Weaving the Church Together

Colossians 4:7-17

“Final Greetings.” It’s a phrase that sort of suggests Paul’s pretty much done writing the important stuff, huh? But the words at the end of Paul’s letter also contain helpful truth about the nature of Christ’s Church.

First, it points to the importance of visiting people in person.  In the days before email or the postal service, Paul sent his letter with a messenger, Tychicus.  But it wasn’t only to relay information.  Tychicus’s personal presence with the people of Colossae was also meant to “encourage your hearts.” (Col. 4:8)

Second, all the names and implied circumstances signify the variety of stories God is writing throughout the world, and also the unity of all of them as part of one subversive movement.  There Jews and Gentiles, prisoners and free people.  There are the churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis, as well as the particular ministries of Nympha and Archippus.  Each of them holds a piece of the puzzle, and none but God sees the whole picture.

Paul’s letter was intended for a variety of church communities with a unified purpose, thus also encouraging us: “You are not alone.”  All of Jesus’ people, across town and across the globe, are being woven into God’s much larger story.

For reflection:

1. The Gospel is about people, not just abstract ideas.  Who in your sphere of influence needs to hear the good news that the grace of God conquers the demands of the world?  Can you graciously show that to someone this week?

2. In Jesus, the Word of God became flesh.  The mode is crucial to the message.  Sure, emails are okay.  But there’s no substitute for personal contact.  Whom is God urging you to be in direct contact with this week?

Many blessings,

MM

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Prayerful, Salty, and Growing

Colossians 4:2-6

Sometimes life goes the way we plan. Many times it doesn’t. But Paul’s circumstances never made him deviate from his life purpose–to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom. Here, he continues to move from his description of God’s kingdom and its implications for our lives, to how we can join in proclaiming God’s kingdom to the world.

Paul talks about prayer three times in this short passage.  Prayer is the most effective aspect of the proclamation of the gospel.  Prayer properly puts us in the posture of submission to God’s will for how the gospel will be shared in the world.  Moreover, when we’re aligned with Jesus, the Holy Spirit empowers us to be the proclaimers that we are commissioned to be as God’s people.

Paul also uses “saltiness” as an analogy for how to share the good news of God’s kingdom.  Now, sometimes people are described as “salty” when they’re bitter or grumpy, usually about something they’re upset about (like the Dodgers losing in the 10th inning to the Mariners because of a walk-off balk!)  But here, Paul uses the analogy to describe how the people of God add something pleasing to the broader culture; something desirable to taste, making it easier to ingest the spiritual food which will ultimately nourish them.

Finally, Paul reminds the early church to not let their life-situation deter their service.  It’s sometimes easy to look at the past through rose-colored glasses.  “They had it figured out,” we might think.  Or, “They had a special dose of God’s Holy Spirit.”  But when we read Paul’s letters carefully, we realize that life was as “real” for them as it is for us.  They struggled.  They became confused.  They doubted.  In the same way, church culture can sometimes seem so polished that we forget that we are also a motley collection of saved sinners.  That is precisely why the way we live out and proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom in that context makes our proclamation to a world who has not really experienced it all the more necessary, and all the more powerful.

For reflection:

  1. Prayer:  If you have a regular practice of prayer, describe it.  If not, what kind of practice could you begin this week?
  2. Saltiness: In what ways can you help shape the culture’s perception of Jesus’ people in the way you live a “salty” life?
  3. Growing: Since we’re all saved sinners, our lives are a process of growing into the people God created us to be.  What destructive tendencies is God calling you to leave behind?  What life-giving gifts has God given you that God is calling you to embrace?  How can this letting go and embracing enable you to proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom?

Want to read ahead for this Sunday?  Check out Colossians 4:7-17.

