By David Baumann
A Reading from Colossians 1:1-14
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.
In the early years of my ministry I had to deal with the suicide of a troubled young woman, a member of an inactive family at the church where I was the assistant. I put a ton of effort into writing a fitting sermon. A few days after the funeral, the woman’s sister came to see me and said that as a result of my sermon, she wanted to renew her life in Christ. But did she have to change her job? “What do you do?” I asked. “I’m an exotic dancer,” she said. Well, I knew she didn’t have a high school education and was the sole support of her widowed mother, so I advised her not to quit cold but to look for a better job while bearing witness where she was. Within a month she brought a man to church whom she had converted while she was working at her bar. The man was later baptized: an inspiring story of a new convert whose light enlightened another.
This was the case in the church at Colossae, a small inland town about a hundred miles east of Ephesus. A man named Epaphras was converted by Paul, maybe in Ephesus, and then went home and founded a church in his hometown. Paul had never been to Colossae, but wrote to the new Christians there, probably at Epaphras’ request. He begins with a strong commendation for their faith, love, and hope — Paul’s Big Three — and urges their continuing growth in Christ. He assumes that it is normal that the light of Christ in believers will light the way for others. And so it should be, and is.
By the way, within six months of her conversion the exotic dancer had indeed found a new job. She remains a good friend and devout Christian 46 years later.
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield; he retired last year. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
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Diocese of Fond du Lac
Diocese of Western Izon (Church of Nigeria)