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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Today’s Reading | Colossians 2:8–23
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a spiritual circumcision, by putting off the body of the flesh in the circumcision of Christ; when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it.

Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.

If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence. (NRSV)

This scripture warns against submitting our lives to external regulations: Do not handle. Do not taste. Do not touch. “These indeed have the appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.” Spiritual masters teach against seeking to transform our own lives through our own efforts. Even when our motivation is to become more God-like, when we rely on our own striving, our own character-building and ego-development, we are not surrendering ourselves to God’s Spirit to shape us or accepting ourselves as God accepts and loves us.

There is a teaching “If you want to grow spiritually, don’t do anything. Just notice.” Benedictine sister Suzanne Zuercher wrote,

Genuine conversion is not a task we can bring about. If we live our lives fully, we will be tested and tempered by such commitment until we are shaped into the person God intends us to be rather than the one into which we form ourselves. It is for us to come to knowledge of who we are, our light and shadow, our gift and compulsion, our instinct and our excess. Life teaches that information, humbles us, leads us to self-acceptance. . . . To become a full human being we need to become contemplative, alert, and aware of inner and outer reality as it becomes known to us moment by moment.

It is through God’s presence in our lives, and life itself, that we become who we are meant to be.

Loving God, help me accept my own creatureliness. Turn me towards you, who knows and receives me as I truly am. Make me friendly toward unwelcome aspects of myself and others. Increase my awareness of my limitations and submit them to your transforming love. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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