Many blessings,

MM

The Christ Familia

This week we looked at one of the more controversial passages in Colossians. But context is key and Paul is skillfully subverting the foundations of the Roman Familia. If you are a Christian – the true authority of the family is Jesus himself. And if in the Roman Familia the Father has all the power, Paul is saying not so in the Christian home, because Jesus is the true master. Paul is walking a fine line here. He takes one of the most basic Roman institutions and reshapes it around Jesus, who rules the family with self-giving love. So, while Paul doesn’t critique the Roman house structure outright, he speaks to the reality that Jesus, Messiah, demands that it be transformed, almost beyond any recognition for any Roman living in Colossae. It is the Christ Familia. A family ordered by the lordship of Jesus Christ.
 
So you can only imagine how this speaks to us now. If the Christian household is different… if Paul is changing the status quo of how we live in our homes… what are the implications? Certainly, people are going to notice. They are going to wonder what kind of “ORDER” is provoking this? Where once there was judgment and fear, now there is grace and peace. There is greater emphasis on all people as members of Gods family.
 
You know, if we are honest there is an American Familia order that exists and is often at odds with the way of Jesus. Cynthia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh in their commentary of Colossians say this: 
 
Life in America is like life in a cult. We’ve been recruited into behaviors and cultural patterns we did not consciously choose … Think of what it is you and your family chase. Is it this new order Paul speaks of… Respect, love, obey, honor, not embittering your children, doing what is fair and right? Or do you and your family chase cultural patterns you arenconsciously choose. Theygo on to say,The bulk of our population is dreaming the same dream. It’s a dream of wealth, power, fame, plenty of sex and exciting recreational activities. (Colossians Remixed by Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat.)
 
Paul is asking, “Who rules your home? Is it Christ? We are all bombarded by temptations to live the American Familia. To chase that dream of more money, recreation and power. And yet Jesus says there is not life to the fullest there… just as there wasn’t in the Roman order of familia. Life in America is often so hurried, frenzied and rushed. But Jesus calls us to slow down and be present with others and with God.
 
Many of us who have families are ordering the year ahead. Consider prioritizing the Christ Ordering which pushes back against the patterns of our culture.
 
*Regular Weekly Worship
*Daily table Fellowship with your family
*Weekly table Fellowship with other families
*Rest and weekly Sabbath
*Self-giving love exhibited to neighbor and friend. 
Blessings,
Pastor Aaron

Old Self, No Self, New Self

Colossians 3:5-17

“Put to death!”

That’s a pretty strong way to make one’s point, don’t you think?

Most of us don’t think of being in life-or-death situations all that often.  There are exceptions, of course.  Professions like police and military create more life-or-death situations than others, perhaps.  Also, people struggling with illness or injury, or people in certain violent areas of the country or world think about their life or death, to be sure.

But how often do we think about our spiritual life as one of “life or death?”  Paul puts it in those terms.  In Colossians 2 and 3, he reminds those who are in Christ that they “have died with Christ” and have also been “raised with Christ.”  Now here, he exhorts us “put to death” that which leads to death, while “clothing ourselves” with that which leads to life.

There are three essential sections to this passage: Old Self, No Self, and New Self.

  1. Old Self.  Before one finds life in Christ, one’s earthly self is perhaps all that matters to them.  The problem is that the earthly self has an insatiable appetite, which is why feeding it alone eventually reveals itself to be a futile exercise.
  2. No Self.  Of course Paul doesn’t deny our existence or even our individuality.  But his language in verse 11 is specific: “there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”  The labels we inherit from our earthly cultures are made null and void in Christ.
  3. New Self.  Therefore, we are able to live out Christ’s virtues (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love) freely, without fear and without the futile motivation of serving our own needs.

In other words, because Christ is all, and is in all, when we are poured out for others’ sake as he was, he fills us with the fullness of his own life (see Col. 2:9-10)!

For reflection:

  1. What aspects of your “old self” are you ready to “put to death.”
  2. What aspects of your “old self” would you rather not let go of?
  3. What labels do you carry?  How does finding your identity in Christ set you free of those labels?
  4. Of the behaviors Paul lists in vv. 12-17, which do you find easy?  Which do you find difficult?  How can these more difficult virtues guide you in your prayer life?

Many blessings,

MM