|Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota|
Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC) Lectionary Reflection All Years, Primary Easter Service, Epistle Lesson
Colossians 3:1-4 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Reflection on Colossians 3:1-4 by the Rev John Gibbs
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Colossians is preeminently the letter about the cosmic Christ. That is clear not only in the Christological Hymn (1:15-20) that celebrates the supremacy of Christ in the universe no less than in the Church, but also throughout the first main section of this epistle (1:12-2:23). Every creature has its origin in Him, and exists for Him. The universe is held together in Him. Hope for God achieving through Christ a worldwide reconciliation concludes this hymn.
The Epistle text for today (3:1-4) sees this cosmic Christology working out its practical effects in everyday life. Here the author, whether the apostle Paul or a post-Pauline writer, explores the consequences in real life of Jesus' having been raised from the dead, and of our having been raised with him in our baptism (2:12). The difference between darkness and light (1:12-13), between shadow and substance (2:17), or between appearance and reality (2:23), is the difference between life before baptism into Jesus' death and resurrection, and life after that baptism.
Now that the resurrection has occurred, then live on that basis. Live out your resurrection inheritance. That is the message of this Easter text. It focuses on practical consequences of our being united with Christ in his resurrection. Jesus was raised. So what? We were raised with him in our baptism. So what?
What follows after today's text is a detailed contrast between behaviors that we "put to death" (3:5-9) and those that we "put on" as our "clothing" (3:10-4:1). Life in Christ is here described, and that is what today's text leads toward. We move here from the risen cosmic Christ toward our life in Christ, a life that is oriented on "things that are above."
The cosmic context of our life in Christ, so much emphasized in this letter, disallows any disparagement of "the earth" (3:2). The contrast between above and below (or what is on earth), which we see often in both the Fourth Gospel and the Pauline letters, is a contrast between spiritual and unspiritual lifestyles. It is not a contrast between matter and spirit.
As C. F. D. Moule insists, "the N.T. carefully guards against imagining that matter, as such, or this life on earth, as such, is evil: it is the trivial and selfish use of it which is ["below" in its orientation] Indeed, it is precisely baptism into Christ (a sacrament of the incarnate Lord) which delivers a man from regarding matter in itself as the great enemy." (CGT Commentary on Colossians and Philemon, p. 111).
To summarize the approach of this text toward Easter we might say this:
The focus of Easter is on today and tomorrow, not on a past event remote from us. Easter focuses on our life here and now in this world of physical and spiritual reality. Easter shows us the usefulness of a utopia in our kind of world, the practical necessity of a vision, the daily utility of setting our minds on "things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."
Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead not in a supernatural vacuum, but in the midst of human and cosmic history. If his resurrection had been a freak physical event without influence on human life in our space/time continuum, nobody would have made much of it except as a curiosity. But in fact it was an event that made so much of people then and since that it could not be forgotten or dismissed as a disconnected esoteric occurrence.
The best evidence for Jesus' resurrection has always been its effects in the Church, its fruits among those who live in response to the Risen Crucified One. We remember his resurrection not as an isolated event, but as the inaugural event. "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above." The best evidence for Jesus' resurrection exists in the lives of those who have been baptized into Christ's resurrection, and who then live out that baptism within all the space and time they are privileged to experience. How we live within our environment expresses either a resurrection lifestyle that holds all things together in Christ, or one that remains captured by powers of darkness and destruction.
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