Growth=Change: Reveling

Photo by Akil Mazumder on

Three weeks ago, we started a series called Growth=Change. So far, we’ve talked about our first three steps in the process—recognition, re-cognition, and response. Recognition means we must first realize the need for change. If we cannot see the need to change, we won’t. We are broken by the lives we have led, each in our own way. We need to come to a place of changing direction, the literal meaning of repent. The second step in this process is re-cognition. To get to the place where we can truly change direction, we must re-learn or re-think. Seeing the need to change is not enough. We must see how we can change. We must have a plan for change to engage with or we will revert to our old ways of thinking and being. Response calls us beyond realization and planning to action. You haven’t changed until your mind, heart, and actions become one and you are feeling as well as living the change. 

This brings us to our final step, reveling. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of reveling is the levee overlooking the Oostanaula River. My parents grew up in Rome, Georgia and most of their family lived there so they tended to do holidays in Rome. Many years, especially when it was close to the weekend, we went up for the 4th of July fireworks. 

Several hours beforehand people would begin finding seats on and along the levee. People brought picnic baskets and blankets. Nearby parks had the smell of scorching hot dogs and hamburgers. Kids ran up and down the levee and played in the edge of the river. Sometime during the day, a barge would be anchored in the river. As the sky fell dark, people would sit on the banks and watch an incandescent barrage soar into the night sky. The whole experience had a festival atmosphere. People relaxed and let go of their problems even if it was only for the few minutes they marveled at the light show. They simply celebrated in the moment. 

The lectionary passage we read today stops a little short of getting to the reveling part. It’s hinted at in the passage, but it stops short. The part we read today is the end of an argument the writer started in the previous section. The writer ends the second chapter of Colossians saying, 

If you died with Christ to the way the world thinks and acts, why do you submit to rules and regulations as though you were living in the world? “Don’t handle!” “Don’t taste!” “Don’t touch!” All these things cease to exist when they are used. Such rules are human commandments and teachings. They look like they are wise with this self-made religion and their self-denial by the harsh treatment of the body, but they are no help against indulging in selfish immoral behavior.[1]

Colossians 2

In the reading today, the writer picks up the argument from there, talking about truly leaving the old way of being and embracing the new way of being in the Christ, that “which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it.”[2] In other words, anything that doesn’t conform to the Jesus way of living and being is no way to live and be. 

The writer continues from there, adding a second part to the argument. The first part is essentially a ‘don’t do’ list while the second part is a ‘do’ list. The first part tells us to, 

…put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him.[3]

Colossians 3

Notice the similarity to the Fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5:22-23 but notice even more the ending. Three times in the last few verses the writer tells the Colossian church to be thankful. The Greek word for thankful is eucharistoi or eucharisteou. We get the word eucharist from this, which is the churchy name for what many Protestants call the Lord’s Supper. This is the celebration time we set aside to remember the love, sacrifice, and triumph of Jesus as we do a minor reenactment of Jesus’ final meal. Often, we make this a solemn and somber event, a long faced dour expression of life. Personally, I think we’re doing it wrong.  

I believe true thankfulness, true gratitude leads us not to a place of being somber but a place of being joyous. Think about it. If you are truly aware of being on this journey of life in Christ, and you look back and see growth and change in yourself; if you can look back see where you came to see with new eyes and hear with new ears, if you had the courage to act on this new way of thinking and being, wouldn’t you celebrate? Wouldn’t it be an occasion of joy and gratitude?

And it’s not something we just celebrate in ourselves. Celebrating growth is a means of encouragement anytime we see growth in the church. Since, we consider growth something to be celebrated—both in ourselves and others—it becomes something we look forward to for each person who comes to a place of growth on their journey. We give thanks for the change and growth that has taken place, recognizing what God has, is, and will be doing through each of us.

This entire worship series over the past month has been driven by a single thought: if we, the disciples of Jesus in the twenty-first century, are going to not only survive but thrive, there will have to be change, there will have to be growth. We will have to see the need for it, adjust our thinking to embrace it, act on these new thoughts and new way of being, and celebrate the growth with each other. 

Of course, if there’s no change, no growth, what’s to celebrate? The entire series is predicated on the idea, foolish as it may be in some quarters, that people who claim to followers of Jesus actually want to change, want to grow as followers of Jesus. If and when we do it’s cause for celebration, thanksgiving, joy. But most often we don’t. Mostly we give lip service to it. Mostly we think just going to church or just being generally good by the community standard of what’s good is good enough. 

Is that worth celebrating? Is being a ho-hum, joyless, community rule follower worth having a party over. I don’t think so. I think the kind of celebration, the kind of revelling were talking about is reserved for truly altering your way of being to the Jesus way of being. It’s for those who choose to seek out and live into the things Jesus taught. It requires something more of us and rewards us with a life of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”[4]

My journey of faith has been nothing if not interesting. I feel like I have traveled so far and at the same time could easily step back to where I started. There is so much more to learn, to live, to understand, to teach. I fear that I will never come to the place where I see it all to fruition. But for every moment, every life event, every piece of knowledge and wisdom and understanding I have been given through the Holy Spirit, I am thankful. My prayer for you is that God, through the Holy Spirit, will open your hearts and place in them a desire to want growth and change, movement toward the Jesus Way of Living and Being as a way of life. That you may grow into the “love’s width and length, height and depth, together with all believers.”[5]

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, amen.

[1] Colossians 2:20-23

[2] Colossians 3:10

[3] Colossians 3:12-17

[4] Galatians 5:22-23

[5] Ephesians 3:18