Hidden In Christ
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What does it mean to be hidden in Christ? What does this mean to our identity? The question of identity is a rather large one. With what or with whom do we identify ourselves? In certain places we’re very much identified by what we do. “What do you do?” is a question that is asked very on when getting to know someone. In certain places it’s been said that where you went to school and where you go to church are even more important markers of identity. “Where are you from?” is a question that’s asked quite often in terms of our identity. If you’re of a particular background living in a particular place you might have experience with the question “Where are you really from?” and just shook your head.
Are we important? Do we matter? These are big questions! Who are we with?
“I’m with the band.” Have you ever heard that one? I had my “I’m with the band” moments in the first decade of this century. Through someone from church I had come to know a guitarist from Memphis who had played with the house band at Hi Records (Al Green was most famously with this label). He had played along with some other session musicians on an album by a singer called Cat Power. We got to go to Detroit where Cat Power was playing at a multi-day street fest – music, food. We were given VIP passes because we were “with the band.” They allowed us into the VIP area at the side of the stage. They allowed us backstage which gave me the opportunity to meet Sir Mack Rice who had sung with Wilson Pickett in The Falcons and who wrote “Mustang Sally” and “Respect Yourself” in his Memphis years. Not long after Cat Power put on a show at the Phoenix and once again we were on the list – bypassing the line of ticket holders and getting to hang out in the dressing room. Heady stuff and completely unfamiliar! One felt very set apart and honoured in a really public way. I found myself thinking “I could get used to this!”
I’m with the band. Who are you with? Who is with you? The thing is that often our identity is based on these sort of very public and visible things. What you do. How much money you make. What you own. Who you know. Who you are with. Who is with you.
So who are you with? Who is with you? Paul writes to the church at Colossae and tells them that ‘for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossae was a place where public displays of honour and privilege went a long way in determining one’s identity. What does it mean that your life is hidden in Christ? Let’s pray to God as we seek an answer this morning.
The story of God as we find it in our Bibles is a story of God being with us. We start off in the Garden of Eden and read about God walking in the evening breeze, which is a beautiful scene. It would seem that this was something God did regularly with the people he had made. The scene is unfortunately not that lovely because things had gone wrong for Adam and Eve and by extension humanity. They wanted to go their own way. Their need for God was shunted aside in the self-quest for knowledge. They hid. They were ashamed.
When we think of the story of God reconciling, redeeming, delivering humanity (and indeed not just humanity but all of creation), we see a story of God being with. It’s important to pay attention to the prepositions! So when Moses is leading the people of Israel out of captivity in Egypt, Moses makes this rather bold command of God – “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here? For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people unless you go with us?” (Ex 34:15-16a) Now maybe it wasn’t so bold considering that God had just promised to go with Moses and the Israelites and all who went with them. God’s presence went with them in the form of a fire at night and a pillar of cloud by day. God’s presence went with them in the tent where God would meet Moses. Later on God’s presence was found in the temple that Solomon built.
Until such time as we get to Christmas, and we celebrate Immanuel – which as Matthew helpfully points out means “God with us.” It does us good to sit with these truths. To set our mind on things above like God is with us in Christ and in the Spirit. To ask what does this mean? To be amazed again and again. To be thankful. When we get to the end of this whole story (which is not of course and end at all but a beautiful beginning) we are promised to hear a voice saying “See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them…” (Rev 21:3)
God with us. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” as Paul puts it earlier in Colossians and you have this wonderful reciprocal in-ness. Christ in you, the hope of glory. Your life is hidden in Christ in God. I saw this illustrated very well with Tupperware.
What does this mean? In Christ’s life and death and life and exaltation and promised return, we who follow Christ have been raised with Christ, our old self has died with Christ – and we see this enacted in Baptism where we die to self and are raised with Christ and in so doing we find life the way it was meant to be lived; life that is not just a promise of something to come after death but life for now; not life that is just getting by or hanging on (though I know it seems like that some days and that can be ok too) but life lived with the risen and reigning Christ in us and us hidden in Christ. Does that fill you with joy?
It should. I pray that it does and if it doesn’t pray that it does. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, sings the psalmist. Renew a right spirit in me. Amen. We sing that too.
What we have here is the answer to what someone has described as the two existential questions that we begin to ask around Grade Six. Here they are – “Who am I?” and “Do you like me?” I can attest to this very well myself. I changed schools for the only time in my life (geographically speaking) when I finished grade 5 at Whitfield PS in Toronto and started grade 6 at Paisley Central School. I wondered if they would like me. Thankfully I had people around me from my earliest memories who showed and taught me who I was as far as God is concerned and gave me a name that meant I would never forget. Being beloved of God is not something that we ever come to an end of understanding – particularly when it comes to the question of who am I? We ask am I what I produce, am I what I consume, am I what I do, what if I lose my job, what if I fail, what if I’m not good enough, am I the clothes that I wear, the music that I listen to etc. etc. Just as someone names us, God also names us and he names us beloved. Do you like me? 'Does God like me' is a question that came across as we asked for questions for these weeks. Does God like me? God likes you so much he wants to be with you. God likes you so much he wants to hang out with you. Here is our identity in Christ. A new creation! Do you want to be made new? Do you feel that something is askew? This is how Paul puts it in 2 Cor 5:17 – “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Not only does God like us, God delights in us. God is in the process of creating us newly. This is what the risen Christ with whom we are hidden in God is doing through the Holy Spirit in us. Do you know what God does when God is creating? God delights! Listen to this description of wisdom from Proverbs 8 – “When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep when he made firm the skies above when he established the fountains of the deep when he assigned to the sea its limit, so the that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” God not only likes you, God delights in making you new.
Seek the things that are above Paul writes. This doesn’t mean ignoring what goes on around us. What are the things that are above? These wonderful truths. Someone has described them like this – “the unending and unchanging love of God, the provision and power of God, the forgiveness of sins, the fact that God is with us in all we face, the adoption into the family of God for all believers.” You could think of many more. Seek these things. We’re seeking them together right now. Seek them when we’re together, seek them when we’re apart. Keep them in your heart. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you’re at home, when you’re away, when you lie down, when you rise. In other words all the time!
You have died and your life is hidden in Christ. It’s an interesting thing to think about our identity as hidden. So much of what we consider honourable is quite the opposite from hidden. Some can be really into reaching the maximum number of people with our words or our pictures or our videos. Someone has put it like this – “Can we enjoy a concert without capturing at least a part of it with our smartphones? Can we have a beautiful engagement without a hidden cameraman in the bushes to record the proposal? In short, without some sort of digital proof can something exist? It seems to me that it is increasingly impossible to conceive of something without footage. As the internet adage goes, ‘pics or it didn’t happen.’ We seem to only value what can be witnessed by others of shared socially.” While I don’t know that it seems we only value what can be witness or shared socially, the writer makes a good point. This life hidden with Christ in God is something that’s unseen. It happens in the quietness of our rooms, or our places of worship. To many there might not seem anything inherently honourable in loving one’s enemy or dying to self (self-regard, self-interest). When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. “The Glory of Love” is not just a Pete Cetera song. The glory of self-sacrificing forgiving love. This life hidden with Christ in God looks like something though. Paul uses the imagery of clothing in verses 12-15, which is what we’ll end with here:
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”
In this way the life that is hidden in Christ becomes plainly visible and evident to all. May each and every one of us be counted as those so hidden with Christ.