Choosing to Change Colossians 1:9-20

In Pat Conroy’s 1995 novel, “Beach Music”, Max Rusoff was a refugee who survived the brutality of the Cossacks, though his home in the Ukraine was rampaged in that early 20th century period.  Many Jews died during that time; but Max escaped and immigrated to the little town of Waterford, South Carolina.  There he met and married Esther, a Polish immigrant.  When letters from Esther’s relatives in Poland stopped arriving in 1939, they became worried.  They went to their congressman and asked for a search to be done.  The news was bad-all of her family was killed in Hitler’s holocaust.

The investigation revealed a curious thing; a girl was found whose name matched that of Esther’s niece: Ruth Graubart who was hiding in a Catholic nunnery.  It turned out only to be a coincidence-same name, no relation.  Max told the congressman they would like to bring that girl to America.  He was reminded it would cost $50,000 because she was not his.  Max insisted knowing her family was probably dead, and if he did not help, no other person would.  Though most people might think the life of one little girl doesn’t make much difference in a war this big.  Max thought it mattered.

Max and Esther Rusoff sold almost everything, mortgaged their house and business, and borrowed the money they needed to bring that orphan girl to America.  When the boat arrived in Waterford, a skinny, shy, hungry, looking little girl walked down the gangplank into a crowd of waiting people that came to see this extraordinary scene of this girl walk into waiting arms of the Rusoff family, who were there to embrace her.  The couple greeted her in Yiddish and welcomed her to her new home, family, and world.

Someone acted out of love for this powerless child that was trapped on all sides.  They treated her as if she was their own child, which required a costly sacrifice.  They delivered her by paying the price to rescue her and gave her new life.  Everything in the life of that little girl changed.

That story sounds like the gospel to me, for the essence of gospel is about change.  A powerful gospel metaphor is the redemption done for us in Jesus Christ.  That metaphor is spelled out in this scripture; suggesting we’ve been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s own Son; because of that we can undergo a great change.  Jesus Christ is the reason we have the power to choose to change.

We are more open to change as a possibility when passing from one period to another.  We are on the threshold of a new church year.  This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday; the finale of the church year and the precursor of Advent, the beginning of the new church year.  This is the day we celebrate the supremacy of Christ.  So, let’s consider how the power of Christ makes the choice of change possible and what choices of change we might need to make as we enter into this coming Holy Season.

Change is necessary for all of us because in some way we have fallen into slavery of this world or have been dragged down by some darkness.  This happens in our interior and exterior lives, psychologically and sociologically, in the inner structures of our self-awareness, and the bureaucratic structures of our corporate and political systems.  We put our trust in the created world; increasing the possibility for idolatry; whose by-product is enslavement.

The litmus test for the gospel is: Does this “Old, Old Story” contain the power to set us free from things which enslave us?  Let’s take the example of addictions, which can enslave the soul of any person and see if the Jesus’ story can give us the power to choose to change.  Does the good news have the power to help an addict make the choice to change?

Addictions start innocently enough, either with a substance (i.e. drugs or alcohol) or activity (i.e. work or gambling) that provides some relief or escape.  We make a choice to mask our feelings of being left out or we are looking for ways to displace the agony we feel because we are experiencing some form of vulnerability.  The substance or activity helps us cope for a time, but over time a switch happens and we don’t even know how it happens.  We are no longer using it, it is using us.  We have to have it, and will do whatever it takes to have it.  To see a person fixed on a substance or activity that reduces them to stumbling around with eyes that look like motel windows with vacancy signs, breaks the heart of God and the people who love them.  Believe me I know, and so do some of you.

We can become so enslaved we cannot see we’re entrapped.  We grow accustomed to the dark and view darkness as light, ugliness as beauty, lies as truth, and bad as good.  No normal person would allow themselves to be handcuffed, put in prison, and think we are free, though we are captive.  Yet, the cunning and baffling power of an addiction accomplishes that kind of enslavement while making us thinks we are free because we have lost our awareness of whose we are in God and how much we are loved by God.  We forget we are created by God to love and be loved, to work and play, to know the heights of joy and the creative agonies of deep passion.

We are stuck in our addiction and don’t possess the power within us to make the choice to change.  We will remain stuck until we encounter the Christ who is king over these addictive enslavements of biblical proportions.  We can make the choice to put our faith in Christ’s ways and connect our lives to a power made available to those who enter in a relationship with God’s Son.  We can know the life changing power that enables us to choose to change after making a choice to enter into this active relationship with the King of Kings.  Can I get a witness from a recovering addict who has connected to a higher power so you could make choices to change?

The choice to connect our lives to Christ’s always means setting aside self-interest that perpetuates enslavement.  Setting aside self-interest asks Christ to help us make choices that not only sets us free from our destructive self, but seeks to set others free who have been impacted by our previous choices.  We will know we have put our faith in the gospel story when we not only experience the power to change, but others in our lives are experiencing that same power too.  We know we’re free to choose change when we can say yes or no, for not only our sake, but also for the sake of others.

We can choose to casts away unhealthy activities that control us.  We can choose to say no to friends without fear of rejection.  We can choose to stand on our values; though the decision may be filled with fears of the unknown.  We can act in the best interest of all despite clamoring voices that beg us to cut ethical corners.  We do not have to remain captive to any force that destroys our own lives or hurts the welfare of others.  We can choose to change ourselves and in doing so change our world.

We need someone who has not fallen overboard to throw us a life preserver.  We need someone who has not been sucked into the deceit to announce the truth.  We need someone who has not strayed to call us back.  We need someone who has not been weakened to carry us until we can walk again.  We need a change agent in order to choose to change.  That is what God in Christ has done for us.  We declare the supremacy of Christ on this Sunday because he makes the choice of change possible.

Are you ready to make some changes in these coming days of Advent and Christmas?  This is the season we declare again the love of God is so great that heaven could not bear to see us enslaved.  Tis’ the season to trumpet that God defeated the power of enslavement by entering this world in the humblest of fashions, a baby placing complete trust in the supremacy of God.  We too can be set free by placing our trust in God’s Deliver, who activates the power within us to choose to change.  The Babe of Bethlehem waits for us to run down the gangplank and place our lives into the loving arms who makes the choice of change possible.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Sorry I missed this one Russell. I was visiting
    Bill’s church. 🙂


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