A Meditation on Colossians 3:1-11

Below is a meditation on Colossians 3:1-11 that was given in our chapel at Nashotah House Theological Seminary

The Following is a paragraph from our new student handbook:

 …community permeates every feature of our life at Nashotah House.  We worship as a community, we study as a community, we work as a community and we share meals as a community.  This is certainly not to the exclusion of our each developing a personal maturity, a personal piety or maintaining a private life, all of which are vital to our health and happiness.  The disciplines of living in a community spur us each to grow personally.  But our personal growth depends in large part upon our forgetting ourselves, renouncing our own lives and taking up our places as members of a body.

In this paragraph we are clearly reminded of the reality that our personal faith is influenced by and also influences the community that we dwell in.  At Nashotah House we work out our faith with fear and trembling in the midst of others. Not only do the decisions we make as individuals impact our personal formation but they also help or hinder the formation of those around us.  Our behavior is not our own and in an environment like Nashotah House small changes have large implications.

In Colossians 3:1-11 Paul speaks with force about how we should live in light of our baptism; “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”  But he also warns of the danger of getting too comfortable with the old Adam; “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you”.    In these verses we are distinctly reminded of the already/not yet tension of this life here on earth. As we walk with confidence in light of our baptism we are at the same time being asked to repent and pushing back ways of life that can destroy us as well as the communities we inhabit.

As we approach a new year of living together in community we must remember that it is not enough to just show up and hope that we will somehow be magically shaped into the image of our Creator and that this community of worship will be the place we envision if we are not seeking the Kingdom above while turning away the kingdom below. 

We are commanded to seek and to set our minds upon the things above.  We are commanded to orient our minds and our wills to the things above.  We are commanded to order our love towards the place where Christ is seated. But this is not wishful thinking; this is a wholehearted pursuit of the realm where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  If we hope Nashotah House to be a place that forms us into leaders in the Anglican world, our aim must be true.  We are to orient our minds and wills to the place where we already live.  We are not being commanded to work in order to earn heaven; we are being commanded to live into the reality that is already ours in Christ Jesus.  We are not here to prove ourselves; we are here to grow into the reality that is already ours.  Yet, in order to do that we are commanded to put to death the vestiges of a life we lived before we died with Christ.

Part of orienting ourselves to the things above means ‘putting to death’ and ‘laying aside’ behaviors that orient our life towards things below.  We must not forget that we are ‘not yet’ fully present with Christ, and because of this we are commanded to put to death those traits for which the ‘wrath of God is coming’.   It is these habits and practices from our old life that can destroy our community if we allow them to.

We are commanded to put to death ‘sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness’.  These vices represent disordered love that has elevated the physical to a place of ultimate importance.  We practice a ruthless greed when we want what we can’t or don’t have.  Physical pleasure becomes the aim of our lives and we will stop at nothing to satisfy the way of the Old Adam.  These behaviors, these habits and practices that we foster are ultimately self-centered.  They seek to satisfy our most basic physical desires at the expense of others. When we allow habits and practices that aim at satisfying these disordered loves we destroy community and we isolate ourselves.  This isolation leads to the disintegration of a life together.

We are commanded to ‘Push aside anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk…do not lie to one another’.  In an effort to elevate ourselves we work to push others down and we do so with our speech. Though these behaviors, at times, may deemed appropriate, the outbursts of anger when our way is thwarted, or the persistent quality of anger that is always just below the surface, or the slanderous and malicious comments aimed at others, or the obscene talk that gets a laugh from one but makes another uncomfortable these habits and practices are community destroyers.  They take away an environment that allows for vulnerability and they create a defensive culture, a cynical culture, and a skeptical culture.  These habits of speaking destroy a safe place and create a hostile community.

We are also reminded that nothing can destroy a community faster than a divisive spirit; ‘Here there is not greek and jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all, and in all.’  These names constitute small groups, and when we define ourselves by these small groups we have no choice but to exclude some from our community.  We create these categories to create boundaries which make it easier to determine who is in and who is out.  If we are in Christ, there is neither TEC nor ACNA.  If we are in Christ, there is neither protestant nor Catholic. If we are in Christ, there is neither Calvinist nor Arminian.  If we are In Christ there is neither Anglo-Catholic nor Evangelical. If we have been raised with Christ, then He is all, and He is in all…that label is enough.