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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, May 15, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Colossians 2:8–19           

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. (NRSV)

I had a teacher once who said that everything was easy when you didn’t know anything. When you don’t know anything and then you learn one thing—wow, you know something now. The trouble comes when you know more stuff. The jar gets full; it’s hard to get anything else into it. You stop learning. You get stuck.

Philosophy is just an inquiry into the nature of knowledge, reality, and existence—things about which we are unlikely ever to completely understand. Philosophers and scientists both constantly find that new insights bring new questions; every time you throw light on something, there is something else out there in the dark that you can’t quite see. A lot of times, when you throw light on something, it calls into question the assumptions by which you determine your relationship to the world and to others. When this happens, you hit a challenge: can you accommodate this new knowledge, or are you bound by your past to reject it?

That jar of stuff we know can be as weighty as a ball and chain shackled around our legs. When we can’t accommodate new information, we are held captive by whatever philosophy we have allowed to determine how we view those relationships between ourselves and the world and ourselves and other people.

Science tells us an awful lot about the physical world. One thing science does very well is accommodate new information into the existing body of knowledge. When we leave the scientific realm, however, that accommodation can become a lot more grudging.

We need to develop that beginner’s mind once more, to go back, away from the don’t-eat-this-don’t-drink-that, artificial qualifications and disqualifications of thought and action arising from the imposition of accumulated orthodoxies at best only peripherally related to those simple foundational truths. Those things only serve to oppress, and our foundational truth is one of liberation and redemption: “When you were dead in trespasses, God made you alive together with him.” That’s a simple philosophy. That’s a good place to start.

Lord, return us to the mind of a beginner, free of encumbrance and ego, able to see the grace which you have given us, and able to extend that grace to others. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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