Today God is speaking, and he continues to speak to us through the Holy Scriptures. In this passage of Colossians, first is a greeting: Grace and Peace. Next, faith, hope and love, the foundation of Christian life. And thirdly, a litany of prayer for the building up of the church. - A reflection on Colossians by Fr. Jack Estes
Colossians 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, 2 To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. 3 In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God. 7 This you learned from Epaphras, our beloved fellow-servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 and he has made known to us your love in the Spirit. 9 For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
KEY TOPICS God is Speaking, Pray and Listen, Spiritual Prayer, Apostle Paul, Scripture is God Breathed, Prophetic Prayer, Grace and Peace; Faith, Hope, and Love; Epistle of Colossians; Spiritual Life
OPENING PRAYER Lord, we do pray that You would give us grace, to love you with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our minds and all of our strength. And give us extra Grace Lord, to love our neighbors, to love one another. As we love our own selves. Open your word now to our hearts, Lord, open our hearts to your word, in your holy name we pray, Amen. Good morning, once again, good morning, I want to begin this morning with a profound yet simple truth - a simple truth that comes radiating to us from heaven above. God is speaking! a simple, profound truth. God is speaking. In the beginning, God spoke and created all the heavens in the earth. Down through the Old Testament, God spoke through the prophets, his chosen ones, to the people of Israel. He sent Jesus, the living word, to proclaim to speak for the gospel. Then the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles, and they spoke forth and wrote down the entire New Testament for us. God is speaking, simple and profound. Truth. Today God is speaking, and he continues to speak to us through the Holy Scriptures.
What is God saying to you this morning? Did you hear his voice as the word of God was being read?
In the epistle to the Colossians, God is speaking through Paul the Apostle to the church. He is speaking to the church in Colossae. And he's speaking to the church at Ascension Anglican, as well. St. Paul was writing prophetically; he's writing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Remember, all scripture is, what? It is God breathed. God breathed, the word there is Ruach. It’s the word for breath, that's the same word that you use, as one of the names of the Holy Spirit, the Ruach of God. All scripture is God breathed. And Paul is sort of breathing out or God is breathing out through Paul, this letter to the Colossians. This word to them he's speaking to them, he's speaking to us. Because the words of God, the Word coming, words from Heaven, continue to speak and resonate down through time. Let's consider them. The voice of God embedded in the Scripture. The Word of God. What is he speaking to you this morning? What is he speaking to me? What is he speaking to us as a church? As we listen and hear these opening verses of the Epistle to the Colosseum, to the Colossians. God is speaking.
I hear three main components, three main things to what he's saying, in this passage we heard read a minute ago. Or I should say, the passage we heard, proclaimed a minute ago.
Three main things: First is a greeting: Grace and Peace. Next, faith, hope and love, the foundation of Christian life. And thirdly, a litany of prayer for the building up of the church.
Paul opens with a greeting, a greeting from God. Amen. A greeting from God. God is here this morning, and he wants to greet you as you come to Him. And how does he greet you and in this epistle, Grace to You, and peace, grace and peace to the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Ascension Anglican Church, to the saints and brothers, faithful brothers and sisters in Christ on Facebook livestream. Grace to you. Peace to you. From God, our Father God is speaking grace. Greetings. This is what the immediate thing that God says to us when we come into His presence: Grace, peace. The first thing that God is saying whenever we are listening to him, whenever we come to Him and we're talking about the Lord’s grace: you are accepted. Grace, whatever standard you're trying to measure up to just put them aside. I love you. Grace and unmerited favor. You don't have to earn my love. Grace enabling power, I will strengthen you with my grace. God is speaking grace to you this morning. Or maybe speaking peace. Welcome, greeting, peace, Shalom. Shalom is the peace that is not just like the absence of distraction and war or anxiety. It's an inner peace that that flows out over our whole lives, the whole being, spiritual peace, emotional peace, economic peace. Peace in the world. Peace. Be With You, as we say, all is well. Greetings. Peace be with you all is well. I am with you, says the Lord. Grace and peace, open the door. It's the greeting. You notice that Paul, or God, is often speaking this, as Paul begins his letters, the first thing that we hear is grace and peace, they open the door and open our hearts to hear the word. That's the first thing that I hear this morning, God speaking in the Holy Word of God. Grace and peace is the first thing, the point of entry.
