Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The oddity of the way of Christ.

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." -Colossians 1:16

Such has indeed been the creedal confession of the church from the 1st century onwards: that the Christ we serve is also before all things, and responsible for all things. But let that doctrinal truth sink into the pores of the intellect for awhile.... brood on it, and then examine the way of discipleship this self-same Lord and King calls us to. Examine, for instance the British Columbian horizon; buttressed with the natural fortification of the coastal mountain range. Every morning these mountains are flecked with rich colors of pink , blue or dark green by the presence of the rising sun. Dew once more settles across every square foot of every couloir, penetrating the top layer of soil and stone that can bundle over the crust of the earth for square miles at a time. Thick stratocumulus clouds drape over the peaks and curl their way down over the treeline in a hidden dance, an aromatic artwork of fragrance and colors, wetness and life and silence. The floors of such lively slopes are blanketed each day by a fresh supply of citrusy needles, cones and leaves. Higher up, alpine meadows flourish with every sort of wildflower displaying their beauty for a hidden audience; honey bees never lacking in nectar. The ptarmigans cluck and preen their greyish mantle in a thick copse of bush and alderwood. Strawberries, blueberries and salmonberries glisten in the morning sun. The waxing of eloquence over one mountain scene could go on perpetually. There is no end to the richness of this daily vista, which we as Christians dutifully wind up in our profession of faith in "one Lord Jesus...by whom all things were made... (from the Nicene creed)." It is humbling, awesome and faith-stirring to ascribe all of this glory to the humble man of Nazareth. But far more baffling is the simultaneous call we hear from our Lord's lips even as He goes about His mighty work of sustaining the universe: "...any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple (Lk.14:33)" or "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Lk.6:20).

In Christ we are buffeted on every side by suffering, persecution, fears from within. We partake of His sufferings, His crucifixion. We battle long bouts of temptation, the weight of the world, sorrow, an enemy who in all seriousness wishes to damn us. The cost of discipleship overwhelms us because it demands all of us. This odd tension between crucifixion and glory would make little sense to me unless the history of the world ended in the resurrection. In the meantime, the treasures of the earth and the fullness thereof seem (if not doctrinally, experientially) off limits until the sons of God should be revealed. Not that we do not have access to every good thing, but that every good thing stands in the midst of a battle for the salvation of of the human soul. No soldier climbs out of the trench to exploit a fruit tree standing near by... not when bullets whizz overhead! Do we not experience similar things in our Christian life?

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