If you’ve learned anything about me over these past five months it is probably the fact that I am a little obsessed with West Virginia University. Granted, it is my alma mater and I am very proud of my education there. However, I am about as engrained into the culture of WVU as many of you are when it comes to Kentucky or Louisville.
I can name our greatest wins and losses with ease. The discontinuation of the Brackyard Brawl, to me, is the elimination of a great Thanksgiving tradition. I’m doing everything I can to teach Noah how to do the “first down cheer” and how to chant “Let’s Go Mountaineers.” And, yes, I may have purposely worn a gold and blue shirt to church the day after WVU defeated Kentucky to go to the Final Four in 2010.
I’m so obsessed with WVU that Abbi might be right to question if I can imagine life without the Mountaineers.
All of us have something we are obsessed with. It could be a football game to be played this afternoon. It might be some hobby we find relaxing. It could be our favorite piece of technology. It could be our jobs. It could be any number of things. What all these things have in common are that we are willing to schedule our lives around them. We even give these things a lot of influence over how we live our lives and relates to others.
So, imagine some of those things that take up much of your time. Can you imagine what your life would be like without those things? Now, let me ask you another question. Can you imagine your life without Christ involved in it?
This might seem like a simple question. We know and love Christ. However, the question really is not that simple. So many of us, in our churches and world today, live as if Jesus does not matter after 12 p.m., on Sundays. We live as if the life of Jesus Christ is not important to how we live and love others. Authors Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola touched on this in their book “Jesus Manifesto.” They wrote, “Something is wrong when it is easier for some Christians to think of the world without Christ than the world without Bach or the Beatles or Bono.” In other words, it is easier for us to be more concerned about losing the cultural influences in our lives than it is about wondering if Christ is truly at the center of who we are and seek to be.
This happens when we allow the things of the world to take the place that Christ deserves and must have in our lives and in our communities. Sweet and Viola say something else that is equally challenging. They write, “When we dethrone Jesus Christ from His rightful place, we tarnish the face of Christianity and redefine it out of existence.” This happens when we remove Christ from having influence and saying that Christ simply doesn’t matter to us.
So often we forget that our first love is Christ. We forget why Jesus matters in our lives, our families, our churches, and our world. True, we may recognize the importance of Christ in our head, but we sometimes forget the power and transformative hope of Christ in the depths of our soul. When this happens, we have a difficult time proclaiming the very hope that we seek and need to be defined by.
Indeed, we need to refocus ourselves, our communities, and our lives around the person and life of Christ. We must be willing to remember who Christ is, so that the depths of Christ’s love will be life changing for us and those who we encounter each day. On this Christ’s the King Sunday, we need a refresher on the majesty of Christ so that we might seek a deeper relationship with the Lord in our lives.
Colossians 1:15-20 gives us the words to refresh our memories of why Christ matters. These words are a hymn from the early church that likely predates this letter. It might have been an early confessional hymn, similar to the Apostle’s Creed we recite each week. Paul or one of his associates, it is believed, edited the hymn in order to bring a deeper focus onto the fact that Jesus Christ’s life and ministry has a purpose for the church and defines who we are.
The hymn starts by starting the Christ is the “visible image of the invisible God.” Jesus is God personified. He is God. We’ve allowed this fact to get diminished over the years, Sweet and Viola point out. Our focus on the human aspects of Jesus – his love and care for others – has come at the weakness of our attention of his divinity – the power behind his actions. Jesus did the things that he did in his earthly ministry not to make us feel better about ourselves, but so that the name of God may be known and glorified. We must remember that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. We cannot separate Jesus from the divine, so that when we see Jesus we do not just see a human, but we also see the Son of the Living God.
This is important for us. John 1 points this out. In Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God came down and resided with his very people. We do not worship a distant God who is absent from us. We, instead, worship a God who humbled himself by taking on humanity’s weaknesses, so that we might experience renewed life through Christ. Truly, God is with us in the person of Jesus Christ.
As we regain a focus upon Christ’s full nature, we are reminded that Christ existed before the beginning of time. He was present at creation and had an active role in seeing the world come into existence. Christ was the wisdom that guided creation into being. Not only that, but everything was created for the Lord. We were made to be in a relationship with our Lord. We were made for worship and to give praises to God, not just on Sundays but everyday by how we live. Since all things were made to relate with Christ, it is Christ who holds the world together by being the reconciler and offerer of hope into our world.
Jesus is everything. For this and more, Jesus Christ is our Lord. This is something we cannot forget, but it is something we often ignore. We place a lot of attention on the fact that Jesus is the author of salvation. This is true, but he is also the Lord of all things and every thing. Jesus is not just the one who saves us from our sins, but Jesus is also the one who seeks to have true rule and guidance over our lives. This is a powerful claim, because it reminds us that all the things in this world that we place our trust in will fail us. Only Jesus will not let us down. When we claim Jesus as Lord, we see that Christ leads us into what it means to love our families, to care for our world, to be centered on the hope and peace of Christ, how to share it with others, and so much more.
Jesus is our Lord, and that is especially true within the life of the church. We can never forget that Christ is the head of the church. Often we have the tendency to believe that it is our favorite program, or agendas, or tradition that truly shapes and guides the church. None of those things, like the things that seek to have power over our lives, can truly define what it means for us to be the church in our world. We must allow Christ to define how we seek to be the church today in our communities that surround us.
To refocus on the fact that Jesus is the head of the church reminds us that everything we do and say as a body must reflect the character and love of Christ. What we do must be to the glory of God, to build each other up, and to proclaim the hope of Christ in places of darkness. To claim Christ as the head of the church means we must be willing to go where Jesus leads and to be challenged by Christ’s desires for us and his church.
We can do this, as the hymn states, because Christ is the offerer of true reconciliation. Nothing else in the world can offer hope. Only Christ’s love and grace can do just that. It was a love that was evident upon the cross, when Jesus took our place and died our death. The resurrection sealed the promise of hope for all who would believe. Only when we trust in and claim Jesus for who he truly is can we experience the life-changing and life-giving hope of the Lord and reflect the image of Christ in our lives and the world.
Without a doubt Jesus matters today. Jesus always matters. There is a depth to Jesus that is beyond the understanding of words. Jesus is not merely a teacher. Jesus is not merely a friend. Jesus is not merely a guide. He is all of that and more. He is our Lord. He is our Savior. He is our Shepherd. He is our Everything.
On this Christ the King Sunday, we have an opportunity to refocus our lives and communities around the love of Christ and what Jesus desires for us. Jesus is truly all that we need. No other Lord or Shepherd will bring us towards the desires God has for us. We need Christ. We must be defined by Christ’s love, not just in our personal lives, but also in how we seek to be the church here in Latonia and in how we engage the world today.
No matter who we are we all need this reminder of who Christ is and why Jesus matters. We must daily focus ourselves and claim Christ as who he is for us and our church. The season of Advent, which begins next week, is a great time for this type of renewal. Advent calls us to slow down in the busyness and reflect upon why Christ matters and why it matters that in a sleepy town known as Bethlehem a child was born that changed how we relate to God and each other.
In a season that can so often be about the things we buy, what if we were to say “not this year?” What if we said this Advent and Christmas that we will slow down and focus ourselves on our love of Christ and the hope found in his words? What if we said that this season would be more about being re-centered on why Christ matters than about being the first in line for sales?
What would happen if a community of believers said that we would be about daily renewal and life-long yearning for Christ and to allow our love of Christ to define everything about us?
What if we said from this moment forward by our words, our actions, and our deeds that Jesus matters?