And having opened the door, then Paul turns to the foundation of Christian life. Did you catch this? The foundation of our life as Christians: faith, love and hope. In our prayers for you, we always thank God, he says, for we have heard of your faith, of the love you have for all the saints. Because of the hope laid up for you in Heaven: faith, love and hope. Now you may have noticed up here in front every Sunday, we have a tripod set up that from which on top of the iPhone sits, which gives us a portal to the world so that the gospel and the worship of God can be broadcast out, proclaimed out throughout all the nations I mean, literally, that connects us to the entire world. Anyone in the whole world can connect and hear the Word of God, can hear God speaking through this live stream setup.
Three legs on the tripod, faith, hope and love. It takes all three to create a stable solid foundation to make the portal so that it can function so that it can live stream the gospel out to the world. It takes all three to make a solid base. In the same manner, faith, hope, love, create that solid base in our lives, in the life of the Church, which hold us up which turns us into a living stream - a living stream of God's Word to those around us and to the world. So that we can literally stream out the gospel, faith, hope and Love are the structure upon which we stand in the Christian life.
Faith, and a very important distinction here, faith in Jesus Christ. Amen? There are lots of different faith options out there in the world today. And most of them are designed to take us away from faith in the One true Savior, Jesus Christ: the narrow door, the certain way, faith in Jesus, trust, surrender, acceptance of Jesus alone as Lord. That is the first leg of the tripod, though, upon which we stand.
Love. Love for the saints and for one another. And that's biblical love Paul's talking about, that's the love that is giving, self-sacrificing, with care with concern, with compassion. It's the love that I see you living out day by day, week by week, here at Ascension, caring for one another, praying for one another, bearing one another's burdens, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep.
Hope. And hope laid up in heaven. Hope that is not dependent upon anything in this world. You know, biblical hope is like of a different quality, a different characteristic than the hope in the world. It's not, it's not just like wishful thinking, like, I hope it rains again tomorrow. You know, that's kind of like, well, I wish it would rain again tomorrow, that'd be good. No, but when I say I have hope that Jesus Christ will return one day and rule on earth, that is substantial. Amen. I have hope that Jesus is in heaven right now praying and interceding. For me, for you. That is substantial. Real hope, that is hope that gives resilience that resonates to us from heaven. These three form the tripod, upon which our Christian life stands.
And Paul is beginning in his letter to the Colossians first to acknowledge the tripod is strong. The base that you have is solid. The Colossians are “live streaming” the gospel. They are a living stream of the gospel to their generation. They just use a little different technology than we happen to have today. Paul is saying I see your faith in your love and your hope. He is affirming the essentials, as we always need to pay attention to those three essentials in our own walk with God, in our life together as a community. So that we're not led astray to let our faith be pulled aside to some other gospel, or that our love grow cold, and turn self centered, or our hope be diminished, but remain strong as we have a strong foundation of our life together. So what comes next? And so we have this greeting. And then we have the essentials of the Christian faith. What is God saying to you this morning? God is speaking.
What comes next is this wonderful example of what I would call prophetic prayer. Paul, the apostle, filled with the Holy Spirit, literally breathing out as we said, the Scripture that is going to now speak for generations. He turns to prayer. God is speaking. Paul is responding. He's entering the conversation with God in prayer. Paul is praying and God is speaking. What follows is a kind of litany of prayer then that just flows out line upon line, precept upon precept with spiritual nourishment and designed to enhance our life. You see there's a foundation that's been laid: love, faith and hope. And now Paul says Let us pray to build upon that foundation in our spiritual life.
A prayer that speaks to the Colossians, and a prayer that speaks to us. It's a prayer that we can make our own. Which brings me to my handout for today, all of you received in your service booklet, The prayer of Colossians. So, this was something that I did, years, years ago, looking at the prayers of Paul in his various epistles, and then basically just editing them to make them a personal prayer that you can pray for yourself. Or if you want to change the little italic pronouns there, we can pray for all of us together. Paul's prayer to the Colossians is a prayer that we can make our own. And think about what that does, we have this prophetic prayer, this breathed out by the Holy Spirit. Now, if we begin to pray it, we're taking it. We're breathing it in, and then we're breathing it back out to God. We’re oxygenizing our spiritual lives and, and being filled with the Spirit. We're entering into that conversation then with God. So I think it's very fascinating to note, what are the things that Paul prays for? When I got to this point, I thought, well, what are the things that I pray for? In my garden with my coffee every morning. I'm like, Lord, I pray for a good day and pray for a good harvest from my crops and then pray and you know, I mean, I'm not diluting belittling my prayers, I pray for all of you. I pray for needs, and I will think yeah, I've got it pretty good, I've got a good prayer life going. But this time around, when I began to look at what Paul was praying for. I just kind of thought, wow, you know, holy moly. What if I was praying for these things? How are my prayers lined up with his prayers?
