Note from CM: Back in 2011, we did a series called “Easter People.” I’ll be re-posting these on Sundays during this Easter season.
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We’ve had many posts here at Internet Monk commending the use of the church calendar for spiritual formation. When we follow the Church Year, we live in the story of Jesus.
- We anticipate his coming in Advent.
- We celebrate his incarnation in Christmastide.
- Our mouths drop in amazement at the revelation of his glory in Epiphany.
- We learn to walk with him to the cross during the forty days of Lent.
- We experience the high drama of Holy Week, reliving the Passion, from the midday darkness of Good Friday to the mysterious, surprising dawn of resurrection grace on Easter Sunday.
- For fifty days in Eastertide, we try to wrap our minds around the fact that Christ lives, and because of him, so do we.
- We watch him pass from earthly sight to take his throne on Ascension Day, and then celebrate the birthday of the new community our risen, exalted Lord creates on Pentecost.
- For the rest of the year, we learn to live day by day as citizens of heaven and messengers of his Good News in the world (Ordinary Time).
We have just entered The Great Fifty Days of Eastertide.
Easter is not simply a day, but an entire season of celebrating the presence of the risen Christ and learning to walk in newness of life. Last year, during this season, we did a series on the Gospel stories about Christ’s appearances after the resurrection. This year, we will focus on texts that point us to the new life that is ours in him, and how we may live that out in the world.
We begin with Colossians 3.1-4:
Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (NASB)
I will make a few comments on this passage, and then invite your participation in discussing its implications for our lives as “Easter People.”
- This passage forms a transition between the section in which Paul warns the Colossians against following false teaching (2:6-23) and the section in which he encourages them to walk together in ways that fit their new life in Christ (3:5-4:5).
- As such, this passage serves as a theological summary which grounds Paul’s exhortations. These are the indicatives out of which the imperatives flow. Here Paul reminds them of their true identity as Christians before he talks to them about how they should live that out in the church and the world.
- Paul is reminding them of their baptism as the concrete action that changed their lives. See 2.11-15; also Romans 6:1-4.
- What happened to them? By God’s grace, through faith, by means of baptism, they died to their old life. To use another image, their old life was “cut away” from them, as is the flesh in the act of circumcision (2.11). Furthermore, the God who raised Jesus from the death, raised them up with him into new life, forgiving their sins and overcoming all the powers of evil, sin, and death that had held them captive (2:12-15).
- Having been “raised up with Christ,” their new life now is “hidden with Christ in God.” That is, their identity as God’s people is not defined by adherence to certain religious practices (2:16-17). Nor are they marked out as God’s people through ascetic disciplines or ecstatic experiences (2:18-19). It is not by following codes of moral regulations that they are identified as belonging to God (2:20-23). Instead, their “life” — their status as God’s people, accepted by him and recognized as members of his forever family — is found solely in their living relationship to Christ. They are members of God’s new creation, citizens of a realm that is now “above” (out of sight), but that will one day be “revealed” (made visible in glorious fashion in this world).
- The Colossian Christians are therefore to “set [their] mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” This does not mean that they are to walk around all day thinking about “heaven.” It means they are to base their identity before God and their perspectives on life in this world on what God has done for them in Christ, and not on the kinds of “earthly” practices that lead to spiritual bondage. Being a Christian and living as one is not, at its root, about religious requirements, ascetic disciplines, ecstatic experiences, or moral codes (what Paul warned against in ch. 2). It is about Christ, being united to him, and being a living member of his new creation.
These are my cursory thoughts on this passage. As “Easter People,” we live out of our baptismal identity. We have died, not only to sin, but also to all false ways of trying to relate to God and be identified as his people. Instead, by God’s grace through faith we have been raised up as new people in a new creation, united to Christ who is our life, and freed from bondage to the “elementary principles of the world” (2:20) through forgiveness and Jesus’ victory over the powers. We find our identity in him alone.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think?