This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with headline from world news:
U.K. ADVOCATES DEMONSTRATE AGAINST CUTS TO LEGAL AID
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
1 From: Paul, by God’s will an emissary of the Messiah Jesus, and brother Timothy
2 To: God’s people in Colosse, faithful brothers in the Messiah:
Grace to you and shalom from God our Father.
3 Whenever we pray, we always give thanks for you to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah. 4 For we have heard of your trust in the Messiah Yeshua and of the love you have for all God’s people. 5 Both spring from the confident hope that you will receive what is stored up for you in heaven. You heard of this earlier in the message about the truth. This Good News 6 has made its presence felt among you, just as it is also being fruitful and multiplying[a] throughout the world in the same way as it has among you since the day you heard and understood the grace of God as it really is. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow-slave and a faithful worker for the Messiah on your behalf; 8 and he has told us about the love which the Spirit has given you.
9 Therefore, from the day we heard of it, we have not stopped praying for you, asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all the wisdom and understanding which the Spirit gives; 10 so that you may live lives worthy of the Lord and entirely pleasing to him, being fruitful in every good work and multiplying in the full knowledge of God. 11 We pray that you will be continually strengthened with all the power that comes from his glorious might; so that you will be able to persevere and be patient in any situation, joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father for having made you fit to share in the inheritance of his people in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son.
14 It is through his Son that we have redemption — that is, our sins have been forgiven.
I’ve used the Complete Jewish Bible translation today because it startled me by its recognition that Paul twice echoes the command of God to humanity to be “fruitful and multiply.” This reference to Genesis emphasises that the creative power of God continues to work through the Good News and the faith of Christian communities.
Paul’s greeting and thanksgiving for the believers is typical of his letters which are modelled on the form of letter writing current in the Roman world. To the normal personal greeting he always adds the grace and peace of God through Jesus Messiah. In this way he identifies his own message with the love of God. This is followed here as often in Paul’s letters by a prayer for the believing community, usually for its unity and growth in faith. This growth is identified by Paul with God’s creation of human beings, as if indeed humanity has not been fully created until now through Messiah Jesus. This happens, Paul says, when men and women are helped by God’s spirit to understand what God wants of them and to grow in goodness and a wise knowledge of God. However small it may be, such a community will share in the very power of God and be able to withstand difficulties.
Paul describes this transformation of believers’ lives metaphorically as rescue from a domain of darkness and transfer into a kingdom of light, language which is the common currency of Mediterranean piety. But then he leaves the metaphor and says bluntly that “our sins have been forgiven.” Paul’s gospel goes far beyond the forgiveness of sin-as we can see here, it is about God’s continuing creation or re-creation of humanity-but it starts with sin, that is, with the arrogant self-centredness that comes between human beings and God. Paul sometimes says sin is forgiven, sometimes he says it is defeated, sometimes he says we are rescued from it, but he always attributes this new beginning to God’s love in the death and resurrection of Jesus Messiah. For Paul, the transformation of human lives by goodness begins with the recognition of sin and trust in God’s forgiveness. His vision may be heavenly but he keeps his feet on the ground.
The heavenly vision, however is the other side of his realism. God’s new creation of human beings rescues them not only from sin but also from death. This final rescue is the “hope” that Paul identifies as the source of the faith and love of the believers. They have a confident hope they will receive what is stored up for them in heaven. Paul never describes this realm where death has been conquered; it’s not clear what relationship it has to what he calls the “kingdom” and “eternal life” but he’s quite sure that the hope of it is essential to faith. Without it he says,” we of all people are to be pitied.”
Much modern theology is unsure about “heaven” and “hell”. I do not agree that these are metaphors for some aspect of life on earth. Too many evil swine are comfy on this earth; and too many good people miserable. If there’s no heaven and hell, then for me, the game’s a bogey, (over, spoilt,) as we say in Scotland; God’s rescue and the fate of those who refuse to be rescued, have to be real.