So let's, let's take a moment and walk through this prayer and ask yourself, which one of these do I need most? These things of this litany that Paul gives us, which one of these do you need most? Just listen, what is God speaking to you? What is he saying to you in this prayer, as we come into it? In the epistle, Paul says, Epaphras, the faithful minister of Christ, has made known to us your love in the Spirit. For this reason, we have not ceased praying for you.
Asking that you'd be filled with a knowledge of God's will. Now there's a prayer that's been resonating with me since I was writing the sermon. I just started praying, Lord, I pray to be filled with the knowledge of your will. It's like, Whoa, I just feel the Spirit just go right into my bones. For spiritual wisdom and understanding, let's just let the Litany roll here.
Which one is God calling you to, which one do you need in your life? What is he saying to you?
Spiritual wisdom and understanding that we will lead lives pleasing to the Lord.
Bearing fruit in every good work.
We grow in the knowledge of God made strong and the strength of His glory is power.
Prepared to endure everything with patience. Oh my. I'm staying on that one.
Prepared to endure everything with patience. Yes, Lord. I may be prepared to endure but I don't have that patience part.
Joyfully, giving thanks to the Father.
Enabled to share the inheritance rescued from the power of darkness, transferred into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption through forgiveness of sins.
Are these the things that you naturally pray for in the morning?
See Paul, breathing out the word of God, God speaking to us, is directing us to grow your life. To grow from the foundation of the Christian life, into vibrancy. You know, we proclaim our vision that we would become a vibrant church family that honors and glorifies God, a place of healing, serving and growing together in Christ. Lord, fill us with a knowledge of your will. That we may bear fruit and every good work we joyfully give thanks you, oh, Lord. Is there a one line or two that really stands out to you?
What is God speaking to you? What do you need most in your life as a Christian at this moment, spiritual wisdom and understanding? Or perhaps it's to be strengthened with God's glorious power? We need that strength, don't we, as we go through the trials and the tribulations and the sorrows and the losses and the confusion of this world?
Are there one or two that resonate with you? Well, the good news is that we don't have to choose one, we can pray for all of them. Amen. Yes, we can pray for all of them. You're not limited here. You get the whole enchilada, the whole smorgasbord is available, laid out to you and to me to be able to pray. We can pray for them while engaging in conversation with God in joining with this prophetic prayer of Paul. God is speaking - a profound and simple truth. He spoke the beginning; he spoke to the prophets. He spoke through the living word Jesus. And he spoke through the apostles to the Holy Spirit and breathed out his word. His voice is literally embedded in the Holy Scripture. Words from heaven, the voice of God, what is God saying to you today? What is God saying to me today? To us?
He's inviting us to join in the conversation, I think, praying the prayer of Colossians. For ourselves, or our families, for our church. What will happen? If we all pray this prayer, every day, for a week? What will happen? I'd like to find out, I'd like to see what happens. How about you? Your midsummer spiritual assignment is to pray the prayer of Colossians every day, for one week. And observe what happens within your own spiritual life. What's happening in the life of your family, and what's happening in the life of our church? Let's find out as we pray the prayer daily. Only when you pray the prayer of Colossians, don't rush. Take your time. As you pray, give time also to listen. And remember that profound and simple truth. God is speaking.
What is he saying to you? As we pray, don't rush. Enter into the conversation in prayer. Pray, listen and hear. Do what God is saying to you in this week ahead. Amen.
Let us pray. Father, we pray that we may be filled with a knowledge of your will; grant us spiritual wisdom and understanding. We pray that we might walk in a manner that is worthy of you, Lord, fully pleasing you, being fruitful and every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Strengthen us, oh Lord with all power, according to your glorious mind, and grant us patience and endurance with joy. We give thanks to You, Father, for in you, I'm qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. You have delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of your beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and forgiveness of all our sins. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.