I promised to ease up a bit to end the week. Surely nobody ‘figured out’ how to read yesterday’s household codes in the ‘culture wars’ of our time and place.
The text winds up by apparently addressing ‘masters’ about how to treat ‘slaves’ and I cringe after 2 millennia of Christian support for slavery to say a word.
What if there is an implied audience, and we are ‘bystander’ readers, not thinking ourselves ‘masters’? It’s amazing how many rich white men like me deny our privilege – could human nature have changed much? Yet we all have ‘intersectional’ identities, privileged by some identifications, while oppressed in other parts of our given and chosen identity.
Today, in our world of gender fluidity and appeals for inclusivity and tolerance, hear the echo of the closing of Colossians 3, and wonder what this text says to you about ultimate accountability to the divine to be fully human, fully alive.
Prayer, thanksgiving, submission to this shared ‘prison’ with the writer, may not feel so oppressive, if you give it a chance. What do we reveal, or re-present to the world, about divinity and humanity? What did Jesus reveal, or this writer?
Listen for the reflexivity of the ask and the offer of prayer – to open a door for the word in this prison. What if Christ is a mystery to be suffered, revealed, and re-presented and not a problem to be solved? God knows, and hasn’t told me.
If you can soften to the text and its writer and its reader at all, listen again to the closing advice of verses 5 and 6. We could do worse in terms of giving and receiving advice! May my speech always be gracious, but seasoned with salt.
1Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, for you know that you also have a Master in heaven.
2 Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.
3At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison,
4so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should.
5 Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders, making the most of the time.
6Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.
7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me; he is a beloved brother, a faithful minister, and a fellow-servant in the Lord.
8I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts;
9he is coming with Onesimus, the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you about everything here.
10 Aristarchus my fellow-prisoner greets you, as does Mark the cousin of Barnabas, concerning whom you have received instructions— if he comes to you, welcome him.
11And Jesus who is called Justus greets you. These are the only ones of the circumcision among my co-workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.
12Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always wrestling in his prayers on your behalf, so that you may stand mature and fully assured in everything that God wills.
13For I testify for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis .
14Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas greet you.
15Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.
16And when this letter has been read among you, have it read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you read also the letter from Laodicea.
17And say to Archippus, ‘See that you complete the task that you have received in the Lord.’
18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains . Grace be with you.*