Have you ever been to Colossae? I haven’t, but I did have the great privilege of traveling “in the footsteps of Paul” throughout Turkey with Bruce Van Blair and a small band of fellow pilgrims nearly twenty years ago, and our schedule took us as far as Laodicea, about ten miles northwest of Colossae. We were also focusing our journey on the locations of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation and had conquered the citadel at Sardis (each in our own way) the day before, but on this day, if we had had more time, we would have gone that extra ten miles to Colossae. By bus, of course. Not on foot, as Paul would have traveled.
Today, I have the great privilege of being part of another small band of fellow pilgrims led by Bruce: The New Church. Like the small community of Christians who gathered in the home of Philemon in Colossae, we were eager to read and ponder Paul’s letter, with the added benefit of Bruce’s gifted leadership to guide us through it. And when our first worship service took place last May, that’s exactly where we started:
A handful of people in the little village of Colossae have responded and given themselves to the Message of God’s love and purposes as revealed in Jesus Christ. They meet in Philemon’s house to pray, sing, worship, and learn more, if they can, of the new Life now available to them. They are surrounded by all the old culture and its beliefs. Some of it they still adhere to. But there is a very new truth mixed in with all they see and know and believe now. And they want to know it, honor it, and live by it more and more.
– Bruce Van Blair, “By The Will of God”
When Darkwood Brew launches Series 8 on January 8 – Upside Down Faith – it will focus on Bruce’s six-part sermon series inspired by Paul’s letter to the Colossians. As with most of the letters we have from the Great Apostle, Paul states his assignment at the outset – an apostle of Jesus Christ – and then claims the authority to carry out his task: by the will of God. As with most of the teachings we have from Bruce, he sets the context for Paul’s letter and undertaking, and reminds us that none of what Paul and his friends in Colossae were doing “could or would have happened if Jesus had not been right in the middle of it.”
This time around, my own journey “in the footsteps of Paul” is much closer to home and has not fallen ten miles short. Though I have much to learn about my own assignment in this realm, I get to serve in the corner of the Kingdom that my Lord, Jesus, has helped carve out for me. Here, in the company of fellow pilgrims and under the guidance of one of our King’s most faithful servants, Bruce Van Blair, I am clear on my credentials: by the will of God. Hopefully you will be able to share in this next part of the journey with us.
P.S. When Bruce first preached this sermon series, it was supplemented by classes that went further into the context and other details. Of particular note for this first week are the Introduction and Context and Questions.