A Bible Study for Anxious Times: Paul's "Prison" Epistles - The Sunday Following Easter
by Rev. Lee Johnson
april 19, 2020
For the past month, we've studied Paul's letters from "prison" in Rome. We are ready to move on, but not before returning to Colossians 4. Earlier, we focused on Colossians 4:2-4. Now, we add the two verses that follow (5-6). Paul continues to write from the context of his house arrest. Yet, he sends his words to those living on the "outside." Paul's context (setting) and his letter written to an outside audience makes for a rich mixture of words and metaphors to guide us on this Sunday following Easter. (Not to forget, we too know a little bit of both!)
Two images emerge from Colossians 4. Both seem fitting of the Easter story. The first we read previously: "Pray that God will open to us a door for the word." The second follows in the two additional verses: "Let your speech be seasoned with salt." The first assumes doors have been closed. It's unlikely you would pray for an open door if you knew nothing of a closed door. The second pairs salt with grace: "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt." Both are sent from Paul's inside reflections to those on the outside.
Generally, on the Sunday following Easter, the Gospel turns to John (John 20:19-23). Here, the disciples are huddled in a locked room out of fear for the very authorities who on Friday put Jesus to death. Yet, Jesus enters through locked doors. Jesus, the word incarnate, enters. About this moment, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from his locked down WWII Nazi prison cell: "Strange, that precisely in the hour we most hope for Jesus' presence, we lock the door to him in fear of many other things." "Pray," says Paul, "God will open a door for the word." Now, what about salt? We've all known people with salty language. But, is that the kind of salt Paul has in mind for the words we speak? Now, that's something to ponder as we sit on the inside hoping to return soon to the outside.
For the early church, "fear" kept the doors locked.
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/sermons/
Three times on Sunday: "Season my life with Salt, O Lord."