…through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things… --Colossians 1:20
For my wife, who works in retail, the Friday after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday,” will be a busy day. At least the owners of the small shop where she works hope it will be. I understand that “Black Friday” originally got its name because it was the day that retailers hoped to sell enough to put them in the black for the year.
The Gospel lesson for this week’s “Christ the King” Sunday takes us to another Black Friday. To that awful Friday we in the church call “Good.” To the Friday when we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. The writer of Colossians tells us that Jesus’ gruesome death somehow reconciled all things to God. In other words, that Jesus’ death on the cross puts all our accounts – debt ridden and overdrawn by human brokenness and estrangement from God – in the black. Forever.
But, to ask a good Lutheran question, “What does this mean?”
The Gospel of Luke raises this question in a backwards kind of way through the mocking words of the leaders, the soldiers, the inscription on the cross and the derisive words of one of the criminals being crucified with Jesus. Their challenging words lead us to ask what, exactly, does it mean that Jesus is the “anointed one”, the Messiah, the savior who brings healing, wholeness and restoration not only to the oppressed Jews, but to the whole world?
Traditionally, many have understood Jesus’ death on the cross as a sacrifice that somehow appeases God’s anger at human sin. In more recent days, theologians have turned this around, understanding the death of Jesus as God’s sacrifice given in love to overcome the suffering and death caused by blood-thirsty human anger; and human divisiveness, hatred, violence, injustice and oppression. On the cross, God identifies fully and completely with all human suffering and death, and overcomes it. This seems consistent with the picture Colossians paints, and, for me, makes a lot of sense. A lot of sense.
But what does that mean? Is the promise of the cross just some insurance policy for the day we die? No! It is so much more than that! Because God has acted in Jesus to reconcile the world to God’s self we are able to face the brokenness of our lives and of the world around us with a bold confidence. This is the same kind of confidence Psalm 46 bears witness to when it says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear thought the earth be moved and though the mountains shake in the depths of the sea.” That bold confidence gives us the motivation, the courage and the strength to join God in the work of bringing healing, wholeness and restoration to a world that always seems to be in turmoil, and to proclaim with praise and thanksgiving all that God has done for us in and through Jesus Christ.
Thanks for reading!
On the cross, God, in Christ, has balanced your accounts and left you “in the black.” How might this shape, influence and inform your daily life?