Some items from church:
A. Last week was Epiphany. The pastor in his sermon talked about New Year’s Day and how people act as if the dawn of a new year will actually change things. How can a new calendar date change anything for the better? He wondered why the new year, and each day, for that matter, starts at midnight rather than dawn. I did a search, and the results were largely variations of this post, only this post traces the custom to ancient Egypt, whereas other sites trace it to ancient Rome. Essentially, the reason for starting the day at midnight is that the sun is at its nadir at 12 p.m. and twelve hours later than 12 p.m. is 12 a.m.
B. The pastor this morning drew a contrast between incomplete repentance and being transformed by love. Many of us repent in a half-ass manner. “I’m sorry, but you started it.” Or “I’m sorry, but don’t expect me to inconvenience myself to make extravagant restitution.” When we are transformed by God’s love, though, we are willing to do things that otherwise we would rather not do. A single person watching his married friend change a diaper may think, “I’m glad that is not me!” But the person changing the diaper does so willingly out of love. This seems to be a Lutheran approach: to get Christians to appreciate God’s love, grace, and gifts, in belief that this will lead to their spiritual transformation.
C. The church started a Bible study class about Colossians. The pastor went through three proposals about where Paul wrote Colossians (yes, he is aware of the view that Paul did not write it, but he rejects that view). Paul wrote Colossians from prison. Paul was in prison in Ephesus, Caesarea, and twice in Rome: the first time in Rome was a house arrest, whereas the second time was in the typical underground prison. At Caesarea, Paul was on house arrest, in which he could freely interact with others, for he had proclaimed his Roman citizenship and talked with Gallio. It would be an ideal condition for Paul to write a letter, for Paul could dictate it and send it to the church at Colossae. Ephesus, however, is close to Colossae and Laodicea, which is mentioned in Colossians. If Paul wrote Colossians there, he would have dictated it through a wall.
D. The pastor also compared Colossians to other letters in the Mediterranean world. Letters started by identifying the author and audience, then they said “grace and peace” to the audience. The pastor said that Christians can understand “grace and peace” in Colossians in light of Christ: Paul’s audience is under God’s grace and is in a state of peace with God. Mediterranean letters were short because parchment was expensive, whereas Paul’s is longer.
E. The pastor observed that Paul in Colossians feels no need to defend his apostleship, as he does in Galatians and I-II Corinthians. In Colossians, Paul simply assumes it. Still, Paul contends with a heresy in Colossae, one that treats Christ as merely an expression of God rather than as God himself. Paul affirms that everything began and will end in Christ.