Signpost for the Seventeenth Sunday in Year C, 24 July 2016: Hosea 1:2-10; Ps 85; Col 2:6-15,(16-19); Luke 11:1-13.
According to my (older) copies of the lectionary, when this Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday in the month as it does this year, it is also Social Service Sunday. In my time at Kamo (North Island, NZ), where this habit of writing “Signposts” began, this meant that I was very unlikely to preach on the lections for the Seventeenth Sunday as we had a designated Ministry Team Member who was responsible for ministry in the community. She would usually occupy the sermon slot, and keep this ministry in the forefront of our concerns.
This meant that these notes, which Brye called “Signposts”, would not be connected to the ‘sermon’ but to the lections. So what has there been? Three years ago, Paul offered us notes on three lections, but mostly on Hosea. In 2010 I wrote on Colossians, 2007 was Brye on Hosea, 2004 myself on Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, 2001 was Sophie on Prayer in Hosea and the Psalm and in 1998 Brye wrote on metaphor. I have not kept anything earlier than that.
We were talking about Turkey the other day, and I remembered vaguely that much of Paul’s writing is set there. If you went there today, you would be unlikely to find anything left. Colossae was one of three cities in Phrygia. Laodicea and Hierapolis were the others, and you should find some of their remains still. I have difficulty placing these on what few modern maps I have, but they are in south-west Turkey, perhaps somewhere near Nazilli. This is a long way from either Istanbul or Ankara, which have featured in our news recently.
Are airport bombings or attempted coups in Turkey part of our social concerns? Do we connect our early church history with the events of today? The church of Antioch (in Turkey now, near the Syrian border) sent out Paul as a missionary and that mission led to the rest of Turkey, then to Greece and to Rome. That mission is ours, because it eventually led to New Zealand.
The Church in Antioch sent others out further East, and they probably reached to China, to Tibet, and Indonesia. Most of these are almost as hard to trace as Colossae today. The fate of the former churches of Turkey and Tibet leave us wondering how the Christian faith could have become so attenuated, adulterated or twisted that it died there, perhaps in the face of a new faith such as Buddhism or Islam.
Is the fate of the Church in Colossae a warning for us?