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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, July 30, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Colossians 2:16–19

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. (NRSV)

Several months ago, a group of Fourth Church members conducted a “deep dive” into the service of Holy Communion. They talked about the sights, sounds, flavors, and aromas of Communion. They shared memories of Communion services they saw as children growing up in Presbyterian or other denominations, and many recalled the experience of their first Communion. Two or three described the hymn “Just as I Am” being sung while the congregation received the elements—as if to affirm, to each person, that God accepts us just as we are. There was wide agreement that an intentional spirit of hospitality is evident in Fourth Church’s Communion services. Many spoke of the pastors’ invitation to the Table as one of genuine welcome and openness.

In a church that emphasizes hospitality, it can be tempting to dismiss—as out of date or out of touch—a passage, like this one, that discusses judgments made against co-worshipers. But we should be alert to that human tendency to separate people or to fall into the trap of sanctimonious orthodoxy. True, we may find it strange to be judged in the manner described in Colossians, but more importantly, we need to be sure we are open, truly open, to the unifying spirit of God as it moves through all of us. Jesus’ ministry had abundant examples of hospitality, of reaching out to others, and of accepting others in the spirit of that old, reassuring hymn “Just as I Am.”

Jesus, who welcomed little children to your side,
   open our most welcoming hearts.
Jesus, befriender of tax collectors,
   help us build friendships in all places.
Jesus, teacher of the Good Samaritan parable,
   inspire us to be good neighbors to all people.
Jesus, who preached to the masses gathered at the shore,
   may we carry your message of peace into the world. Amen.

Written by Sarah Forbes Orwig, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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