3D Devotional 7.19.2019

Colossians 1:1-14 NRSV

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
3In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.
9For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11May 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
12giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

This devotion is presented to you on the most important occasion of Peggy's and my 51st anniversary. I celebrate the day I married my best friend and the love of my life.

There are two issues I wish to deal with in this passage.
 
The first issue has to do with the double identification of the addressees as those who are “in Clossae” and “in Christ” in verse 2. This double identification suggests the issues to be dealt with in Colossae and the broader questions about Christian identity. The readers are located in a particular geographical area that is shaped by its religious, social, and political realities. All of this is in the sphere of Christ’s lordship. The question for the Colossians in Paul’s day and for us in the twenty-first century is how does the lordship of Christ impact us as we live in our particular religious, social and political environment. The phrase “in Christ” refers to the relationship of believers’ incorporation into and union with Christ. Again and again in various forms the writer will appeal to the implications of this relationship in order to persuade the readers to remain true to the Pauline gospel as they view alternate teaching and live out their calling in the social structures of their day. We, too, need to consider some of the dominant religious and social aspects of our culture that shapes us and what it means, in the midst of these, to be decisively reshaped by our relationship to Christ.

The second issue has to do with the thanksgiving (1:3-8) and intercessory prayer (1:9-12) that are not actual prayers but reports of prayers. Prayer of any type does not provide a warrant for using public prayer to preach or to direct subtle messages to the congregation. I remember a man who was called to the ministry in the United Methodist Church. He was assigned to me to be his Candidacy Mentor, which is a person to help a ministerial candidate through the year long entry process and getting a License to Preach in the UMC. During the process I noticed that he preached in his prayers. As matter of fact. much of what he called prayers were subtle and not so subtle messages and sermons to the congregation. Prayer is addressed to God and sermons and subtle messages are addressed to the congregation. The two are never crossed. God does not need anyone’s preaching. Though my intent was to help help the candidate, he did not seem to appreciate my observation that he filled his prayers with subtle sermons. However, his wife thanked me for trying to help him.  Listen to the prayers of people and you can tell if they are addressed to you or to God. “What is the big deal ?” you ask. It is one of integrity, honesty, and trust with the congregation and with God. It is essential to the effectiveness of teaching and preaching that the congregation sense that the exhortations addressed to them come from someone who has identified with their needs and is genuinely appreciative of their faith and commitment. This person prays thankfully and faithfully for them, and his/her prayers are directed toward growth and enrichment in their journey with God.

Holy God, thank you for giving us direction for our lives in Christ. Lead us by your Spirit that we may faithfully fulfill our commitment to Christ as we live in this world. Continually teach us to pray. Amen.

Ken Casey

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