Sermon for Christ the King Sunday Yr C, 21/11/2004
Based on Col 1:11-20
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, &
Chaplain of The Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Today people are becoming more conscious of the environment and ecology. We are starting to realise the tragic consequences of what we as human beings have done to the natural world. The water, air and the soil have been polluted and poisoned by human beings. Holes in the ozone layer make exposure to the sun’s rays more dangerous. The depletion of tropical rain forests, which function as the world’s lungs, reduces the amount of oxygen produced, which is necessary for life on this planet as we know it. Human beings are starting to realise that everything in the creation is interrelated and interdependent.
That realisation is precisely what the writer of our second lesson today proclaims. The writer gives us a picture of Christ the King of ALL CREATION—he is pictured here as Lord, Saviour and Creator not only of human beings. Rather, he is Lord and King of the whole universe! Listen carefully once again to those words: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. …in him all things hold together.”
What, you may ask, does this mean for us today? What, if anything, does this have to do with the environment and ecology? To answer these sorts of questions, it is necessary for us to go back in history to the time and situation out of which the letter to the Colossians was written.
Several New Testament letters were written for the purpose of correcting wrong, sometimes even very harmful, beliefs and practices in the infant stages of Christian communities. Colossians is one example of this. Many scholars believe that the Christians at Colossae were influenced by a heresy call Gnosticism. The Gnostics believed that reality was dualistic. They believed that an evil god created the world and matter—thus matter, in all of its forms was evil. The material world, including one’s body was evil. They believed that the soul and the world of spirits were good and in conflict with matter. Christ, they believed, was only one among many elemental spirits of the universe. For Gnostics, Christ was not the only Saviour, Lord and King of all creation.
The writer of Colossians insists that the Gnostics are wrong. Over against the Gnostic belief that Christ is merely one among many elemental spirits of the universe, the writer of Colossians says Christ is “the firstborn of all creation.”
New Testament scholars point out that this is not to say that Christ came into being as the first part of creation. Rather, the term “first-born” was used to describe the person who is the legitimate ruler of a territory. To say that Christ is the first-born of creation is to say that he is the Lord and ruler of all creation.1
Christ is thus superior to and King over all other powers—whether they are spirit or matter, visible or invisible. He was with God the Creator helping to create the whole universe. The Gnostics were wrong to reduce Christ’s power as only one among many elemental spirits.
The other erroneous teaching and practice of Gnosticism was that God’s creation was evil. Creation was not loved, respected or treated with care—it was hated, abused and at war with the soul and everything spiritual. A person was not to be concerned with their physical body nor with the world.
Over against this Gnostic view of reality, our passage from Colossians affirms the unity of God’s creation; the unity of soul and body; the goodness of both spirit and matter. God in Christ loves the whole universe not just a select group of people; not just souls and spirits. God in Christ loves the whole universe so much that it all depends on him for life. We are told: “all things have been created through him and for him. …in him ALL THINGS hold together.” If we really believe and practice this, then we shall truly understand that Christ’s Lordship and Kingship is not confined to so-called spiritual matters only—rather, it’s a Lordship and Kingship which influences every area of life. We as Christians can and will be concerned with the environment and ecology because we believe that reality involves interconnectedness, interdependence and wholeness.
As a young man, the Russian writer (and Christian) Dostoevsky was sent to a hard labour camp in Siberia. Throughout his life he was dogged with ill health, domestic worries and financial problems. Yet…he wrote these inspiring words:
“Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day, and you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.2
God in Christ loves and cares deeply for the whole universe. As Christians we have been given dominion over God’s world. That does not mean we treat the natural world as if it were our slave to rule over, exploit and abuse. It means that God has given us the tremendous responsibility and privilege of being the stewards, the managers of creation. We are held accountable to Christ our King for what we do to care for or destroy creation. When we take the Lordship and Kingship of Christ seriously—we, like Dostoevsky, and like the writer of Colossians, shall realise and try to live our lives in a more holistic way. We shall love and care for God’s creation more by doing such small things as: using less water, planting more trees, driving our vehicles less and riding public transportation, buying environmentally-friendly products—to list only a few things. As Christians under Christ’s Kingship and Lordship, living our faith means we are concerned with the whole of reality—we are subject to Christ’s influence in all areas of life—spiritual, physical, emotional, psychological, social, political, economic, environmental—you name it—Christ the King claims his rule over our whole lives, the whole world, the whole universe.
In ancient times people thought of the universe as a little room with lights on the ceiling—big ones like the sun and moon and little ones like the stars. What was outside of this room, they could not even imagine. Today we know our solar system is vast, and the solar system is only one little “corner” of the universe! There are stars 27 million times the size of our sun, and the edge of the known or suspected universe is 200,000 light years away—in miles that would be more than a quintillion, a one followed by 18 zeroes. And God rules it all. No wonder we can sing, (“Beautiful Saviour, King of creation!”)3
Christ the King of your life and mine; King of all creation. May we worship and serve Christ our King who loves and cares for and created the whole universe. May his Kingship and Lordship be over our whole lives, that we may be his faithful stewards, gardeners, caregivers of creation. Amen.
1 Cited from: William Hordern, “Lord Of All Creation,” in Augsburg Sermons: Epistles Series C (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1976), p. 281.
2 Cited from: F. Gay, The Friendship Book 1991, meditation for September 14.
3 Cited from: Albert Stauderman, Let Me Illustrate (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983), p. 79.