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Monday, May 12, 2014

Scripture Reading: Colossians 2:6–23
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

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)

My graduate school advisor would often say that asking the right question is more than half the battle. One thing I have always admired about the Apostle Paul is his skill in raising critical questions. The questions he raised cut to the core of an issue. 

In this passage from his letter to the Colossians, Paul asked, “If with Christ you died . . . why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?” It seems to me that this is the question that all Christians should ask themselves, especially in this season of Easter. Having accompanied Christ in his suffering, death, and resurrection, do we find that what Christ underwent for our sake has made a difference in our lives? Do we live differently because of it?

Paul thinks we should. He hates to see us carrying on according to the norms of the world without critically evaluating them in light of the new reality for which Christ died. 

Norms have a way of framing our day-to-day existence so that we don’t even notice them. Most of the time we don’t notice what they keep in and keep out, what they make possible and prevent. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection calls into question all the norms of this world—norms that would allow an innocent man to be put to death, religion to enslave and not to liberate, the poor to have no hope for a better life. 

It seems to me that if we follow Paul’s example of asking and asking until we ask the right questions, we will run less risk of trapping ourselves by the norms that Jesus came to call into question.

Almighty God, give us eyes to see the discrepancies in your world. Give us the insight to ask the right questions. Give us the tenacity to work for that day when all things will make sense according to your law and not anything less. For the sake of your Son, we pray. Amen.

Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life

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