It’s October. Halloween Season. The time when people think of and imagine invisible things like ghosts and ghouls and goblins. What do you think of when you think of invisible things?
Rich Mullins was a singer, songwriter, and poet of my generation. Here is what he thought:
"There are invisible things. Like the light behind the earth that casts a shadow that we call night, like the sap that runs with life in the veins of trees that we think are dead, like the silence behind all the noise.
Like the great beyond, too great to be fit into the lenses of our high-powered telescopes. Like the atmosphere for birds, the ocean for fish, too present to be discovered, which we are a part of, and apart from which we cannot have life. Invisible things.
Things cut off from our senses - like Eden barred from our first ancestors - guarded, hedged in, kept away. The Spirit, the angels, the hidden realm, the secret kingdom, God's hidden work, and his mysterious ways. The things we dream of and imagine we remember, things we yearn for and curse and deny and yet hope for in spite of ourselves. As if a part of our true selves belonged to a real world and not the one our lesser selves have settled for and surrendered to ... or would surrender to if not for the persistence of those invisible things.
The things the visible world points to and grasps at, but cannot quite reach, cannot quite escape. And just when our smug, agnostic selves settle into some comfortable, manageable despair, something goes bump in the night, something hums in our hearts and sweeps us up out of the numbness and into a great longing, the unquenchable hope that we would just as well live without, if only life was possible without invisible things." (Release Magazine, 1994)
In the creed, we confess, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” Many people think that the only things that are real are the things that you can see and hear and touch. There are no spiritual or supernatural powers at work, only natural, only what you can see and experience around you. This leads to some bad ideas and even worse consequences. Like the idea that you've only got one crack at this thing, only one go-around, so you better look out for #1 and go for the gusto and get yours while the gettin’ is good.
But if we are only living in a natural, material world where we're just fighting to survive, there is no concept of God and what it means to live in God's good creation, let alone the new creation that is to come. There is so much more to this life than just what we can see, taste, and touch; what we can collect, earn, accumulate, and put in our bank account. We need a better idea, a better image.
Paul says in Colossians 1:15-20:
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created - things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
The image of the invisible God. The original icon, the eternal logos, the creator of the cosmos, the one who came from beyond the great beyond. The Incarnate One, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and in whom all things hold together. All things: that includes invisible things, like goodness, truth, beauty, and love. In him we see what love really is and where it comes from - the very heart of God. For God so loved the world, that he sent his one and only Son, for you, for me, for all.
Rich Mullins could have had it all. He was on his way to being the number-one recording artist in Christian music. But the invisible things of God kept gnawing away at him. So he left his status and celebrity and went back to school for a music degree, and then on to New Mexico to live on a reservation so he could teach music to children and share God's love with them.
Some say Christians are so heavenly-minded they are no earthly good. But the opposite is actually worse - to be so earthly-minded that you are no heavenly good. It’s our heavenly security in Christ that informs how we approach our neighbor in the earthly.
“Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-3)
The good news is that with our God there is always more: more than we deserve, dare, ask, or expect, more than we can see, hear, feel, or think. Grace and mercy, faith and forgiveness, salvation and redemption, heaven and eternity, the glorious kingdom of God with all its riches and treasures in Christ.
We thank God for all that we see - all the visible things our senses can perceive. But we thank God most of all for his Son, without whom we would be deaf, dumb, and blind to the invisible things of this world and the world to come. God, who said, “ let light shine out of darkness,” has made his light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.