“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. “ (Reference: Colossians 2:16-17 )
Peter Riedeman wrote, “Festivals are not to be kept for the sake of their outward appearance, which is no more than a shadow or picture of what is to come. The true reality of a holy day is Christ himself. [Col. 2:16-17] In him, the shadow must give way; the outer festivities must recede before the essential or true celebration, in which the Lord delights. Celebrating in this manner means earnestly seeking to obey God, to do his will and please him, [Isa. 56:1-7] to meditate upon his Word day and night, [Ps. 1:1-3] to do good and desist from evil and the enjoyment of evil. In summary, this means living and walking in the Spirit. [Gal. 5:16-18]”
Then, as now, the Roman Catholic church had many festival days and dedicated days to saints and situations. The historic Anabaptists, on principal being against the state established (meaning the Catholic church of that time), did not pay much attention to those holidays. (A discussion of how modern Anabaptists regard church holidays will be coming later in the year – stay tuned.) I am not sure though how relevant the connection is between this passage from Colossians and Riedeman’s comments about church festivals. The editors of Reading the Anabaptist Bible said, “Ceremonial celebrations and laws concerning food and drink point beyond themselves to the reality, which is Christ.” and this does connect to Riedeman’s comments. But the scripture passage is not quite on point with historic Anabaptist views. In fact the verses following this passage were used on October 6th for Human Law A Preacher and Seeker Conversation which coincidentally was the posting for the day I wrote this post.
When reading scripture (especially the writer of Colossians . . . okay, Paul) it is important to notice the “therefores”. It usually means that Paul is summing up what he had said a little while back. Paul is telling the Colossians, who were the intended audience and had Greek cultural influences, that their salvation comes by way of Christ and not by their practices in daily life – perhaps in comparison to Jewish practices. Paul moves on in the passage to talk about philosophies and theologies, lightly skipping over the topic of food and drink. For this reason I am not sure this is the best theme to have this passage under since the later verses are placed under the theme of “Human Law.” All in all, the fit is an awkward one.
But the overall theme is a good one. Food and festivals are not to be substituted for devotion and worship of God – the strong historic Anabaptist theme. And whether or not you keep to the festival and food celebrations should not be the determination for being a good Christian, but belief in Christ and adherence to Christian principles should be – Paul’s theme I think.
Days of celebration come and go, as quickly as the filling and emptying of platters of food. What remains, beloved, is how we conduct our lives, the way we live and treat others, and the strength of our devotion to God. These things fill our hearts, souls and spirit – not our stomachs! May you eat of nourishing spiritual food. Selah!