Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dead End Philosophers and Bishops Will Always Be With Us

This Sunday I will continue with my focus on the Epistle reading for the day.  The Gospel reading is about the Lord's Prayer and the story of the neighbor knocking at the door from Luke 11:1-13. There is plenty of good sermon material there, and as a result, Paul's letter to the Colossians will probably get neglected again. 

For those of you who missed it, let's walk through Colossians 2:6-19 (remember that verses 16-19 are listed as optional)

First an exhortation,
"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." 
 Next come the warnings as to what dangers we face when we try to live our lives in Christ and as we try to be faithful to the Church's teachings,
"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."
 I cannot tell you how many Sunday mornings I sat and listened as someone either in the pulpit or in an adult forum (aka Sunday School) tried to pass off a dead end philosophy as truth with no mention of Christ at all. To miss the chance to preach Christ was a terrible loss because as Paul continues,
"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."
 Next, Paul makes his point about circumcision once again because it was such an important issue tp his audience,
"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."
 Next, Paul reminds us of who is in charge,
"He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it."
 And finally a word about those summer solstice celebrations,
"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."
Paul's advice to the Colossians then is good advice for us today as we who live in the Information Age are challenged with sifting through novel ideas coming from a never ending stream of wrong headed philosophers, theologians, and so-called holy men (and women).  Just this week a friend posted a video of John Shelby Spong in which he "explains why the Church invented Hell". That old video has 6,338,642 views. My friend simply wrote, "Many ways to God." I did not respond immediately, and had half a mind to just walk away from creating a conflict, but after a couple of hours and my morning cup, I recognized that my friend was in danger and I countered with a brief summary of the gospel according to Spong: no virgin birth, no physical resurrection, Jesus was married at the wedding at Cana, etc. I could have written something like, "There is one way to God but many ways to Hell" but I thought better of it. To date I have not seen a reply from my friend nor anyone else on her post.

Thanks to the internet, that video will never go away and Spong's words will live on, poisoning future generations of Christians.

Even though it may seem easier to walk away, we need to stand up for the old teachings whenever they are challenged.

And they will forever be challenged.

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