The Lord is here
His Spirit is with us
As we rejoice in the gift of this new day,
so may the light of your presence, O God,
set our hearts on fire with love for you;
now and for ever. Amen
Reading: Colossians 2 verse 16 – 23
In today’s reading Paul adds two further warnings for the Colossians to the one Mark brought to us last week, the first is found in verses 16 and 17.
- 16: Therefore, do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17: These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.
There are two categories of criticism here:
- Eating and drinking.
Obviously, the Old Testament had strict rules on diet, but this comment extends the rules to drink as well, pointing to an ascetic life of bodily deprivation. Although Paul in his life and teaching recommends a life of self-control it is clear in his first letter to Timothy that he believes the criticisms made by the visitors to Colossae are wrong.
1 Timothy 4 verse 1 – 5
1: The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
2: Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
3: They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
4: For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5: because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.
- Religious Festivals
The pagan world in which the Colossian Christians had to live had many religious festivals with sacrifices to a multitude of gods. The great temptation was to adapt these events into church life. The criticism covered occasional, monthly and weekly celebrations.
We are not told whether they were being judged because they over indulged or because they were too strict in their diets. Likewise, we are not told what was going on in terms of religious celebrations and their relationship with the world around them. It doesn’t seem to matter as these things are only a shadow of things that were to come, the reality, the substance is only to be found in Jesus Christ. Again, we come back the eternal truth that, “In Christ alone, our hope is found”.
- 18: Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19: He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
Now Paul, using his metaphor of a sporting challenge, gives us an insight into the type of person who might bring these judgements on sincere Christians trying to live their lives in Christ. It makes you wonder if Paul has a specific person in mind.
Firstly, he delights in false humility. He believes in his heart that he is far superior in every way to his brothers and sisters. Some translations state that he insists on self-abasement which would infer that he practiced some kind of extreme ascetic life which he thought made him special and admirable. The Gospel asks us to live a disciplined and self-controlled life, but any kind of self-abuse is of this world and not of God.
Secondly he delights in the worship of angels. This can be understood in two ways. Either he was worshipping angels which is blatant idolatry. Given this early date in the history of the church this is unlikely. Or he believes that he was worshiping God in a similar fashion as the angels in heaven. Quite what he was getting up to is left to our imaginations, and I have seen some extreme expressions of worship in my time. Whatever he was doing was glorifying himself rather than his Saviour and to insist that he had an exclusive vision for the worship of God would lead him into judgement, rather than the Christians of Colossae.
According to Paul this man had lost contact with the Head, Jesus Christ through whom the church grows in faith, in grace, and in love, demonstrating that love to the world in good works.
- 20: Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:
21: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”?
22: These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23: Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Paul reminds his readers that when they were born again as children of the living God they died to the principles and values of the world around them, why then allow yourselves to be bullied into obeying a different set of rules that have no basis in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
In these unprecedented days we may lament the loss of so much we love and cherish about our church. Already bereft of a leader we have been banished from our building, denied the privilege of meeting together to celebrate communion, to sing and pray together in corporate worship, and denied that essential human intimacy of sibling love in Christ.
But praise be to God, we know and experience the reality, the substance of our faith in Jesus Christ and the comforting presence of his Holy Spirit. In our present circumstances the rules and traditions of our church denomination become virtually irrelevant because our hope for the future is truly in Christ alone.
Heavenly Father we come to you in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, and our Saviour, and thank you for sending him to us in order to provide us with the opportunity to be your children, born again into a new life, no longer subject to the spiritual powers and principalities of this world. We lament the loss of all that we hold dear in our church life but realize that these things are only shadows of the glory to come when we meet together with you. Continue to bless us we pray as we learn to depend only on Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, the real substance of our faith Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Let nothing disturb you,
nothing frighten you;
All things are passing,
but God never changes!
Patient endurance achieves all things;
Those who belong to God want for nothing,
alone God is sufficient.
