Last year, on Christmas Eve, The Boston Globe offered a story about a man by the name of Bob Yearwood who for over 50 years had been the verger of Trinity Church in Downtown Boston. Now, if you don’t know what a verger is, don’t feel bad. You are not alone. The term verger is an old, rarely used term which actually goes back to the early days of the Christian Church. Today it is still a word used in some circles such as the Church of England or the Episcopal Church in the United States. A verger takes care of church facilities from a maintenance perspective but they also have an expanded role in that they are responsible for preparing the sanctuary and other church spaces for services such as worship, weddings, communion or a baptism.
Again, Bob Yearwood had been the verger of Trinity for over 50 years and the article was a way of celebrating his legacy, service and his amazing dedication. Over those years, he had done everything from minor repairs inside the church, to landscape work outside the church to making sure the church was ready for high moments of worship. Bob even found time to play one of the Wise Men every year in the annual service that focused on the unusual visitors from the East who brought gifts to the Christ child.
What I liked most about the story of Bob Yearwood was what one person said of him. That person’s description became the title of the article which was simply this “He’s the glue who holds it all together” (Thomas Farragher, Boston Globe, December 24, 2019)
All of us can relate. We can all name family members, work colleagues, sports teammates, dedicated members of community groups or even folks in our church that are worthy of being described in the same way that Bob Yearwood was portrayed. They are the critical people, the “can’t live without them” folks, the key cogs in the organizational, structural or family wheel that truly are the “glue that holds us together”. We can’t imagine life without them in our midst, as a part of our team or at the heart of the organization.
Let me invite you for just a moment to hold that thought “of the glue which holds all things together” in mind while I transition to our text for today from Colossians. In Colossians chapter 1, Paul writes to the young church in Colosse, a church to which he had never been filled with people who in all likelihood he had never met. One of the reasons Paul writes to them is to help them in a struggle they are evidently having as they with their Christology which is to say their understanding of Jesus, who he really was and how he related to the other beings in the heavenly realm.
Part of their problem was that a dominant thought of the day seemed to be that Jesus was on the same level with other holy entities such as the angels but not necessarily on the same level with God. In turn, Colossians at least in part and our text in particular offers Paul’s strong attempt to speak to Christ’s supremacy. Paul wants to leave no degree of ambivalence, Christ is not to be understood as merely on the same level with other spiritual beings. Christ is above all, has existed from the beginning, is God in the flesh.
As Paul tries to communicate this, he makes a statement at the end of verse 17 which I love. I think it is such a helpful way of expressing who Christ is as the great apostles says, “He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together.” (New Living Bible)
“He holds all creation together”, or said another way, “Jesus is the glue that holds us all together”.
Jesus is the glue that holds us all together. Think about that for a moment. Jesus is the one above all things. Jesus is in all things. Jesus is the one who is at all times holding all things together. Remember that story that I started with today about Bob Yearwood and all that he had done at Trinity Church for over 50 years? Think about how he kept things running and on track and about how that work of Bob was often overlooked? Christ plays that same pivotal role in our world. Christ is involved in all things, at the heart of all things, holding everything together. But do we acknowledge it? Do we live with this reality? Are we daily shaped by this truth?
We have been talking about freedom throughout the month of July. What we have been reminded of is that freedom does not mean independence but rather dependence and that freedom comes with responsibility to both God and others. At work in all of this is the clear reminder that we must embrace our freedoms with a strong dose of humility. It is so easy to live arrogantly. But, in the end, we have the blessings and freedoms of this life not because of what we have done and not because of what others have done although we all play a role. Instead, we have these freedoms and the blessings of life because in “Christ all of creation is being held together”.
This should cause us to walk a little more gently, to act a little less arrogantly, to approach others with a little more humility and in ever aspect of life and the created world to hear the voice of God in the whisper of the wind, the birds of the trees or the smile of a friend to say us “I am the one holding all of this together.”
As Zechariah 4:6 so beautifully says, success comes “not by our might or strength but by my spirit says the Lord.”
Back in the early part of the summer, Ann Marie and I got into watching The Great British Baking Show which comes on PBS and that is streamed on Netflix. I will confess that while I have always loved sports on television, I also enjoy a good cooking show in particular where competition is involved. Likewise, I have always enjoyed British television and so The Great British Baking Show quickly became a favorite and good nightly therapy in the early days of quarantine. One of the things about the show that stuck me was how often success or failure came down to one key ingredient. Sometimes contestants used too much or too little of a critical ingredient. At other times they forgot a needed ingredient all together. At other moments, they got confused and grabbed the salt when they should have reaching for the sugar. In the end, they could easily present the judges with some of the most visually stunning pies and cakes the world had ever seen but if the right ingredients in the right measure were missing it wouldn’t matter.
That is a good lesson for life I think. The world works best and our life works best when the right ingredients are involved in the right measure. Colossians says Christ is this critical, can’t live without, ingredient in the world. Christ is the binding agent that holds it all together.
When we understand and affirm that it is Christ holding the world together and when we live, with humility in a way that shows that we understand that every element of creation sings of this truth, then we will find the perfect recipe for living well. Amen.