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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Today’s Reading | Colossians 1:1–14                   

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that 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. This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

For 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, so 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. May 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 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (NRSV)

I am grateful that letters are a key component of the New Testament. As I read once again these opening lines to the early Christian community at Colossae, I felt drawn to the vital affirmations that ground the faith we continue to share. Specific names help that happen.

While Paul was the central character in the growth of the Christian movement, there were many others. We hear of his coworker Timothy. And then there was Epaphras, who was likely the founder of the Colossian congregation.

From the very beginning, the Christian church has been a collaborative effort. Jesus had the support of the disciples whom he recruited, as well as numerous women followers. The letters of Paul and others in the scriptures record the names of particular women and men.

This diversity of leadership and participation was anchored in an undivided loyalty to Christ as the Lord over all of life. When our brothers and sisters in the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa felt their deeply faithful loyalty to Christ threatened in the early 1980s under apartheid, these verses from Colossians were a source of inspiration. This is echoed in the Belhar Confession, scheduled to be adopted by our own Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at the General Assembly in June:

We believe that God’s life-giving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God’s life-giving Word and Spirit will enable the church to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world . . .

Life-giving Lord, I thank you for the witness to your Word in the scriptures and the confessions. Empower our continued collaboration in your service, in obedience to our risen Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Written by Jeff Doane, Parish Associate

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