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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, July 25, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Colossians 2:6–15

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. 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. 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. 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. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. (NRSV)

Artist and author Jenny Odell praises maintenance in her new book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, and these words from the letter to the Colossians are leading me to apply Odell’s point to the life of faith.

The counsel in verses 6–7 is to “continue.” It’s so simple that we almost miss it. Continue, rooted and built up in Jesus, established in the faith. My eye is trained to look for words like grow and increase, and, though continuity isn’t opposed to increase, continuity is its own end and goal.

I think our culture primes us to think of faith in productive terms, the same way we think of work or exercise. “Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new,” Odell writes. And so we might conclude that our faith needs to be productive in the same way: it should produce new knowledge, new insight, new character.

The shadow side of this productive way of thinking is that, in Odell’s assessment, “we do not tend to see maintenance and care as productive in the same way.” Colossians 2:6-7 seem to me to be about a kind of holy maintenance.

Every verb applied to the plural “you” (i.e., us) in verses 8–13 is passive. We were buried with Christ in baptism. We were also raised with him. We were dead in our trespasses. All the active verbs here belong to God, who made us alive together with Christ; who forgave us all our trespasses; who set aside the record that stood against us and triumphed over the rulers and authorities.

The calling of faith is less to produce new things and more to care for and maintain what God is already producing in us.

Continue in us, O Lord, that which you have begun, and make us to persevere in faith and trust, so that we might remain in your all-sufficient grace today and all our days. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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