St Paul concludes his letter to the Church in Colossae with one final teaching. “Continue earnestly in prayer,” he states, “being vigilant in it with thanksgiving. Paul expects that not only individual believers pray often, but also the whole Church would be in frequent corporate prayer as well. It’s very interesting to me to consider that, in the world, there are 24 time zones. Thus, on Sunday when the hour and a half divine liturgy is served, there is not a single hour that passes that the Church as a corporate body is not offering up prayer, praise, and worship to Christ our God. Likewise, on Wednesday and Saturday when most churches have Vesper services, the same truth holds. From midnight on Wednesday morning to 11:59 PM Wednesday night, somewhere in the world there is a Church offering that same service. And this is exactly what Paul is stating here; that as a body the Church should meet together as often as possible (note, not as often as convenient, but rather as possible) to offer this praise and thanksgiving to God in corporate worship. And that in addition to individual prayer all throughout the day. The following of the prayer rule, the random spontaneous prayers that we offer, the constant recitation of the Jesus prayer; each of these serve to draw us closer to the heavens, to bring us closer together individually to God and as a community to God and to each other. This is part of why we have prescribed times for prayer, why we have schedules days for fasting; so that even being absent in the body we are still joining together as a community in prayer, so that when we fast, we fast as one body, and when we break the fast, we do so together in community with one another. We all abstain from the same things and we all break the fast at the same time and share a community meal together to break the fast as one body together. Jesus’ prayer to the Father was that we would all “be one, as You Father are in Me, and I in You; that they may be one in Us.” (John 17:21). And it’s important that we understand the implications of that prayer. For us to be one as He and the Father are one means that we do these things together. We fast together, we pray together, we live our lives together as one body, as one family, as one nation in Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Church was “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all people. And the Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47). This is the image of what our lives should be as believers.
Finally, he tells us that not only the apostles, but all believers should speak the mystery of Christ to those who are outside the Church. But, he gives us a warning concerning this. This should never digress into arguments or debates, it should never be an aggressive method. Rather, he tells us, our speech must “always be with grace.” We proclaim the mystery of Christ to those who are seeking the Truth, but we must always do so with grace, with compassion and love. He elsewhere warns us not to get involved with “foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.” (2 Timothy 2:23). We can never allow ourselves to fall into the pride of merely trying to win arguments, but rather we must, as Peter teaches us, “always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15). Thus, Paul tells us that we must always walk in the wisdom of Christ, to be prepared to answer these questions, but that those answers must be given in all sincerity of heart. And our lives should therefore be such as would inspire those questions. We should be blameless, merciful, compassionate; we should be hopeful regardless of our circumstances and never allow the darkness of the world to overcome the joy of Christ in our lives. People should see the grace of Christ in our lives and ask us how we are able to be this light that shines so brightly in a progressively darkening world.
My brethern, we are the body of Christ. We are one body, one community, one people, one nation. And we must overcome our own petty squabblings and instead stand united in Christ. We are the light which Jesus has given the world to fight against the darkness of the world, and we must allow that light to shine through us. It doesn’t require that we be experts at rhetoric, or that we have all 72 books of the Scripture memorized, but rather it requires that we love one another and that we never allow the darkness of the world to overwhelm us. The world is a divided, dark, and chaotic place; and we must be the one united body that the world looks at and says, “how are they able to do that in this world.” And then, for those who sincerely are seeking the answers to that, we are able to give the answer that it is only through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that we can be content in a world filled with desperation; that we can be hopeful in a world full of despair; that we can be merciful in a world run by greed; and that we can love when the rest of the world teaches us to hate.
Christ is in our midst.