Perhaps it may turn out a sang,
Perhaps turn out a sermon.

-- R. Burns Epistle to a Young Friend

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.  -- Colossians 2:16-17

You know Plato’s allegory of the cave, with those in the cave trying to determine that which they could not see from the shadows cast upon the wall which they could see.  Christ cast the shadows that are seen in the Law and the Prophets, in the rituals and festivals of Leviticus, and in the history of Israel. 

More than that, His shadow falls across all lands and peoples.  The myths, legends and folktales of every human tribe, clan, and nation carry glimmers and glimpses of the truth seen in the dancing shadow of the Word.  We can only take all of these things seriously when we recognize their limitations.  We understand that there are not many truths but One to which all the shades, reflections and fragments point. 

In place of “the substance belongs to Christ”, the KJV will say, the body [is] of Christ.  If we go out in the sun, as our bodies come between the sun and the earth, they throw a dark image upon the ground.  Apart from mirrors, photographs, still water, or some shiny surface, this is all a person may see of himself or herself.  We can determine the general shape of our bodies, but most of the details of our identity cannot be ascertained.  So it was with God. 

We had a very rough, very dark, approximate idea of how He was.  Then we saw, as it were, His face in Christ Jesus.  Truthfully, I do not know what the Lord looked like physically, but I know Him through His life, His words, and His works.  We know His love, His willingness to give Himself up for our sakes.  

One final thought:  imagine for a moment that a child walks out into the sun to play near the base of a statue.  For a time, his shadow is visible, but as the position of the sun changes, the shade of the statue falls upon him, and his shadow is swallowed up.  Is he now a captive of the lifeless idol above him? 

At times in life, we seem to be caught up in things, captured and held in thrall by the idols of this world.  Their dark shadows overwhelm us.  They loom large between us and the light, filling our near vision and causing us to fear.  All we have to do is step out into the light.  Once again we will see our image on the ground, and it will look like Christ. 

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