The Bridge Prayers for Sunday 5th July 2020
Heavenly Father in these days when all around us is changing, we acknowledge our total dependence on you as the Creator and Sustainer of life, the Hope of the Nations, Saviour, and Lord of all. Thank you for the daily evidences in our lives of your changeless love, your eternal mercies, your constant forgiveness and provision of every good and perfect gift.
As we begin to emerge from months of lockdown we thank God for some of the positive things which have emerged and pray that they will not be lost as normality creeps back, but will remain as part of our new future together. (Please add your own areas of thanks to the 3 below).
- Lord thank you for the gift of time, time to enjoy the cleaner air, stop, look, listen, marvel at your creation whether on cliff-top, park, garden, or television. Lord may we never cease to wonder at your creation and be protectors of it. Forgive our past waste of resources and ignorance of the impact of our lifestyles on your wider world. We pray that governments will unite to do more to reduce waste and emissions, protect the environment and enhance healthy living. Help us too to act responsibly and make good lifestyle decisions and support the changes needed to care for all your creation.
- Thank you for new technologies and how these have both enhanced our lives during lockdown and are taking your message of hope to people who would not normally come into a Church building. Thank you that in the multitude of questions and uncertainties many people are looking for answers and joining on-line services and chats, hearing your message of hope. Lord may we as Church not recoil back into our buildings as lockdown eases, but be willing to continue to use every means to take your message of hope out beyond our doors.
- Thank you for increased sense of local community. Lord, you have taught us that we are all members one of another. Thank you for the community of which we are part. We ask you to guide us to be more aware of our neighbours’ needs and how we might help. Give us the grace to overlook petty annoyances and build on all that is positive, that we may love them with genuine forbearance and kindness, making known that they are loved and valued.
Moving out of lockdown: As gradual release becomes a reality, some are tempted to abandon restriction and run ahead, putting themselves and others at risk; for others it brings heightened fears with the loss of the protection of ‘staying at home’, difficult decisions about how to protect and provide for their families through unemployment, make up for lost education etc. This, with fears of further spikes, often puts a strain on relationships.
Prayer for the future: Father sometimes things are overwhelming and we know not what to do or how to pray, except to cry; ‘Lord, mercifully hear us’. Draw close and provide for the thousands out of work or where redundancy is imminent; guide our young people whose education has been disrupted; protect those vulnerable to infection, the sick, elderly and socially disadvantage; grant solace to the bereaved; and for those who in frustration are tempted to ignore restrictions, turn their hearts from selfish desire to a willingness to work for the common good. May the light of your kingdom come into our darkness we pray.
We pray for our police, local and national governments as they seek to find the way forward and build a future; for those in our education system as they support our young people through uncertain times; and for those providing much needed health services we pray for courage, wise heads and tender hearts as they care for many. May they all in their own sphere of service be agents of your healing and restoration. May your kingdom come, your will be done.
Prayer for St Christopher’s: We pray for our leadership team and those in need who have requested prayer. Father, strengthen and empower the leadership with wisdom and courage through your Holy Spirit as they seek your direction and make decisions about the future. Bring others around to help shoulder the task. And those known to us who are unwell or in need, Father draw close to them, grant healing and release. May your peace ever surround them we pray.
Prayer for the Wider World: As we pray for ourselves we also pray for the wider world, those living with civil disorder and political unrest, or in refugee camps and places where there is poor infrastructure for communication, few support services, little clean water or sanitation for hygiene, and where life is already lived on the edge. Thank you for organisations like Tear Fund who, with their Church Partners, are using social media and radio to address the misinformation about the virus which is leading to more infection, stigmatisation and violence towards both victims and those responding to outbreaks. Lord grant protection for the vulnerable, succour for the weak and wisdom to those providing aid we pray.
We think also of the work of our Mission Partners and the people groups they serve. Strengthen and encourage your servants at this difficult time and, despite civil unrest, opposition, travel restrictions, may your word of hope continue to reach those that they serve.
Prayer for ourselves: Lord in all these matters help us to cast all our anxieties on you, the one who knows and holds the future; and to share that sure and certain hope with others, that they too might experience the strength that only you can give as we each of us face the uncertainties ahead. Thank you for the joy and privilege of knowing you.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.