But VBS is not just about fun. Our goal is to teach the children to know God better. Each day had a theme. We learned that Jesus gives us courage! Jesus gives us hope! Jesus gives us direction! Jesus gives us love! Jesus gives us power!
Hopefully the children really heard those lessons and will carry them forward. And, of course, those lessons are not just for children! All of us benefit from hearing that Jesus gives us courage and hope and direction. All of us benefit from the reminder that Jesus loves us and empowers us to live faithful Christian lives.
The VBS lessons rightly emphasize the Jesus we can know in our personal lives, the Jesus with whom we can have a personal relationship, the Jesus who is always with us, helping us and loving us. Children need to know Jesus personally, and so do adults.
But there is more to Jesus than that, as our reading from Colossians makes clear. It is an incredible passage, in some ways the most impressive passage in the entire Bible. It is hard, but it is worth working through slowly. It reminds us about the true greatness of the Christ who dwells within each of us.
The first thing we read in our passage is that “Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God.”
We are all created in the image and likeness of God. In theory, we can get an idea of what God is like by looking at any human being. But God’s image in us is obscured by our sin. You can’t see a very clear reflection of God in me. But when we look at Jesus, we really can see what God is like.
But, the passage continues, looking at Jesus is more than looking at a kind of picture of God. When we look at Jesus, we are seeing God. What Colossians says, is “In Christ Jesus, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” “All” of God dwells in Christ. The “fullness” of God dwells in Christ. Jesus is fully God, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. We can know God in the person of Jesus Christ.
That is a big claim. But Colossians is not done.
The God who becomes incarnate as the man Jesus, the second person of the divine Trinity, is “the firstborn of all creation . . . . He himself is before all things.” And “in him,” in Christ, “all things in heaven and on earth were created, . . . all things have been created through [Christ], and for [Christ].” Then comes my single favorite line: “in Christ all things hold together.” If Christ were to take a vacation, creation would break apart and dissolve into nothingness. Thank God—and I mean that literally!—Christ keeps creation going.
Now we normally talk about God the Father as the creator of heaven and earth, and that is true and good. But Colossians teaches us that the Father does not create apart from the eternal Christ. The Father creates in and through and for the eternal Christ. And what we see in the human being Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Christ who makes creation happen, the Christ who holds all of creation together in an ongoing way. What we see in the human being Jesus of Nazareth is the underlying reality of all of creation.
That is a lot to think about. But Colossians keeps going. The one who creates is also the one who redeems. “Through [Christ],” through the one in whom all things hold together, God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”
Through Christ reconciliation has happened. Reconciliation is done. Reconciliation encompasses all of creation. The one who creates is also the one who reconciles. God the Creator makes reconciliation real. Thanks be to God.
Now I love all this stuff. I love thinking about the nature of God in Christ and what that tells us about the structure of creation itself. But claims about Christ as creator and reconciler can seem pretty abstract. They must have struck Paul the same way, because now Colossians gets personal. Colossians applies everything it has said about Christ directly to us. “You who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him.”
We, who were alienated from God, have been reconciled to God. We have been reconciled to God by God, by the God we know in Jesus Christ. Christ presents each of us, holy and blameless and irreproachable before God.
Hold onto those words, “holy,” “blameless,” “irreproachable.” That is who Christ makes us. That is who we are, in Christ. Reconciliation is what Christ does for each of us, while holding all of creation together.
Colossians makes one final amazing claim that brings us back to the lessons of VBS. Colossians reveals “the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations.” The mystery that has been revealed at last is that Christ is in us.
That Christ is in us may sound simple. It is not. It is not because everything Colossians has said comes together right here. Christ who is before all things, Christ who is the agent of creation, Christ who holds all of creation together, Christ who reconciles everything in heaven and earth to God, Christ who reconciles even us to God, that Christ is in us.
More, that Christ has been in us all along. Even when we seemed farthest from God, most alienated from God, Christ was at work in us, reconciling us to God, making us holy, presenting us to God without blame or reproach.
The good news is that the Christ we know in our lives, the Christ who gives us hope and courage and direction and love and power, the Christ we spent the week teaching our children to know better, Christ is truly God incarnate, Lord of the cosmos, reconciler of all creation.
That is a mystery so great, that is news so good, most of us cannot wrap our minds around it even though we have heard it a million times. God, the creator and redeemer of all things, loves us, abides in us, works with us, reconciles us in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ loves us with a self-sacrificial love, even to the point of death on a cross. God loves us as beloved children, empowered by Christ to stand before God without fear and without reproach, filled by Christ with hope and courage.
And so this morning I give thanks to God. I thank God for the week we had in VBS. I thank God for the children who joined us. I thank God for the chance to know Him as the God who creates and reconciles, as the Lord of the cosmos who also lives in our hearts. And I pray that we may come to know God better as Christ in us. And I pray in Christ’s name, amen.