I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth. Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great:
He was revealed in flesh, vindicated in spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.
Paul uses the words of a poem or hymn to explain the mystery of our faith. The hymn stresses the humanity of Christ and the universal nature of salvation. It reminds us not so much of Jesus’ birth but the fact of Christ’s humanity and that the arena of humanity was where Christ carried out his work and mission. This first line points us towards Jesus’ death. The second line, contrasts ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’ pointing us to the risen Christ. It speaks to us of the completion of Jesus humanity as death is overcome through his resurrection. Line three continues this thought with reference to heavenly powers. Lines four and five shift the focus to the effects of the mystery within humankind – the focus develops from Christ to mission. ‘Among the Gentiles’ and ‘throughout the world’ remind us on the universal nature of the Gospel. Belief is the human response to Christ and proclamation is both the consequence of belief and the responsibility of the believer. The hymn ends with Christ exalted in glory.
The hymn articulates the mystery of our faith by reminding us of the centrality of the Christ-event but also reminding us that human response and responsibility is essential in the missio Dei. As surprising and unlikely as it may seem God invites us, despite all our faltering steps of faith, to be necessary partners in God’s mission. The hymn reminds us of the intimate relationship that exists between Creator and creation which has been re-established through the incarnation, death and resurrection of God’s Son. It is a hymn about restoration and wholeness – the reconciliation of God and humanity into a unified relationship through the human experience of Christ.
Calling God, you invite us to be partners in your mission to tell the story of Jesus and all that his life, death and resurrection means for us and for the whole Creation.
Sending God, you entrust us with your message of restoration and wholeness guide our faltering steps of faith that we may be witnesses of your reconciling love. Amen.
The Rev’d Lindsey Sanderson is the minister of the East Kilbride and Hamilton Joint Pastorate in Scotland.