Aloha Friday Message – July 8, 2016 – High to Low (and back again)

1628AFC070816 – High to low (and back again)

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Colossians 1:15-16 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for 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.

John 1:1-5 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Aloha kākou! Love to everyone! Today we look into this short excerpt from the letter of St. Paul to the church at Colossae is believed to be part of song – or more properly, a canticle – already in use. We don’t know exactly when or where this letter was written, but it seems that it was during one of Paul’s frequent imprisonments. You will recall last week we talked about the dangers and abuses Paul suffered while preaching the Gospel. For Paul, there is no higher calling than to be the slave of Christ. For Paul, there is no greater Master than Jesus the Christ – the Anointed One – of God. One of the most remarkable things to me in Paul’s ministry is that he not only was a missionary – carrying the Gospel to the World – and in addition a minister – caring for the spiritual and even physical well-being of the Church, but also he was an extraordinary theologian who gave the early Church many defenses against the heresies that so quickly flourished as the Gospel spread to so many different locations and cultural constructs. The letter to the Colossians is one of those theological gems that not only gives us insight to the kinds of heretical obstacles that arose then (and still persist in some ways even now), but also gives us clear instructions on how to counter those errors in teaching. The errors in this case derived from the teaching of some in the community of Colossae.

colossaeThere were some teachers at that time, teachers who did not carry any Apostolic authority, who were pushing the idea that in Christ there was a strong and necessary connection to the “Cosmos.” The stressed that certain “benevolent spirits,” angels, which had special astral powers – that is, they could share in a supposed metaphysical realm and control a variety of psychic and other paranormal activities. Angels, they posited, were worthy of worship, and that influenced them to use their “astral powers” to influence nature and even other persons. These pagan, cultic practices included austere restrictions about food, life-style, and other disciplines that Paul criticizes as detractions for the Person, Divinity, and Primacy of Christ. In other words, these people declared that one must connect with these “angelic spirits” to be able to commune with Christ and each other. There was a man in Colossae named Epaphras (ehPAFrus) – he probably was the founder of the Church at Colossae since Paul had not been to that community yet – and he sought out Paul to get help in dealing with this false teaching. Apparently the community was distressed by these ideas, but had not yet been given over to following them. (Implied in Colossians 1:3-8 and 1:23) It is the sacrilege of placing angels on the same “astral plane” as Christ that Paul blasts in today’s opening verse. Let’s take a look at what he means by those terms “things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers.

There is and was a strong tradition of Angel Hierarchy in Judaism. The Maimonides – the Mishneh Torah – lists ten ranks or classes of angels. In the Kabalah, there are ten archangels, each of which commands a choir of angels. There is also a well-known Christian Hierarchy of Angels consisting of three “spheres” and 10 “orders.” In those three spheres we have the names of orders to which Paul refers: Thrones, Dominions, and Powers. Rulers or Powers are sometimes translated as Principalities; this word is used to refer to either angelic or earthly governance. Some translations even list all of these as earthly authorities; however, Paul clearly is referring to the tenets of this heresy about angelic beings.

Angels are mentioned often throughout our Old and New Testaments. The concept of Angels as servants and messengers has always been popular, and that is the case today as well. In Colossae, however, the angels associated with this heresy against which Paul argued involved strict rules about ceremonies and festivals and even advocated circumcision as a necessity. There was a false asceticism (See Colossians 2:21-23) that gave the appearance of piety but did nothing to eliminate or even discourage extravagance and self-indulgence. As described above, angels were worshipped and could be manipulated to gain spiritual powers over others. As such, these beliefs created a downgrading of the role of Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God. These teachers also insisted that they possessed “secret wisdom” revealed only to them. These secrets gave them higher authority and stronger claims to the powers associated with those angelic beings which “ordinary believers” could not attain. (See Colossians 2:4-8). And of course, angels are generally invisible so they cannot usually be discerned through physical means. Hence Paul refers to “things invisible.” Paul pointedly reminds the Colossians that in him all things in heaven and on earth were created. There are some important implications in that.

Please reread the quotation from the opening of the Gospel of John: All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. NOT ONE THING includes, of course, the angels which El Shaddai-Olam – the Almighty Everliving Triune God – created. You may recall that recently we looked into Ephesians 1:17-21. It is in that passage that Paul encourages the Ephesians to allow their knowledge of Christ to grow “with the eyes of your heart enlightened.” There can be no person, being, thing, place, idea, or spirit that is superior to God or existed before God. We have being. God IS Being. In the book of Nehemiah, the prophet Ezra tells us this in Nehemiah 9:6 And Ezra said:  “You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you. We read also in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. Thus God is both Primary and Supreme in all things, through all things, for all things.

That God is Primary means that God had no “prior existence” because God is existence – he is I AM THAT I AM. He is the First Instance and nothing or no one precedes him. That God is Supreme means that God has no equal and certainly no superior. There is no person, being, thing, place, idea, or spirit that is greater than God. There cannot be because any claimant of being superior to God would be God, and not even God himself is superior to God.

Paul’s refutation of this troublesome heresy is a good reminder for us in these times of heroes and anti-heroes – even Heroes Reborn. We are too eager to attribute Divine powers to mere earthlings or even fictional characters, and sometimes even believe those attributions. We make the persons, beings, things, places, ideas, and spirits we invent or “discover through revelation” into disrealities – superstitious delusions embracing enhanced pleasure and prestige. “Many Voices – One Message” is an example of this. There is only One Voice; there are many ears hearing it and many minds and hearts processing it and – regrettably – the Message gets scrambled, misinterpreted, and misdirected.

Jesus and Jesus alone is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Let’s look again to the Gospel of John where he states very clearly in John 1:14-16 – 14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 15 (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) 16 From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

This is a hard saying. However, let’s close by looking at Colossians 2:9-10 – For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. And yet, we know that Jesus the Word, the Logos, became flesh and lived among us – truly from On High to down low; but we also know he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. That’s High to Low, and back again!

Please take a moment to look at Philippians 2:5-11, and 1 Timothy 3:16 for more evidence of the Primacy and Supremacy of Jesus the Christ of God.

Mahalo nui loa! A hui hou! (Try that Hawaiian Phrases link I gave you father up the page.)

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Remember to pray for our friends and relatives with cancer, for our nation, and for the defeat of the evil that pervades our world.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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