He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 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. – Colossians 1:15-16
I am hearing this passage from Colossians today as one of those Christian koans that has the punch to wake me up out of my egoic stupor. It makes no impact on my intellect; my mind doesn’t know what to do with its assertions. But something about it intrigues my soul, makes me wonder, makes me reach out.
Christ as the firstborn for whom all things in heaven and earth were created could, by a huge stretch of credibility, make sense if we were just talking about one region in our world. Stretching credibility to the breaking point, it could conceivably apply to our whole world. But we’re not talking just about our world. We’re talking instead about the ever-growing vastness of the known universe. We’re not just talking about earthly kingdoms. We’re talking trillions of planets in trillions upon trillions of star systems across a universe that even now, with all our new, sharp telescopes is still well beyond our grasp.
The image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, ought to be vast, more powerful than anything we can imagine. But instead he is just a man, a Hebrew peasant in an occupied country on the back side of beyond. He is unremarkable to anyone except possibly the local petty dictator. His era and place – First Century Palestine on planet earth – is long gone.
How can a man, a man who died when he was just a little older than my oldest grandson, thousands of years ago, be the image of the invisible God? How do we look into him to see all created things? That’s the koan. That’s the question that, if we sit with it and allow it to work on us, will probably change our consciousness.
Jesus was born billions of years after the creation of the Universe. How, then, is he the firstborn?
What is his nature? The man taught love and forgiveness. He healed and blessed. How is this the blueprint of the Universe? How is the consciousness, the non-dualistic understanding whose outbreath is love and forgiveness, the grounding of all of creation? How is it expressed by planets and stars?
How is it expressed in the image of a crucified king – a ruler more powerful than any ruler alive ever? We have an image: a king who was hung on a cross, exposed to the elements and allowed to bleed and suffocate to death, and who was then reborn? How does that image guide me? How does it reflect my nature?
How is it the blueprint of me? Where in me is the Christ who is the image of the invisible God? Where is my own, individual fingerprint a reflection of the firstborn? How do I live more into this essential truth of my nature? How do we all, as the body of Christ, live it out?
Photo: From Wikipedia
Retable (triptyque, volets ouverts) : Passion du Christ (XVe)