3rd Sunday after The Epiphany.
Nat’l Luth.Sch.Week “Christ in All Things”
January 23, 2022 Colossians 1:15-20
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
In 1Corinthians 9, St. Paul said that his goal was ‘to become all things to all people.’ An admirable goal; but anytime we use the word ‘all’, it’s a real struggle. We get anxious looking at all the things on our ‘to-do’ list at work or at home. We become disappointed when we think back on all the things we were going to accomplish with our children, or with our personal health. In our Lutheran school, the teachers consider all the things that will help instruction; the Board tries to facilitate the activities & track all the funding; the congregation works to maintain all the facilities of this shared gospel ministry.
And when all is said & done, there are all-ways things that are overlooked. The concept of ‘all things’ is overwhelming. The word ‘all’ is a reminder of our limitations = the reason we have limitations is that we have a sinful nature & live in a fallen world.
The National Lutheran Schools yearly theme is ‘In All Things,’ and is taken from Colossians 1:15-20, which -thankfully- does not point to us but points us to Christ.
Let me read it:
15 Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth
or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
In those 6 verses, 5 times Paul connects the words ‘all things’ with Christ Jesus. Christ is /the Creator of all things & sustainer of all things; /He is before all things; /He holds together all things; /He reconciles all things to Himself. When we read in the book of Genesis, that in the beginning God created, Paul says that it is ‘by Christ’ that “all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” The Apostle John also confesses this truth by saying: “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God; … All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that
was made.” (Jn. 1:1, 3).
Of course, that creation includes US, /mankind, /humans. By Him all things were created, including our first parents – Adam & Eve. This is no myth or fairy-tale; this is how we came to be. It is also no secret how we all came to be fallen away from God, sinful & unacceptable to Him. Even tho Adam & Eve were created in the image of God, when challenged by that fallen angel -Satan- they took the evil bait and disobeyed God.
In the form of a serpent, the devil lied about the fruit of that tree, which God put ‘off-limits’. He said: “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5). It was a lie that by disobeying God they could be ‘all things’, and they could do ‘all things.’ The reality was, apart from their Creator, they would lose ‘all things.’
That fall into sin brought ‘thorns & thistles’; not just the kind that choke out plants & food from the ground, but also bringing the barbs & needles to choke out our good relationship with God, and with each other. Sin affects all things. Most especially, it affected Adam & Eve’s relationship with God, as they immediately hid from their Good Creator in fear, rather than walking with Him in innocence & righteousness. And now, we all are born trying to hide from our Good Creator. Hiding is the natural thing to do, because our sin makes us liable for condemnation & death.
But our Creator remains Good. And so The One over all things in creation chose to reconcile His creation to Himself thru Himself. Paul described how in our text, in vs.20:
by “making peace by the blood of his cross.” Jesus presented himself as our ‘reconciler.’ Which is far better than Him being our ‘judge.’
Even in our world, conflicts between people are sometimes addressed with the assistance of a ‘reconciler.’ A reconciler brings the two sides together to examine the issues, & to map out a path of settlement or reconciliation. In Christ, God and mankind are brought together. The issues were clear: God is holy; we are unholy. God is life; we earned death. God is light; we dwell in darkness. That’s not much for a reconciler to work with. But there was one possible solution; and only one: Christ Himself would stand in the middle, representing both sides in one person. So, the day of resolution was chosen = Good Friday; and the setting was the cross. When the Messiah shed His blood, His life is offered as the perfect and complete sacrifice for all-sinful-things. The fact that such a merciful & gracious solution to our problem was even offered is quite amazing.
And now all hostility between God and mankind has been removed; because God Himself removed it. But! — since the cross was a one-time & one place event in history, how could this reconciliation come to any individual soul, either before that Good Friday, or now so long after? It comes in this way: That ‘peace thru his blood’ is gifted to each of us thru the Means of Grace. +That peace with God thru the forgiveness of Christ is promised thru Holy Baptism – to young & old. +The pronouncement of reconciliation is given in the absolution of sin by the pastor to the repentant person. +At the Lord’s Meal, where the very body & blood of the cross are received, the communicant is dismissed with the promise: ‘depart in peace.’ The Word & Sacraments of God’s Church are the ways His grace come to us.
