Lectionary 17 C

Fair warning: Ridiculously long post. However, there is a thought that runs through all these citations that I think pays off. Who do you trust?

Colossians 2:6-15 [16-19]

Verse 9 is cited like crazy in the Formula of Concord, and not exclusively in Article 8: The Person of Christ. Here's the verse:

For in [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.

- Colossians 2:9

The first citation of verse 9 is a quote in Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article 8: The Person of Christ, Negative Thesis 15 (Ep 8.34) as a scriptural proof against the idea that the incarnate Christ was not "capable of exercising his omnipotence and other characteristics of his divine nature according to his human nature" (Ep 8.34).

In the one exception from the discussion of the Person of Christ, the second citation of verse 9 is a quote in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 7: Holy Supper (SD 7.36) in an argument against transubstantiation. This verse, along with several others, "mean that the divine essence is not transformed into the human nature, but that the two unaltered natures are personally united" (SD 7.36). So even this citation isn't too far from the nature of Christ conversation.

The rest of the citations all come from Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 8: Person of Christ. Here, the first citation is a quote (SD 8.29) pointing to communion as a place where the unique  authority of Christ to be present in, with, and under the bread and wine without changing the essence of the elements because of and like unto the personal union of the divine and human natures in Christ that preserves both the humanity and the deity making it possible for "the whole fullness of deity" to dwell in the body of Jesus.

The very next citation of verse 9--another quote (SD 8.34)--reminds us that the dual nature of Christ is a glorious mystery, second only to the mystery of the Trinity (no seriously, that's what it says in SD 8.33), in which we are included.

Verse 9 is quoted a little later (SD 8.64) as the Lutheran reformers remind those reading the Formula that this discussion of the two natures of Christ and where these reformers fall in the discussion are well within the catholic tradition--namely that the divine nature is present in Christ in a unique way that is not shared by other beings, human or otherwise, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. This point is then driven home by the last two quotes of this verse (SD 8.68, 70).

Verse 10 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.179) as a reminder that in Jesus, humans "come to fullness" through the forgiveness of sins.

Verses 11 and 12 are quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 12: Repentance (AP 12.46, 48) presenting Melanchthon's understanding of Paul's two part theology of conversion. First is verse 11 with the "putting off the body of the flesh," and the second is verse 12 in "being raised." When we repent of our sins, we put off the body of flesh, and the absolution is a declaration of faith that God forgives us so that we might live.

Verse 12 is quoted earlier in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 4: Justification (AP 4.250) as helpful framing of what this faith is: "Such faith is not an easy matter as the opponents imagine; nor is it a human power, but it is a divine power by which we are made alive and by which we defeat death and the devil... Since this faith is a new life, it necessarily produces new impulses and new works" (AP 4.250).

[Verses 16 and 17 are also cited several places, so again here are the verses:

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.

- Colossians 2:16-17

These verses are quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 28: Bishops - German Text (AC 28.44) as scriptural evidence against establishing "ordinances for the purpose of earning God's grace or as if they were necessary for salvation" (AC 28.43).

These verses  are also quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 7 and 8: The Church (AP 7/8.35) to make the same point. Melanchthon goes even further, however, and says that "human traditions do not enliven the heart and are neither results of the Holy Spirit's working (as in love of neighbor, chastity, etc.) nor instruments through which God moves hearts to believe (as are the given Word and divinely instituted sacraments)" (AP 7/8.36).

These verses are sited a bit later in Article 15: Human Traditions in the Church (AP 15.30) pushing the boundary even further. "If the gospel denies that the ceremonies of Moses (which were divinely instituted) justify, how much less do human traditions justify!"

Verses 16 and 17 are cited in a footnote to The Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments, The Third Commandment (LC 1.82, n. 65) as Luther explains that Christians have been freed from the particular requirements of sabbath, but are called to follow times of rest and vacation "because our bodies need them" (LC 1.83)--an argument science is affirming.

Verse 16 comes up by itself several times. First as a citation in a footnote to The Augsburg Confession, Article 15: Concerning Church Regulations (AC 15.4, n. 83, German Text) giving historical context and several other citations. The chief point is what has been argued above.

Verse 16 is quoted a bit later in Article 26: Foods (AC 26.25), again making the point that "burdening of consciences with additional external ceremonies... are called teachings of the devil" because "it is directly opposed to the gospel to institute or perform such works for the purpose of earning forgiveness of sin through them or to suppose that no one may be a Christian without such service" (AC 26.28-29).

In an interesting difference, only verse 16 is quoted in The Augsburg Confession, Article 28: The Church's Power - Latin Text (AC 28.44). I'm not sure why verse 17 was left out of the Latin text since the rest of the scriptural quotes in the passage are the same.

Verse 16 is also quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 10: Ecclesiastical Powers (SD 10.13) in some exegetical work on Paul's relationship to human practices, noting that the chief issue Paul has is not with the practices but with those who would make such practices necessary.

Verse 17 also has some independent citations, both in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 24: The Mass (AP 24.37, 39) as Melanchthon unpacks the reformers' understanding of "daily sacrifice." First, that a daily sacrifice required by the law of Moses is the "shadow of what is to come." For the reformers, the daily sacrifice is "spiritual worship" (AP 24.39) which does not preclude daily reception of communion, but primarily means to "the proclamation of the gospel"  every day (AP 24.40).

Verse 18 is quoted in Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article 23: The Marriage of Priests (AP 23.46) arguing that celibacy was lifted up as a form of angelic life and thus creating a "worship of angels" that was entirely superstitious and harmed faithful understandings of sex and marriage.]

Luke 11:1-13

Verse 2-4 are cited in a footnote to The Large Catechism, Preface, Third: The Prayer (LC Preface.14, n. 28) that gives the passages of the two accounts of the Lord's Prayer.  It is always a helpful reminder that there are two versions in the Bible, that we've added even to that, and that the version where this citation occurs is biased toward the Matthean version.

Verses 11-13 are quoted in Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article 11: Election (SD 11.72) as encouragement to remember that God keeps promises so that we might fully trust God, remain faithful, and stay in relationship with God and others, finding strength in the promises made to us in baptism.


Follow me on this thought: The words we use matter. If we talk about sin in such a way that we have to overcome it in some way, we put ourselves in the place of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If we talk about sin in such a way that it doesn't matter, we denigrate the gospel. So the question I see is, "How do we talk about sin so that we trust in God?" The two versions of the Lord's Prayer can make this point.

Sin is a theologically loaded word, full of parochial language and understanding. So what metaphor do we use to unpack sin? Matthew used debt--pointing to a negative ledger balance. Luke could be translated to use trespass--pointing to a crossing of boundaries. But what are we pointing to when we talk about sin? What's the chief concern?

For me, sin is anything that keeps us from participating in the relationship God establishes with us in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. So the chief concern is "What are we trusting more than God's promise of forgiveness?" I know this is a consistent theme of mine, but any sin, regardless of the language used to talk about it, comes down to idolatry--trusting something else more than God, be it human practices, external disciplines, or whatever.

  • How can we engender faith in God through our worship and preaching?
  • How do our ways of talking about sin reflect and inhibit us from trusting in God's promise?