Proper 29C / Ordinary 34C / Pentecost +24

11May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16for 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. 17He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and 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.

Almost every time Christians gather together, we sing!  I was at a presbytery meeting on Tuesday evening and we sang.  – in Spanish.   The Hispanic Ministry of West Jersey Presbytery were leading worship for us. Familiar tunes, but a foreign tongue.  It was the realization that our faith in Jesus Christ crosses language barriers and national boundaries.  I have worshipped in Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Hammonton and heard hymns in other languages.  Yet, the worship was focused upon Jesus Christ and his Lordship.  Soooo…What is your favorite hymn?

This week, I googled favorite hymns and the following list came up:

  1. “Be Not Afraid”(1975)
    Composed by Bob Dufford, S.J.
  2. “Here I Am, Lord”(1981)
    Composed by Dan Schutte
  3. “On Eagle’s Wings”(1979)
    Composed by Michael Joncas
  4. “Amazing Grace”(1779)
    Composed by John Newton, E. O. Excell
  5. “Ave Maria”(1825)
    Composed by Franz Schubert
  6. “Prayer of St. Francis”(1967)
    Composed by Sebastian Temple
  7. “You Are Mine”(1991)
    Composed by David Haas
  8. “How Great Thou Art” (1885)
    Composed by Carl Boberg
  9. “One Bread, One Body” (1978)
    Composed by John Foley, S.J.
  10. “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” (1749)
    Composed by John Arnold (“Jesus Christ Is Risen Today”)

My guess is that we could spend the rest of our earthly days discussing what is the best or favorite hymn.  Our scripture for today is a hymn for the Christians in Colossae. A dangerous teaching was threatening the church at Colossae, one that lessened Christ’s role and undermined the new identity of believers “in Christ” Paul wrote to warn against this false teaching and to encourage the believers in their growth toward Christian maturity. He emphasizes Christ’s authority over all evil powers. Christians are united with the risen Christ, and therefore they share in his power and authority. Paul also encourages these believers to fight against sin, pursue holiness, and live as distinctively Christian households.  A reminder that the power of darkness will not last forever, but God’s Kingdom is coming and we need to follow Jesus.

The most recent group of members that went to Cuba talked about Bible study with members of the Placetas community, a visit to the Copey community to learn about farming and Sunday worship where familiar songs were sung including “Seek Ye First” and “We are Marching.”  During that visit and most visits there is more joyfulness than discussion of how bad things are in this communist governed country.  The church in Placetas is a place of joy and celebration that takes the apostle Paul at his Word.  They believe the song that Paul shared with the church in Colossae.  The Colossians Hymn should be the triumphant password of Christians everywhere –Cuba and America– not celebrating oppression or exclusivism, for that would be to take this hymn entirely wrongly. Instead, we ought to celebrate Christ more, celebrate him in ways that invite others to meet him and want to be excited. Christians don’t always have the most celebratory reputation, but Paul can’t seem to find superlative enough language to celebrate the work of Christ on the cross in putting all things right.

And that is what we should celebrate. Because of the cross, we can live in great confidence and joy that all the things that are so wrong will be made right and that Christ has already begun putting all things right. By inviting us into his kingdom, we are partners and co-inheritors of all things made right, and so we should work for justice and the righting of wrongs; we should work for peace and reconciliation, but we do these things because we know that all of this will be done in Christ.

Because of the confidence expressed in this celebratory hymn, Christians can work harder and longer for justice than any others, because Christ is our model. Christ, who went to the cross, began the work of making peace there, and that is a work he will complete. And so, we know we are on the “winning side” of this struggle, so we press on with joy and confidence, celebrating each victory in Christ’s name and mourning each act of oppression as an affront to Christ on the cross. Peace is our goal, and our leader went to the cross to secure it as the definite outcome. Let us be a people shaped by celebration, confidence, joy, and most of all, peace, because we know who Christ is and we are confident in his victory. As Julian of Norwich affirmed, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Knowing that all shall be well, how do we sing?
Knowing that all shall be well, how shall we worship?
Knowing that all manner of things shall be well, how shall we serve Christ the King?

Commentary provided by Mariam Kammell, Richard Niell Donovan, Sally Brown, John C. Lentz, Cameron D. Murchison and Philip Wingeier-Rayo.