Toorak Uniting Church

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God Seen and yet Unseen

Colossians 1: 15 – 23
Rev. Dr Christopher Page
Pentecost 9
21 July 2013

<B> </B>Christ from the Apocalypse of St John by Salvador Dali
Christ from the Apocalypse of St John by Salvador Dali

"If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED

I have never been overly interested in trying to prove the existence of God. I think from an early age I just assumed that there was more than me and humankind in the universe. I have no idea where that came from. It didn’t come from my family's religious culture, or from going to church regularly, (we were C and E…. Christmas and Easter Christians) but somehow or other the sense of God and the divine was implanted in my DNA.

But let me be clear that that sense today is very different from what I experienced as a child and "thank God" for that. If I still had the sense of an all-powerful being that lived in heaven and could make happen anything HE liked to happen on earth, then I would be in a very different place from where I am now. In fact, I would be a very different person than I am now. And I suspect I would not be a "believer" or a minister any longer. But thankfully my faith, my ideas, my understandings have evolved. I have been able to pass through the stages of faith I mentioned a few Sundays ago; from enchantment, through disenchantment and re-enchantment.

The Sacred, the Divine is Invisible
So this morning I am confronted with a text, a Bible reading that really calls me to think seriously about the nature of this God I have spent my whole life in the presence of. That’s something that is helpful as I live and understand what I mean when I use the word God. I think that we often forget that the word GOD is not a name for something, but almost a "catch all" for that which we cannot name. I don’t find it easy when a person says, "God told me this or that… or God wants us to do such and such…" "Really," I feel like saying, "What is for me the centre of life in the universe communicates to you in a way that is open only to the chosen few."

From my experience of life and from my understanding of the Bible and the ancient religious texts, God is "invisible" to our human understanding and our consciousness. That doesn’t mean invisible to our sight, but invisible to our consciousness and even our understanding. Okay, before you have the chance to disagree with me, the reading this morning said:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible; whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers, all things have been created through him and for him.

Now I know that it seems logical that the writer of this letter to the Church of Colossae was talking about Jesus of Nazareth, but I think he has thrown his net much wider; he is talking about "the Christ consciousness," that is, the spirit that is alive in the world and of which Jesus of Nazareth is an expression, a fulfilment, a mover and a shaker, who embodied that life-giving spirit and consciousness.

It is clear from life’s experiences that the presence of God, the awareness of the sacred and even the brief glimpses of the divine in life are in-visible. First, they are not seen with the naked eye, which for most is obvious, but secondly, they are not, and I say sadly, not available to those who are bound and in service to a culture like ours. The God of hope and life is invisible to those who serve the god of the contemporary world in which we live. However, here is the glimmer of hope. The invisible at times becomes visible. The indefinable sometimes can be briefly definable. The indescribable can occasionally be described. And that is what the author of this letter is trying as best he can to communicate.

He is saying that because of the life, message and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth our lives have been "Christed." That is not an expression we often use; but our lives can be shifted and transformed because the invisible presence of God has been shown in the person of Jesus. As our commentator says

As this awareness in the human mind grows and strengthens, life becomes more liberated, joyful, peaceful, and love-dominated. The fear which creates isolation and despair begins to diminish in thought and feeling. You are free to live the life you were born to live — as a child of the Spirit in a love-filled and supportive universe.

The Invisible becomes Visible

And that is what I believe the Colossians commentator is saying. That the Creation has seen in the human Jesus an expression of the divine. That there is no separation between the sacred, the realm of God and the "profane" (for want of a better word), the realm of creation to which we humans belong. Does Jesus show us all of the Divine? Well, it may not sit well with some, but I don’t believe he does. While it is true that the writer says:

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.

That is really a statement of what one might call Creation Spirituality. The capacity to see divine life in all of life; seeing sacred life in all of life….. Life is no longer divided between these two worlds, but is one seamless whole. We can live in a world that is not estranged from the one who created it.

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him; provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.

But there is a cost to living within this new vision and that is we are no longer shackled to the promises of the world in which we dwell: each day promises us a new world that hears and sees life differently.

The story is told of two men, a businessman and a farmer, who were walking down a street in the centre of Manhattan in New York City. The businessman turns to the other and says, "Did you hear that?" "No", says the farmer, "What was it?" The businessman walks over to the edge of the kerb and picks up a dollar coin. As he shows the coin to the other man he says, "That’s what I heard, someone must have dropped this." They keep on walking when suddenly the farmer says, "Did you hear that?" "No," says the businessman, "What was it?" The farmer walks over to a smallish tree planted near the edge of the kerb and takes in his hand a small cricket. "This, didn’t you hear it?"

Somehow or other the world, through the embodiment of "the Christ", is alive with new meaning. The in-visible becomes visible; the in-audible becomes audible; the indescribable can at times have a form and shape that brings life alive and we see what was impossible to see before.

© Rev. Dr Christopher Page, 2013

Comments or suggestions on this page appreciated by email, Thanks.