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Wingspan of the Soul – Br. Keith Nelson

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Br. Keith Nelson

Colossians 1:9-14

There is a subtle and mysterious power that begins to permeate the experience of someone who is becoming acquainted with the largeness of the soul – not just “the soul” as some abstractly beautiful idea, but with the largeness of his or her own inmost self. When Walt Whitman wrote the phrase “I am large, I contain multitudes” in his epic Song of Myself, he was perhaps following his own ecstatic muse toward a version of the truth we find in the letter to the Colossians. This letter, I confess, is one of the epistles I cherish most. When I read it, the most interior, intimate, and invisible part of myself feels so palpably enlarged – and empowered. Here is a truly expansive vision of Christian identity, perhaps best summarized in the single, breath-taking phrase from its third chapter: “There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.” All, everything, whole, full, fullness – these are the characteristic words of the Letter to the Colossians, words by which the reader becomes something more, someone larger than life, a person filled with Life beyond his or her own. 

This Christ whose heart of love is now the center and binding agent of the whole cosmos is the one in whom the soul discovers the true measure of its wingspan. For the author of Colossians – probably not Paul, but almost certainly a disciple of Paul’s spirituality – there is a direct relationship between the expansiveness we come to know by participation in this cosmic Christ and the empowerment of the Christian. The follower of Christ knows the power of God in Christ, a power that liberates in a world filled with powers that enslave, abuse, diminish and make small. 

May you be made strong
with all the strength that comes from his glorious power 
and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience 
while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you 
to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 
He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom
of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

Empowered; prepared; qualified; rescued; transferred. This list of verbs is a powerful antidote to a prevailing cultural narrative: “You aren’t adequate; you aren’t prepared; you aren’t qualified; you do not do enough; you haven’t accomplished or acquired enough; you, at your most basic, are not enough.” Here is the story seductively whispered by the power of darkness. This “power of darkness,” which can sound in the abstract so much like a shadowy force in a fairytale, is on the contrary all too concrete, especially when it takes up residence in our heads, in our hearts, in a relationship, a family, a workplace, a nation. 

But this is the region of unlikeness from which we have been transferred. This is the power of God in Christ, and the uniquely empowering vision of the letter to the Colossians: what the power of darkness tells us we have not yet earned, have not yet acquired, have not yet become qualified for has already been bestowed upon as an inheritance – the inheritance of the saints in light. 

May you be made strong. May you be empowered with all power (to translate quite literally!), all the power that comes from the glorious power of the One who is everything and is in everything. Endure with patience. Give thanks with joy. And know the full measure of your soul’s wingspan – the largeness of soul that liberates from all bondage. 

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