We end with week with completion of the household code in terms of children and parents. The argument is made from the Decalogue, reasoning from the first commandment which is not simply ‘apodeictic’ (just do it) but ‘casuistic’ (if then). As for slavery – remember Howard’s End: to serve is not to be servile.
The next chunk of today’s reading is familiar to many in our Protestant movement, with concrete imagery of donning a soldier’s armour, defensive and offensive, to enter the conflict not with other persons, but with ‘principalities and powers’. The conflict is between transpersonal forces, ‘stuff bigger than me and smaller than God’, some good and others bad, but none as big as God.
The risk for our technological culture of instrumental rather than formal reason is to think that if we are equipped with the right tools, we win the fight. The text, and my bible, does not set out to help me win, but to help me be faithful in response to the divine as part of something, even though the line between good and evil runs through every heart, and every moment.
This writer is a particular kind of humble, asking for prayers in the end today, a final reason I think it’s not the same guy who wrote Paul’s autograph set. Asking help while offering help is a pretty good model, consistent with the community ethic in the cosmic context of the whole letter.
Final references to Tychicus grounds what otherwise has been a pretty abstracted letter. As we began the week, I warned you of my own risk to make this a cosmic Christ of mystery philosophy, inviting us to a discipleship of deep thinking and speculation.
Catch your breath now, before we move to another voice entirely for the next two weeks. What does the ‘flavour’ of Colossians and Ephesians add to the stew? Can you remember how we started Epiphany with the Peters and the Johns? What do you hear in these voices to flesh out the chorus?
1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
2‘Honour your father and mother’— this is the first commandment with a promise:
3‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’
4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ;
6not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
7Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women,
8knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.
9 And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power.
11Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
13Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness.
15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.
16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.
19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,
20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus will tell you everything. He is a dear brother and a faithful minister in the Lord.
22I am sending him to you for this very purpose, to let you know how we are, and to encourage your hearts.
23 Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
24Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.