at verse 11 which is actually in the middle of a sentence….We need the whole thought to put this text in its proper context.  Today is the last day of the Church Calendar Year…It is the day we celebrate “The Reign of Christ” or Christ the King Sunday…This letter from Paul fits with this celebration because it offers us a clear set of statements about the person and power of Christ…Paul begins immediately to counter the belief that Christ is not sufficient by identifying the source of our power as Jesus Christ…He tells the church that we are not strong in ourselves but only as children of God…He then goes on to offer us a hymn to the supreme power of Christ as the image of God…He echoes the beginning of John’s gospel as he describes Jesus as the first-born of Creation in whom all things were created.

The beauty of this passage comes in verses 13-14 when Paul writes: “He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sins.”  The word “transferred” is a key here…The Greek word used here – methistēmi – relates to the spoils of war…When one empire won a victory over another, it was customary for the population of the defeated country to be transferred to the conqueror.  When Christ conquers the darkness as victor over sin and death, we are taken into God’s kingdom – transferred citizens through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  Now, I want to go back for a moment to verses 10 and 11 and the terminology Paul uses…He has been praying for the people “so that” they might live a life pleasing to God…“So that” they might have great endurance.

Recently I attended a workshop on the topic of fruitful congregations…The presenter, Dr. Lovett Weems, asked us to consider why most church mission statements make so little difference in the actual mission and ministry of the church.  This was a tough question to answer.  Dr. Weems offered this insight…A mission statement is useless unless it includes a clear purpose.  For example, our mission statement says: “Through God’s grace our church will grow in service and ministry, making and nurturing disciples for Jesus Christ.”  Think carefully about what this statement really means and imagine the difference if we added…“SO THAT”  What would we be doing differently if we viewed everything we do through the lens of “SO THAT…”?  Does everything we do here really point us the direction of the “so that” God has in mind?

Paul realized the importance of telling the Colossian church about the power of Christ and how that power was transferred into mission with a purpose…Paul moves from the gift of God to the intended outcome of that gift… “…that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work…”  The transfer of our citizenship into the kingdom of God; the transfer of God’s power on the cross…HAS A PURPOSE…SO THAT…Let’s think about those two little words and what they might mean to the way we do ministry in our own church…

  • We will present Vacation Bible School this summer…SO THAT…
  • We will offer a new small-group Bible study on Monday evenings…SO THAT…
  • We will build a new building on the south side of the river…SO THAT…

Do you see how important it is for us to hear those words – “SO THAT” – and make sure we can fill in that blank?  Every time we have a decision to make in the church we must be able to fill in the blank and understand the purpose for the choices we make.  Our celebration today offers us a lot of insight into how to fill in those blanks…So that more people will know that all things are or will be brought under the supremacy of Christ.  We need to celebrate Jesus more…Sometimes it seems like we are much better at “somber” than we are at “celebrate!”  We need to celebrate Jesus in ways that invite others to meet him and want to be excited with us…The celebration is about proclaiming with joy that all the things that are so wrong will be made right and that Christ is already working on it.  By inviting us into God’s kingdom, Jesus makes us partners and co-heirs of all things made right…So, we should work for justice and the righting of wrongs…We should work for peace and reconciliation…We do these things knowing that it is God who will make all things right through Christ.  We should be thanking God that it is not up to us to finish this work!

Christ came to make the invisible God visible…Paul wants us to recognize that the image of God used in this text is not the same as the understanding that we are made on God’s image…Christ is not simply a representation of God…He is the actual manifestation of God…Jesus is not like God, not an exemplary follower of God, but in fact God.  Christ is surely King because he is God!

I want to close this morning with this insight from New Testament scholar Walter Wink: The work of Christ seeks not only to reconcile the people to God and free them from the powers of this world, but, “to reconcile the Powers themselves to God.”  It is not enough simply to disengage from the hierarchies and idolatries to which we often find ourselves subject.  The call of the Christian life is to seek to transform those systems so that they emulate the grace, mercy, and compassion we experience in the kingdom of God.  When we say the Modern Affirmation of Faith, we close with these words…

We believe that this faith should manifest itself in the service of love as set forth in the example of our blessed Lord, to the end that the kingdom of God may come upon the earth. Amen.

“To the end that…” – “SO THAT…”  We believe so that the kingdom of God may come upon the earth…Christ the King transfers his power to us so that we may do all that we can to put our faith into action that helps manifest the kingdom…We transfer our own willfulness and selfish power to God so that we might be used to lead others into relationship with Jesus…Today let us celebrate the Transfer of Power…In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.