“The cosmic Christ”
Sunday 24 November 2019
Celebrating a feast day called Christ the King is not without some difficulties. Normally when we use a metaphor, we use something that we know to throw light on something that we are unable to quite describe. So when we say Christ is the light of the world, we are trying to throw meaning onto Christ by using images that we are more familiar with – light and the world around us.
However, when we say Christ is a king, we are using an image that we really don’t have a good handle on in any case. Most of the kings of history were tyrants, war mongers, torturers and the like. Surely we are not saying that Christ is like them.
When we get down to more modern times, kings are often quite powerless and good only for ceremonial occasions. Once again, surely we are not saying that Christ is like them.
Probably the most common area in which we have stuck kings is in fairy tales. And we may have found that some of them were quite good fellows who used their power benignly. But are we really saying that Christ is not quite real and merely a literary invention like a fairy tale king.
Fortunately, in the second reading this morning from the Letter to the Colossians, we get an excellent description of what Christ’s kingship and kingdom really mean.
The letter suggests that the outstanding feature of what it means for Christ to be king is that he has absolute priority. And the letter expresses this priority in three ways.
Firstly , the letter states that: “He is the image of the invisible God.” Now we are familiar that in the Book of Genesis, we are told that God created men and women in the image of God. But what is being said here about Christ is a little more than that. Perhaps we could demonstrate this extra meaning by saying the “very image of God”. What is being stated here goes beyond the Genesis teaching about all humans. It is suggesting quite bluntly identity with God. We humans may well be in the image of God but not in the way that Christ is because he shares identity with God. So this is the first way that Christ’s priority is expressed in the reading.
Secondly the writer emphasises Christ’s connection with the whole of creation. “For in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Christ’s role in the creation of the world and everything in it places him prior to the created order.
Thirdly, Christ’s priority is expressed in the fact that he is the head of the Church. “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.” Can you hear again in these words the emphasis being placed on Christ’s priority over all things.
For the writer of the letter to the Colossians, Christ’s kingship is expressed in his priority over all created things. His priority is expressed through his unique relationship with God – in the very image of God; through his connection with all creation as an active agent; through his headship of the Church.
So having established that Christ’s kingship is about his priority over all things, the writer proceeds to expound what this means for us. And what it means for us is reconciliation with God. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
The purpose of Christ’s kingship is universal reconciliation between God and the whole of creation.
It is for this reason that this depiction of Christ in the letter to the Colossians is referred to as the cosmic Christ. It is a fairly mind expanding idea that is being proposed in this letter, but one that has immense relevance for us today when our cosmology or understanding of the universe is that it is an enormous enterprise made up of billions of galaxies like our home, the Milky Way.
It doesn’t matter how big the universe becomes, Christ is all in all reconciling the whole of this mammoth created order with God.
The philosopher-theologian, Ladislas Boros once wrote: “The power of the risen Christ extends to the universe itself. Everything in heaven and on earth is included and summed up in Christ. The whole universe was filled to overflowing and fulfilled when Christ rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven. In every part of the world, Christ is present as the mysterious quintessence of all creation. For us who believe in him the universe is the translucent reality of Christ himself. We can always discover him as the God-man at the heart of all things. Communion with the world is communion with the inner truth of the visible reality of Jesus Christ.” (The Cosmic Christ, p 83)
Let us ask God to fill us with the wisdom to encounter Christ who is king in the daily round of lives in this created order, to stretch our minds beyond the trivial of life and to grasp the scope of Christ who is all in all – a cosmic King in this grand cosmos.
Archdeacon Allan Paulsen