Christ in you, the hope of glory

Colossians 1.15–28


…sacraments are not things we possess; rather, they are relational events and personal encounters among people and God. These encounters are always embodied. It is the human body in its physical, social, and contextual specificity that is the ground for sacramental encounter. — Andrea Bieber and Luise Schottroff, The Eucharist: Bodies, Bread, and Resurrection 

The Uniting Church acknowledges that the continuing presence of Christ with his people is signified and sealed by Christ in the Lord’s Supper or the Holy Communion, constantly repeated in the life of the Church. In this sacrament of his broken body and outpoured blood the risen Lord feeds his baptised people on their way to the final inheritance of the Kingdom. — Basis of Union, Uniting Church in Australia, 1992 


I was a very shy kid. So, on the first day of each new year at primary school, I used to sidle anxiously into the new class to face the new teacher. Almost invariably, we’d be asked to write an essay on ‘What I did on my holidays’. 

So, what did the Waltons do on our holidays? 

We went to the Northern Territory. We saw lots of interesting things. (At primary school, I’d be losing a bit of writing steam by now…) 

One thing we saw was Kata Tjuta. Here’s a dawn photo of Kata Tjuta that I took from Uluru:  


In the language of the Anangu peoples of Central Australia, Kata means ’head’ and Tjuta means ‘many’. Kata Tjuta: ‘Many Heads’. Can you see the ‘heads’? So far, so good. 

At some point, a question will naturally arise: whose heads are they? Our guide to Kata Tjuta was a young woman; she didn’t know the answer. It is men’s business. No woman is allowed to know whose heads are represented here. I’m a man, so surely I know? I don’t know either. It’s a mystery; I’m not allowed to know it, because I haven’t been brought up in Anangu ways. 

This is not just knowledge for men alone, it’s secret men’s business. The mystery of this place is kept for certain men only, Anangu men. 

Yet it’s perfectly fine for me to tell you as much as I have told you. Male or female, we are allowed to know as much as this—that Kata Tjuta means ‘Many Heads’—because this is as much as children know. We white people may know what Anangu children know; we white people are considered as children when it comes to the ways of the Anangu. 

Let’s turn to our reading from Colossians today. Paul writes:

God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The Anangu hold the mysteries of Kata Tjuta; we hold the mystery that is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’. There is a very important difference between these two mysteries. Remember, Paul wrote

God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Until the death and resurrection of Jesus, the mysteries of the God of Abraham had been entrusted to the Jewish people alone. Now, it was no longer secret Jewish business. It was Gentile business too. ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ is everyone’s business, it’s human business. This was the radical breakthrough of the early Christian movement. 

‘Christ in you’ is Jesus, strung up on a Roman cross. 

‘Christ in you’ is Jesus, executed as a criminal, raised on the third day. 

‘Christ in you’ is Jesus, the crucified criminal lifted to the right hand side of God. 

‘Christ in you’ is this Jesus as Lord, in the place that had been occupied by the Lord Caesar who governed the Roman world. 

‘Christ in you’ is the One who had descended to the lowest depths, and was raised by God to the highest heights. 

Who could possibly be left out? Who could have descended lower than Jesus? No one. So he is able to lift even the lowest of the low to the highest place, to their true place in the presence of the holy God. 

God’s love extends to everyone. ‘Christ in you’ is a promise for everyone, not just for certain people. 

The ‘hope of glory’, the gift of eternal life with God, is for everyone. And if the firstborn of this new life was a crucified criminal, then eternal life is open to anyone. 

The ‘you’ in ‘Christ in you’ is plural, Christ in youse, Christ in y’all. It’s Christ in us. The Christ in me is the Christ in you. This has led my thoughts to Holy Communion: Christ in youse, y’all, as together we receive the broken bread and the poured-out wine. Christ in us, as we share this Holy Meal. 

I was reminded of something else on our holiday: the indigenous experience of time is different from ours. We are very conscious of past, present and future. We know about cause and effect, it works for us. Our very technology depends on it—we couldn’t have celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing yesterday without that very useful concept of linear, unrolling, time. 

However, it’s not the sense of time that indigenous people have. They carry the lives of the ancestors with them, so in a sense everything is present. If something is very meaningful for them, they see it as closer in time than another, more trivial, thing. 

Spiritually, this can be a great help to us.

When you think about it, don’t we do something similar? I went to the chemist’s yesterday. That’s pretty recent. Yet my Christian conversion, my wedding, the births of my children are all closer to my heart than going to the chemist just yesterday. They mean far more to me than going to the chemist. I’ll forget about that, but I won’t forget the things that I carry around within me, the things that make me who I am, now. There is something valuable for us to learn here… 

Interestingly, this indigenous experience of time is similar to the ancient Hebrew concept of time; and therefore to Jesus’ experience of time. So when Jesus says, ‘Eat this bread, drink this wine to remember me’, he doesn’t mean for us to remember in our heads that he did it all of two thousand years ago, way before cool technologies like smart phones and personal computers were invented. 

The events of the Last Supper, of Calvary, of Easter Day are vitally important and central to the life of faith today. So spiritually they are ‘now’, they are with us, in our present experience. We are re-calling them, re-connecting with them, we are re-membering the Body. 

We are the Body of Christ, sharing the Body of Christ. 

Christ in us, the hope of glory: once we realise that we live in union with Christ, we see that his story is our story. We can illustrate this with the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving. Soon, we shall pray: ‘hatred and violence shouted Jesus down’. We shall speak of ‘the night he was betrayed’. We too live in a world filled with hatred. We too may have experienced betrayal or violence. We may also have hated someone, or betrayed a friend. Yet, in the words of our prayer, Jesus 

laid down his life for the world he loved,
and broke the chains of evil and death.

This isn’t history; this is our present. This is Christ in us. 

Jesus gave us this simple meal that we might remember that this is now. 

Christ in us…the hope of glory. So we look to this hope of glory; just as Christ was raised from the grave, so we are given new life. We shall pray

Great is the mystery of our faith:
We are crucified with Christ;
it is no longer we who live,
it is Christ who lives in us.

We shall also pray that the Holy Spirit may make ‘these gifts of bread and wine’ be for us ‘Christ’s saving body and blood’. And we shall ask for even more:

May this same Spirit unite us
with all your people on earth and in heaven.

There’s ‘the hope of glory’. In this Holy Meal, ‘Christ in us’ is ‘the hope of glory’. Re-member Paul’s words:

God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

So, let us enter this mystery in the mystery of the bread and wine, the mystery of the body and blood of Christ, the mystery of Christ in us. 


West End Uniting Church, 21 July 2019

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Filed under Eucharist, RCL, sermon

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