I like this text’s unshrinking dismissal of any power or authority other than that which proceeds from the Living God. This dismissal is not just about the world to come, or some kind of non-material after life, but is embedded in the blood and earth and death and life of the now.
I long for the reassurance that God, whom I have long been convinced has redeemed my soul, also redeems a living breathing us, freeing us in the midst of our cultural and political context.
Repeat from July 11
Prayer for Wisdom and Strength, a Reflection on Colossians 1:7-14Repeat from July 18:
Paul and Timothy (or perhaps other apostles writing in their names) give words to prayers of gratitude and of hope for the Colossians. As we read the prayer, we can think about our own congregations--how we originated, what gifts we exhibit and share, and what problems we face.
Paul prays that they will be filled with the knowledge of God' will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And he adds to this request the reason for it--so that they may lead lives worthy of the Lord, so that they may bear fruit in every good work.
But, he explicitly includes the recognition that wisdom and work will not preclude pain. Not preclude but means to overcome.
God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of Christ in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Provided that, a Reflection on Colossians 1:15-28
Last week's passage from Colossians ended with the reminder that God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins. Let us recognize that in order to need either redemption or forgiveness, we have been spending some time in the wrong kingdom.
This week's passage says more about the Son of God--the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, before all things and in him all things hold together.
[Tangent: I'm reading from the NRSV in which all of this is laid out in prose. Other translations present this passage as a hymn. I suppose the difference would affect whether I read this as Paul's original ideas or Paul's reminding the Colossians of something of which they were quite aware.]
In any case, we who came after them may read these lines as references to the Trinity. I had, anyway. Then, today, I read what was to me a new idea in Ronald Allen & Clark Williamson's Preaching the Letters without Dismissing the Law:
An example of a wisdom hymn or saying in Judaism regarding Woman Wisdom read, "She is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness" (Wisdom 7:26); and Wisdom herself claims, "Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me" (Sirach 24:9)...The church expressed its faith in the language of Israel's Scriptures.
According to Allen & Williamson, the term translated as "image" is in Greek, "eikon" connotes agency. Christ is the way that an invisible God can be disclosed to us. Further, as the firstborn, Christ "reveals not only God to us but humankind as well..." (15-21)
Back to the "in him all things hold together": the reconciliation came through the blood of his cross. We have been made holy and blameless and irreproachable (22).
Yet, we need to live up to the image that Christ provides for us. Paul adds "provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you have heard...." (23).
Paul is writing to an ancient congregation reassuring them and warning them, and his words still apply to us. Our congregation have their origin in the gospel, we are living out the image of God in our communities, we are held together by Christ, and we also need to be reminded that if our congregation begins to neglect our faith's requirements, then we will inevitably start to dissolve. Shifting from Christ to anything else would change what we would do, what we would be capable of doing.