8/6/2000, P8, Year B
Will We Grow Up?
"(14) We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people's trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. (15) But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him, who is the head, into Christ..." (Ephesians 4: 14,15, NRSV)
At our best, we creatures have always longed for a more and more intimate relationship with our Creator. Yet, there has been a flaw in humankind, a rebellion that has prevented us from feeling at ease in friendship with the Divine. Yet, God has worked on us in all kinds of ways, mainly He has touched our lives through others. Christian believers are called to become mirrors of Christ to other persons. C.S. Lewis, the most quoted Christian writer of this century, expressed it this way:
"Usually it is those who know Him that bring Him to others. That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important... The Church exists for no other purpose but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time."
As Bishop Mack Stokes put it in a seminary classroom one day: "The Epic of Revelation, the entire scope of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, is an effort that God makes to win us into a living and lively friendship. He wants us for Himself!"
God wants us, and at our best we want to know more and more about Him who calls out to us in so many ways.
We all know the story of David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant Goliath with his little river stones, and who was later chosen by God to become King of Israel, yet David's flaw caused him to lust after a young soldier's wife and to have the husband killed. Later God sent his prophet Nathan to confront David with his heinous sin. The great King repented of his sin and was forgiven and restored to a deeper relationship with God. (2 Samuel 11). He later became the author of many of our Psalms that sing a story of: sin, repentance, redemption, and a closer walk with God. In Psalm 51 we hear his confession, "For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me... Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me." (v.3,7,10).
In the New Testament we hear Jesus offering a closer relationship with God to all who will confess their sin. "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (Jn. 6:35).
Paul expanded on this idea of receiving more from God as he wrote to the Ephesian Church: "We must no longer be children... We must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ... (4:15).
Spiritual formation, growth in our faith, is the means of achieving maturity in Christ, the full stature of Christ. To become a "Little Christ," a s C.S. Lewis loved to express it, is the way creatures are able to begin to know something of an adult friendship with God.
We know that such a relationship is possible because we have seen it fleshed out in the lives of people whom we have admired: Heroes from Scripture, and Heroes from life. We have learned from them that, as in education, spiritual development and growth takes time. Although there are watershed spiritual and emotional episodes along the way, it is the tick tock of time that takes us there.
"Growing up in every way," also comes as a result of allowing the Holy Spirit to continually help us survive the natural down times of life. Adversity is the necessary teacher and we need the teacher of hard lessons. Bringing good out of bad does not make the bad good, but it does mean that ultimate reward comes out of the problems that would otherwise keep us at an infantile stage of spiritual development. Have any of us known a Saint who has not suffered, and found new growth as a result of adversity?
Our lives all have their share of brokenness: broken promises, broken relationships, broken hopes and dreams. How can we expect to survive with that brokenness without becoming permanently broken ourselves, without hanging onto the Holy Spirit's faithful presence in our souls? There is no shortcut on this journey to mature faith. But in time we realize that we have been sealed by God and that we know Him whom we have believed. No longer are we easy prey for false sectarian fables, and silly new strange theologies. We sincerely desire to be washed by the blood of Christ and to "be whiter than snow." Although we are assured of victory, we must engage in this struggle.
Yet the most rewarding joy along the journey is to, every now and then, feel used as a reflection of Christ for someone else. Just as mentoring happened to us, it can begin to happen through us. It is in those experiences of influencing others that we feel the reality of the Church existing though our little lives. There is no greater thrill than to be used as an instrument of God; To become a bearer of "the bread of life" for some starving sister or brother. Through this process, "...the whole body of Christ is joined and knit together."
Now the question comes to us: When Will We Grow Up? When will we begin to desire it, and seek it? And when will we allow Him to finish the work that He has already begun to do in us? We can begin, or begin again, NOW!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor