“Beam me up, Scotty!” The bumper sticker just about says it all. ‘Get me out of here!’ (red shirts are dropping like flies and I’m next) ‘Take me some place safe’ (the USS Enterprise) ‘Take me someplace exotic’ (Space, the new frontier). Some place that is not here. Here where things are at best hum drum and at worse horrifically painful and utterly inexplicable, or maybe just somewhere in between.
Paul’s Letter to the Colossians puts forward the claim that we have already been beamed up. The Father ‘has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son’ (Col 1:13, RSV). Our life ‘is already hid with Christ in God’ (3:3). Some misled the Colossians into believing that they should focus on getting to heaven; Paul responds by reassuring them they were already there, they had already reached their goal in so much as they had been joined to Christ. “And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him” (1:21-22).
The Colossian Christians had indeed been beamed up, not by Scotty but by God through Christ. Yet they still found themselves here, on earth and in the flesh; they were, afterall, ‘hid’ in Christ, a ‘mystery’ () that awaited explanation (3:4). But what to do until then? ‘Walk worthily of the Lord’ says Paul, ‘put to death what is earthly in you,’ ‘continue in the faith,’ ‘clothe yourselves with love,’ ‘continue steadfastly in prayer,’ and “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’
As we heed Joel’s call to ‘rend our hearts’ and to ‘return to the Lord, your God’ this Lenten season, I’ll do so here with posts reflecting on how our journey through the wilderness of this season is peculiar. It is so since we’ve already reached our destination, our journey is possible only because we have already arrived. To pick up on Frances Young’s phrase, we have the soul of the exile, of the resident alien, only because we have already been transferred into the kingdom of God’s Son.
“If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col 3:1-3).