The Glorious Power of Surrender

This is a sermon that I preached on Sunday, 11/20/22, at Berkeley Friends Church. The scripture reading for this sermon was: Colossians 1:11-20 & Luke 23:33-43. You can listen to the audio, or keeping scrolling to read my manuscript. (The spoken sermon differs from the written text.)

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The image of the invisible God. Before all things, creating all things, all things hold together in him. Glorious power. He has rescued us from the power of darkness.

Jesus, God’s anointed one. The king of kings, lord of lords. Jesus, the emperor of the universe, in whom all things cohere. Glorious power.

He has rescued us and transferred us into a new kingdom, one with foundations that will never fail. In him, God is pleased to reconcile all things to himself, making peace through the blood of his cross.

The blood of his cross.

The blood of his cross, where Jesus was crucified with criminals. The blood of his cross, where Jesus was mocked and whipped and humiliated before Jews and Romans alike.

He made peace by the blood of his cross, as he was mocked by leaders, and soldiers, and even other criminals who were being crucified with him. 

Glorious power.

I have heard the story of Jesus so many times. I have become accustomed to the idea that Jesus, the glorious one, the king of Israel, the savior of the world, hung from the cross. I’ve grown up with this story. I’ve accepted it as normal. But do I really grasp what it means – for the image of the invisible God to be stripped and beaten and tortured and mocked and publicly murdered, all the while saying, “forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing”?

Glorious power. On the cross, Christ is enthroned. In his suffering, he demonstrates God’s power. By the blood of his cross, he defeats the power of sin, death, and the devil. He makes peace, and he prepares a place for us in a new kingdom.

This is what God looks like in human form. When John says, “for God so loved the world,” this is the love he is talking about. If we want to know what real power looks like, the author of Colossians says, “don’t look up to the thrones, look down to the cross.”

May you be made strong with the strength that comes from his glorious power – the power that allows us to endure everything with patience while joyfully giving thanks to God. Power as patience. Power as endurance. Power as bearing the hatred and violence of the world while blessing those who curse. Glorious power.

It’s one thing to accept the story as a fact, to acknowledge that Jesus lived and died in this way. It’s another thing entirely to process that this is what God’s kingship looks like. That this is what real might and majesty consists of. Making peace by the blood of his cross.

This is nothing like what I imagine power to be like. In the world that I live in, the world that I see around me, power is about doing unto others before they do unto you. It is about being on top. It is about imposing your will, rather than having others impose their will upon you. Yet Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

How can this be? Because the love he is talking about is Jesus. Glorious power. The image of the invisible God. Making peace by the blood of his cross. How does one make peace by surrender? How does one conquer a kingdom by love? How does one defeat the enemy through forgiveness?

I’m being quite frank and serious when I say, I don’t understand this. This is not the world I am used to. This is not the way of Berkeley, or the United States of America, or the planet Earth, as far as I can tell.

But we have it on good authority that this is the way of God. That in Jesus, we have a faithful image of what real authority, real justice, real love, real power looks like. He is the crucified king, the suffering servant, the peacemaker with nails in his hands and feet.

Glorious power.

Do we want to participate in this power? Do we seek to embrace the way of the cross, despite just how incredible it seems – so different from the way of the world around us?

Meeting Jesus at the foot of the cross, we realize what a radically different – what a radically dangerous – kingdom that God is calling us into. Great power, joy, and genuine peace – but also great risk. Not just metaphorical or psychological risk – but in a world of violence, selfishness, and fear, we face the real risk of being met with the same response that Jesus received.

This is why Paul encourages us in his letter to the Colossians, writing that we “share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” He reminds us that God has “rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.”

We share in the inheritance. We share in the peace that comes from the blood of the cross. We share in the glorious power, laying down our swords, taking up our cross, and crying out to God on behalf of our enemies – sincerely and with the compassion of Jesus – “forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they are doing.”