All in All

       I grew up in a pretty different kind of Episcopal congregation.  There was no Hymnal 1982 in our pews.  Instead, we sang modern praise and worship music accompanied by a Julliard trained musician on pipe organ.  The theology expressed from the pulpit and in Sunday school was in line with evangelicalism of the 1990s.  When our youth leaders embezzled all the money in the youth ministry budget and the whole thing fell apart, I found myself active in Young Life.  There, in the basements of various friends’ houses, we sang the same kinds of songs as in church on Sunday, but to the accompaniment of a college student named Joe Garfinkel on the acoustic guitar.  While I am glad to have expanded my understanding of the abundant love of God since those days, I do sometimes miss the music of my youth.  One song that still makes its way into my head from time to time is entitled “All in All”.  I would now quibble with the individualistic language of the lyrics, but that issue aside, those words speak a truth that is worth remembering.  “You are my strength when I am weak/ You are the treasure that I seek/ You are my all in all/  Seeking you as a precious jewel/ Lord, to give up I’d be a fool/ You are my all in all/ Taking my sin, my cross, my shame/ Rising again I bless your name/ You are my all in all/ When I fall down you pick me up/ When I am dry you fill my cup/ You are my all in all.”

       “All in all” came to mind this week as I read through the Colossians lesson for this Last Sunday after Pentecost, commonly referred to as Christ the King Sunday.  In nine verses, Paul uses the Greek word for “all” ten times.[1]

  • All the strength
  • Endure everything with patience
  • The first born of all creation
  • In him all things were created
  • All things have been created through him and for him
  • He is before all things
  • In him all things hold together
  • So that, he might have the first place in everything
  • In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell
  • Through him God reconciled all things

The vast majority of this lofty vision of the King of kings comes to us from an ancient creedal statement that was probably set to music and sung by the early followers of Jesus.  In it, we hear that they saw Jesus as both the creator of all things and redeemer of all things.  Yet even in this very spiritual image of Jesus, they are also clear that in Christ, all the fullness of God dwelt on earth.  Jesus was, for the earliest Christians, all in all.

       This vision of Jesus as all God and all human is also seen in our Gospel lesson this morning.  If you haven’t been paying close attention to the liturgical calendar, hearing the crucifixion on a random Sunday in November might have been quite jarring.  If we recall that this Sunday is kind of like New Year’s Eve, however, it makes a little more sense.  Next Sunday begins a new liturgical year.  Advent brings Year A, as we begin to prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus, and so this Sunday’s lessons both highlight the kingship of Jesus and help us put a bow on the story of his life that we’ve been walking since back in June.  Everything we’ve heard since Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem has led to this.  On the cross, Jesus proclaims both his humanity as he dies and his kingly divinity as he offers forgiveness to those who crucified him and welcomes the repentant thief into paradise with him.

       As we make the transition into Advent and making preparation for the very human birth of the Christ child on Christmas, it behooves us to remember this both/and, all in all, nature of Jesus.  As we look ahead to the anniversary of the December 11th tornadoes, perhaps there is some solace in the reality that Jesus is both the creator of all things and the redeemer of all things.  As the busyness of life ramps up with cooking and cleaning and travel and parties and shopping and cooking and cleaning and end of the year work requirements and cooking and cleaning and everything else, we are blessed this Sunday with a reminder that Jesus is all in all, and, thanks to Paul’s words to the Colossians, we are gifted with a blessing to carry us down the road.  “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

       The same King who welcomed the repentant thief into paradise, welcomes us into right relationship.  The same King who was born in a manger as angels cried out “Glory to God in the highest” leads the choir of angels in songs of thanksgiving every time one who has fallen into sin repents and returns to the Lord.  The same King whom God sent to restore all things will continue to help each of us recover from the pains and heartbreaks that life can bring.  And the same King who forgave those who put him to death, forgives us all our sins – known, unknown, and those done by the systems in which we find ourselves.  Jesus took our sin, our cross, our shame, and on this Christ the King Sunday, we bless Christ’s name as the King of kings, the Lord of lords, our creator, our redeemer, and our all in all.  Amen.

[1] Thanks to Jennifer Wyant for pointing this out.


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