Tag Archives: Trinity 5c

Spiritually Advanced?

Nearly 2000 years ago, Paul wrote a letter to a small town in modern Turkey – and it still has something to teach (it supplies Sunday readings for 4 weeks!). Colossae: Founded on trade in sheep wool – fleeces dyed purple with a cyclamen based dye. The Church, with Gentile and Jewish believers, was established by Epaphras, probably himself converted in Ephesus. But there was a problem in the Church in Colossae; they were getting their faith wrong, in a way which mattered. We won’t worry too much about how they wanted to improve on the gospel, but let’s look at what Paul said in Colossians 1:15-28.

First, 1:15-20. Its all about Jesus. Jesus is how we see what God is like – is God remote, severe, judgemental, or is God a pushover, a sugar–daddy? Well, the answer (to those and lots of other ideas) is – look at Jesus. Get to know the stories about him. He’s friendly (to all sorts of people), very human, but also powerful, and has deep understanding and sympathy.

For the Colossians, Jesus might have been the start, but they wanted to “improve” this faith in one way or another. Paul isn’t having that. Jesus continues in charge, superior to the powers of heaven. It is Jesus who died to set us free, it is Jesus who is head of the Church, the source of its unity – an important point, because of division. [And whether you are a new Christian, or have been in Christian things for years, you don’t get away from needing Jesus, and the forgiveness he gives].

Then, verses 21-23 talk about how that affects the Colossians. Their past had been one of alienation – led astray by the false values of a corrupt society (does that sound familiar?). But Jesus (yes, focus on him again) had intervened to set them free by his death. They are not being allowed to get away from the physical – because of their delight in the metaphysical and “spiritual”, Paul ties them down to the actual, bodily death of Jesus. Their future depends on their holding on to their initial commitment to the gospel they once heard and accepted.

After the central and continuing importance of Jesus, and God’s purpose for the Colossians, Paul talks about his own role. He sees himself as entrusted with a message – not some secret knowledge to be passed on to initiates, but the gospel taught to believers openly. That is your message, too. If you know what Jesus did and does, don’t keep quiet about it. The glory is not some religious experience, but the presence of Christ among believers – the new life they share, and in which they grow in holiness and service.

There are lots of people who need to know these things: Jesus has to come first – in Church, in my life, in the way I do faith. There are many round us who forget, or don’t know, that without Jesus death for us, we are lost in the false values of a corrupt society. And there are those, even in religion, who do not remember the responsibility we have of sharing the gospel message, and living and working for it – even when that means suffering.

Tough Jesus? (Pentecost 6c)

This week takes us to Luke 9:51-62, which is interesting for what it tells us about Jesus.  It starts with his determination to go to Jerusalem – he “sets his face” (or, in The Message, “steeled himself”).  This is the tough Jesus, disciplined to the point of being hard on himself, we sometimes forget.

It contrasts with his reaction to an inhospitable Samaritan village.  (They, as Samaritans, would not assist those going to Jerusalem because of the dispute over God’s chosen location for worship).  James and John, nicknamed “Sons of Thunder”, want to incinerate them, probably drawing on the example of Elijah – 2 Kings 1.  Elijah may have been demonstrating the power of God against bullying force, but Jesus shows the power of God in merciful restraint – and the group walks further for supper.

With the three would-be disciples, the tough side seems to return:

  • does the first candidate want to join in with Jesus success? or is he perhaps poor and wanting an easy life?  We don’t know, but are reminded that discipleship guarantees neither success nor freedom from care and trouble.  Jesus’ followers may share some of Jesus’ harder experiences!
  • Jesus wants the second to follow, perhaps seeing the good in him.  But is it that the good impulses lack focus, prioritisation and urgency?  How many people now avoid doing what God would call them to (and thus their real fulfillment) by rather aimlessly “doing good”?
  • the third is a volunteer, but looking the wrong way.  Christians have to accept forgiveness, leave behind the past, including bitterness and retribution, and move on.

Perhaps Jesus was aware that he dare not wait to collect these three because of the urgency of his journey to Jerusalem.  But we also have an urgency in faith.  The window of opportunity – to share faith, to be the Church God intended and needs for his plans for our world, is limited.  Things are changing – rather faster after the Referendum result this week – and more than ever we, like Jesus, need focus, prioritisation, and urgency of action.