St Michael’s and St Barnabas 15th July 2018
Readings – Colossians 2:5-19; Luke 9:18-27
Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the church in a place called Colossae. Although it was written nearly 2000 years ago, we have seen there is so much that this letter can teach us today, about the way the good news spreads and grows, about the way a leader should care for the church, and above all about the identity of Jesus Christ, whom Colossians 1:15 tells us is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. And I very much hope that if you haven’t been here, you’ve caught up with the sermons online, or if not, will ask for a copy after the service.
The one thing this letter doesn’t tell us, however, is how the church in Colossae received Paul’s letter. All that we know about Colossae is mentioned in this particular book of the New Testament, and we hear nothing about it anywhere else in the Bible. So when Paul’s messenger, a chap called Tychicus, turned up and read out the letter, we can only guess at the reaction. Did some walk out? Did some cheer and applaud? Were some completely distracted by the latest sporting news? We simply don’t know – only that someone somewhere decided it was worth keeping this letter, and for that we must all be profoundly grateful.
But we do know rather more about the sister church of the Colossians which was in a place called Laodicea about 10 miles along the valley on the banks of the Lycus River. This church was probably also founded by Paul’s fellow-worker Epaphras mentioned in Col 1:7 and we do know Paul considered the churches in Colossae and Laodicea as having some special connection. That’s why in Col 2:1 he tells his hearers: I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea and we learn later on from Col 4:16 that the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians was also to be read to the Laodiceans. In modern Church of England jargon, they were one mission community serving the same region with the one aim of making Jesus known.
So what happened to the church in Laodicea? Well, if you were turn over to the book of Revelation, written perhaps a generation later, you will find these words in Revelation 3:14-16: To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. That’s a very different tone and a very different message from the warm words Paul wrote to the Colossian church. Jesus, the ruler of God’s creation, is issuing a stern warning of judgement against these believers who have over the years have become lukewarm and half-hearted in their faith.
Read the rest of this entry »