Thursday of Pentecost 5 – 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 in Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we 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. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Oscar Wilde had a rapier wit. He once said that “Some people make others happy wherever they go, others whenever they go.” We can smile reading that. It is true and the turn of the phrase makes it so much better. But we expect someone like Wilde to say such things. Did the authors of the Bible ever cast any shade?

This passage may be one of the best candidates for a bit of biblical sarcasm. From the reading the book of Colossians, it appears that this congregation was divided. Some folks thought of themselves as intellectually and spiritually superior to their fellow congregants, probably illiterate slaves and others who had not gone to school. Paul is distressed by this, so he uses this opening paragraph of the letter to take the arrogant members of the congregation down a notch. In the first paragraph he thanks God for their faith in Jesus and their love for one another. Faith and love are not intellectual virtues. Any slave can love, and I have known developmentally disabled people who had tremendous faith.

Then, Paul starts to pray for the Colossians. He prays that God gives them some knowledge, wisdom, strength, and understanding. Ouch! These people thought that they were smarter and better than the lowly slaves, but Paul thanks God for the love and faith which the slaves have aplenty and prays that they all will get some of the very knowledge, wisdom, and understanding which they prided themselves on. I wonder how this paragraph went over the first time it was read at Colossae. How would it go over at your congregation if it was directed at you?

We often fall into the very sin which Paul exposes here. In I Corinthians 13, Paul says that the greatest of God’s gifts is love. A child can love. The barista who makes your coffee or the checker at the grocery store might see their service as a form of love. The lowliest among us can love and sometimes love much better than those who have the most education. I am not opposed to education. I used to be a professor after all. But I have been regularly humbled by the love demonstrated by the children and the simple. Pray with Paul a prayer of thanksgiving for the love and faith which God has poured into your heart and let them both guide and shape your knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.

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