A fundamental part of a school supply list is glue. A few drops of glue can be counted on to hold together craft projects. The Means of Grace, the Word & the Sacraments, are the glue of the Church. They hold together God’s people, called ‘the Body of Christ.’ The Word, Water, Bread & Wine hold together church & school with Christ. As Paul said, ‘in Christ all things hold together.’
I hope that in our public schools, when two people are in conflict, the value of saying ‘I’m sorry’ is still recognized. But in our Lutheran schools, the bar is set even higher than that. The goal is reconciliation in the one Christ. So, +the playground disagreement is not just ‘I’m sorry,’ but it’s understood as ‘Jesus forgives us; I forgive you; please forgive me.’
+The occasional tensions between staff members are eased when they are reminded that they both belong to the Body of Christ, and His Body has different parts & gifts, which are supposed to work together. +The disagreement between a parent and teacher finds some resolution as both remember their common desire to bring Christ to the child.
+The competition between church and school for resources is inevitable; but the conversation needs to focus on the shared mission of the one gospel. Thru Paul, the Spirit reminds us that all things -including us- are being held together in Christ Jesus; in His mission of our salvation. The One Head unites both church and school; & He is preeminent because He is the beginning, and the firstborn from the dead. The church, in all its work,
is in unity, and not disjointed.
Another word for ‘disjointed’ is -sometimes- the word ‘compartmentalize.’ Back in the 1990s, we were told that the -then- president of the United States could compartmentalize his private life from his job as president. It was an attempt to excuse his poor judgments & behaviors. However, we are all tempted to not live a unified life in our Savior & His teachings. We try to compartmentalize our lives. +So, we ask for Jesus to be present in our family devotions, but we’d rather not have Him around when we have disrespectful words to say to our spouse, or children, or parents. +We bring Christ in as the center of the Bible class discussion, but we avoid discussing Him when sharing the gossip at work.
+Christ is worshiped with our words in the sanctuary on Sunday morning, but -at times- in our social settings, our words do not honor Him. This disjointedness should not be so among God’s people. How thankful we are for His call to repentance each week, and the fact that Christ still stands in the middle to reconcile all things to himself.
Compartmentalizing is not a thing to be used to support our sins & weaknesses. But it IS a thing that reminds us that our church & school lives have many parts, and that all things are united in the one Christ. In the Divine Service, the liturgy, the Bible lessons, the hymns & prayers & sermon are all brought together in Christ. Our bible studies, & board meetings, & the service groups are all things that take place under the One Head, which is Christ.
All the various ‘compartments’ of our school also are fit together in our One Savior. The basic ‘reading, ‘riting & ‘rithmetic’ are still accomplished in some of the most basic ways, and can now be supported by various new technologies, machines, electronic books, and world-wide connections with the Church’s resources. All ‘compartments’ come together for Christ.
How blessed we are at Immanuel School that our teachers value the creative arts, music, & even foods, because on the foundation of the 3-Rs, those things enrich our lives in the whole creation which finds its beginning & joy in Christ. There is a special unity we have in a National Lutheran School Accreditation process for the purpose of strengthening all our schools in high & holy standards for Christian education.
And then, within our District & Synod, with congregations across our nation, we have the support of the CROSS program, (congs/reaching/out/to/support/schools) so that the whole body of Christ can support & encourage a strong Lutheran Education for the good of students & families, and for the glory of God in the world.
So, ‘Christ in all things’ is a good theme and a good reminder of our school’s mission & purpose for as long as the Lord will let us have it. Christ Jesus is our confession, our commitment, and our commission.
Christ is our confession in our chapel time, in ‘the 3-Rs’, in our musicals, at our family nights, and out on the playground. Christ is our commitment as we evaluate & ask: ‘why are we doing this?’ or ‘why do our teachers & helpers stay here when going elsewhere might have more perks?’ The answer is: because Christ is here. And Christ is our commission as the fallen world shows us the need for Christian education. We can see that God’s ways are not respected as they used to be in our culture. Our community needs the influence of Christ & His people. Our school and church provides that place of training & practice, so that God can use us to show others ‘the way, the truth, & the life.’
That being said, we will acknowledge that we cannot ‘be all things to all people.’
All the things on our lists will not be accomplished. Not all aspects of school ministry will always be effective. We cannot achieve all things. But we have the promise of Christ Himself to be the One in whom all things hold together. And so, we will remain in Him, and He will be ‘in all things,’ and we will live together in His peace.