Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 27:05 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We heard last week that the end of the Church Year means the end of this age, the end of sin and death, the end of all fearful and threatening things. But it is not just the end of all things, but their consummation: Jesus bringing all things to their completion. And it is not just the completion of what Jesus began in His life, death, and resurrection, but the completion of what God began in the whole creation.
What we see now in the creation is everything coming apart. Everything falls apart. Everything breaks. And not just the material things we make or construct with our own hands, but everything. Our lives, our bodies, our families, our congregations, our communities, our countries, our world. Everything comes apart. Have you ever had one of those weeks where everything comes apart at the same time? You have health problems, car problems, money problems? Everything needs to be fixed all at once? In this world, division and separation are the key words.
But Paul gives us a promise in this little hymn in Colossians 1, a promise in contradiction to what we see and experience. In Jesus, not only were all things made, but all things hold together in Him. All things. In Him all things were made, because He is the Word by which God spoke all things into existence. As John says, all things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made. Even though the Son did not take flesh until long after the creation of all things, He is still prior to all things. So when people are made in the image of God, they are made in the image of Jesus, who is the Image of the Invisible God. In our understanding of time that doesn’t work, but in God are all things, and all things are in Christ.
All things. Eight times a form of the word “all” is used, just in verses 15-20. All things were made in Him. He is the firstborn of all creation. He is before all things and all things held together, and still do, in Him. In Him all the fullness of the divinity, of God, dwells, and God reconciles all things through Jesus, in the blood of whose cross peace is made. That means that even when all things around us look like they’re coming apart, like they’re breaking up, like their falling apart, still all things hold together in Jesus. If not, it’s not just that things would be bad, it’s that there would be nothing. All things hold together in Him. People can come up with whatever materialistic explanations of creation they want, but outside of Jesus all things cease to exist.
How easily we separate and divide and pull apart! Think of how many things divide people: skin color, personality, background, experiences, political opinions, nationality, language, how much money we make, where we live. And who has ever been able to bring together people in all those categories? Who or what could possibly hold all of them together? Left to ourselves, we only join up with those who are like us, who speak the same language, who live in the same places, who share our opinions. But even in a single congregation, it is highly unlikely that we would all be together and share anything in common, let alone a lot of things. We are all here, not because we are the same, but because we have the same Christ. And no matter what any individual congregation looks like, think about the whole Church of Jesus Christ, from every tribe, people, language, and nation; from every historical moment, from every area that would normally divide people. What people tear apart, God joins together by His Spirit, which is illustrated at Pentecost in Jerusalem. We all hear of the mighty works of God in our own languages! It is only Jesus, in whom all things hold together, that we are held together in one Body, the Church, with Christ as the head. He alone makes peace and reconciles all the breaking, falling-apart things in this creation.
While it’s not the most important point to be made about the cross, perhaps, consider Jesus’ crucifixion. Consider the shape of the cross, as it stands in the soil of this earth. It looks like humiliation, shame, defeat. But Paul says that in this man all things hold together. His cross stands between heaven and earth, as He makes peace between sinners and the holy God. He reconciles us to God by covering our sin in His blood and righteousness, so that when God see us, He sees us only in the holiness of His Son. He holds together heaven and earth, God and man, in the body of His flesh. He is not just the Word by which all things were created, or the eternal Son; He is also the Man Jesus, born of His mother Mary. He can hold all things together only because in His flesh the fullness of God dwells bodily. Fully God and fully man, He is the one mediator between God and men.
But His cross also stretches out from side to side. He separates your sin from you as far as the east is from the west, in order to join you back to your creator, and to each other. He holds all His people, all who believe; He knows those are His, and He joins us all together in this one body. He holds you to Himself. He has washed you in baptismal water, joined you to His death and resurrection. He put His Name on you and gathered you, with all Christians, into one single, holy communion.
As we finish out this year in the Church’s calendar, we are not only reminded about the end of this age, subjected to sin and death, but we are also reminded about the consummation and the reconciliation of all things in Jesus. He is, even now, bringing all things together in Himself. So as you are gathered here around His Word, He holds you together. When everything is coming apart in your life: your body, your health, your finances, your family; when everything is coming apart in the world; it is Jesus who holds your life. Even when our bodies finally fail, and our lives come apart in death, even then, He holds your life within His resurrection life, waiting for the day when all things, in heaven and on earth, are brought to their consummation. He is not only the beginning of this creation, He is also the firstborn from the dead, the beginning of resurrection life and the new creation. He holds all things together now, and He will hold them together until the day when He delivers all things over to His Father so that God may be all in all.
As He gives you His Body and Blood this morning, it is the assurance and the promise that He is not only holding all things together, but He is holding you together. He holds your life. He holds your family. He holds the world. He holds all things. All things. All things. All things.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 11/18/22