Turn off your cell phone, TV, or radio. Listen to the silence that is around you. Listen for God to speak to you.
Colossians 2:16-23 (NRSV)
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.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”? All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.
I have friends and acquaintances who are Church of God, Cumberland Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Disciples of Christ, Episcopalian, Jewish, Muslim, PCA, Roman Catholic, and Southern Baptist. (My son studied Buddhism, but I can’t claim him as a practicing Buddhist to add to my “collection” of inter-denominational diversity.) We could each debate for days about which of our practices and customs are correct.
It is easy to get “puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking” because our rules make us pious—we think. Sure, serious religion is partly an intellectual proposition; we need great thinkers of the church to wrestle with exegesis and hermeneutics and other multi-syllabic Greek words. We each must strive to understand our holy texts, but here Paul reminds us that the practices of our denominations are simply “human commands and teachings” that provide “the appearance of wisdom.” My friends and I may not agree on dancing or sprinkling or the sabbath, but if we agree that we love God and that we love one another, we just might be onto something, onto the “substance” that “belongs to Christ.”
Unifying God, thank you for diversity in worship styles and customs. Help us to hold onto the genuine thread that binds us: your love for all creation. Amen.
Go with God.