The Hardest Question was an experiment in preaching the Revised Common Lectionary. All posting is finished, but the content will continue to live here in archive form. You can discover new content by former THQ curator Russell Rathbun at Question the Text.


Image of the Invisible?

What does it mean to be the image of the invisible God?

by Russell Rathbun

Epistle Reading: Colossians 1:11-20

For Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010: Year C – Christ the King Sunday

This is so much of what I want to hear: He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Of the Now

I like this text’s unshrinking dismissal of any power or authority other than that which proceeds from the Living God. This dismissal is not just about the world to come, or some kind of non-material after life, but is embedded in the blood and earth and death and life of the now.

I long for the reassurance that God, whom I have long been convinced has redeemed my soul, also redeems a living breathing us, freeing us in the midst of our cultural and political context.

Spiritualizing or Intellectualizing

Somewhere along my journey from passionate evangelical to intellectual-social-gospel-liberal, I absorbed the phrase: don’t over-spiritualize the text. Which I guess would be the tendency to let oneself off the hook when it comes to verses like, laying down one’s life for a friend, or give away all that you have.

I was supposed to take those things seriously. They were not spiritual metaphors, but concrete actions. Feed the hungry, care for the widows. Those are real things. I should be doing them, but somehow on my journey, I went from spiritualizing such commands to intellectualizing them. Like, giving away all that I have, meant adopting an anti-consumerist, small carbon footprint ideology.

Actually Doing?

I am to the point now where it is hard for me to see the difference between the spiritual and the intellectual if neither involves any actually doing of something. Whether over-spiritualizing or over-intellectualizing—the prisoners still don’t get visited.

No actual thing happens.

But it is not just me. The same could be said of God. For instance, what does it mean that, 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, if there is no actual peace?

The Hardest Question

The thing that gets me in this pericope, the Hardest Question that I think could take me to Sunday is this: What does it mean to be the image of the invisible God?

Russell Rathbun is a preacher at House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the author of Midrash on the Juanitos (Cathedral Hill Press, 2010) and the curator of The Hardest Question.

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