The epistle lectionary passage for this past Sunday is Colossians 3:12-17. I believe this portion of Scripture provides a pattern that is especially appropriate as we begin the new year, 2010.
Each of us stands at a different place in life at the change in year. Some are closer to the beginning, some to the end, and many of us are just trying to get along. The one uniting factor, however, is that we are all a potential part of the “whoever” identified by Jesus in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We are dearly loved, so much so that God sent His only Son to this earth to walk with us and to suffer and die for our sins, to pay our debt.
Because we are so loved, we can reflect that tremendous gift in our own lives. Paul tells us first of all: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Books have been written about how to dress for success, how to look thinner, and for many other purposes. Young people dress to identify with their friends and to separate themselves from other groups. What we wear and how we appear in large part reflects who we are or hope to be. How we dress reflects how we feel about ourselves.
What we wear spiritually is no different. Paul told the Colossian believers to clothe themselves, to wrap themselves up, in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. It isn’t enough to “look good” spiritually, but our appearance and interaction with those around us need to reflect God’s mercy and grace.
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. As the clock turns to midnight, we look forward to a new year, to new opportunities, to new relationships. However, many of us lack success in those new endeavors because we fail to let go of the past. Paul’s challenge is to let the past go, to find freedom from the anger and bitterness that consumes our thoughts and our time, to forgive as we have been forgiven. What did we give to receive forgiveness? Nothing! God made the first move and offered to us salvation through Christ. As God’s children, then, we should reflect God’s love by offering forgiveness to others.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. It isn’t enough to just go through the motions of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, etc. It is important to do so because of the love God has shown toward us. To quote an old gospel song, “I am loved. I am loved. I can risk loving you, for the One who knows me best loves me most.” It is because we are loved that we can love others, in spite of their failures, faults, and foibles.
How can we do these things? Do we just decide and all of a sudden we are able to forgive and love and be patient and compassionate? Not really. It is a practice, a way of growing into our identities in Christ. And there is another ingredient, as well: focusing on God’s presence in our lives.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. How can I have peace in the midst of struggles, arguments, and frustration? By allowing God’s peace to rule in my heart. I can dwell in peace because I know that God is over all and able to bring “all things together for good” because I love God and have responded to God’s call to salvation (Romans 8:28). Turning over my fears and problems to God keeps me from worrying and fretting over them.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. God’s peace grows as we grow in discipleship. Resolve to spend time reading and learning God’s Word. Hide it in your heart where the Spirit can use it to bring you growth and change. Fill your life with the music of faith, not just hearing and singing music about heartbreak and partying and loss, but music that fills your mind and your spirit with hope and gratitude.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
What are your new year’s resolutions? Lose weight? Make more money? Spend less money? Whatever your resolutions, whatever you choose to do this new year, allow God’s Spirit to work through you, to fill you with God’s love so that you might share that love with others. Choose to live a life of peace, filled with God’s Word so that you can reflect the peace that comes from knowing the God who loved you and sent His Son to earth.
May you be blessed in 2010 not only with things, but with the knowledge of the love of God for you and that love and peace that comes from acting upon and living in that knowledge.
Pastor Mary Kay Glunt