1 I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” 9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 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, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. [NRSV]
Childhood: To Be Loved
We enter this human experience as a recipient: Hungry, Crying and Thirsty. We may hold great potential, but from the start we cannot feed, clothe, transport or even understand ourselves, much less add to our surroundings. We are only able to receive. Doting and grateful parents my feel the blessing and gift a new child, but as infants we are totally dependent.
It would wonderful to think every child had loving and able parents. This is not the case. Not every child begins life surrounded by love. This word of Paul’s to the church both then and now affirms God’s love and grace that surrounds us, even when evil and deceit may seem to rule around us. As United Methodist we call this work of God’s love, preventing-Grace. We do nothing to earn or prove ourselves for this love and blessing. But we do remain infants. So don’t continue to spiritually live like babies.
Baby’s cry when they need attention. Baby’s call for comfort when they the feel abandoned. The cry when there are things that need to be changed that they cannot change themselves. And parents, grand parents, siblings, relatives, friends and care providers feed, cuddle and change us.
Can you image church folks crying and complaining because they didn’t get their way? Can you imagine church folks not getting the attentions the feel they deserve and they complain because no one cares? Can you imagine church folks thinking that church should remain the same while the world changes with each passing day? Paul know the church at its beginning and knows us even now. His words call us to not stay as infants or even those in their terrible-twos.
“tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine”
Paul describes our spiritual development stage begins in a vulnerable state where we might be swayed and carried by someone else, not knowing we have our own feet of faith on which to stand. My Old Testament professer told me in his office that the seminary had the task of finding what run we stood on and, then pulled it out from underneath us and helped us develop a clear awareness and context for where we stand.
As children we love God is love. Sunday School and Bible School teach us stories of the Bible and basic ideas of faith, forgiveness, salvation, love and God’s power to create, judge and restore all things. While those great lessons are the heart of our foundation, our spirit hunger and thirsts for more. Have you been eating at the kids table all this time or have you come up to the big table. <farm: Brantley, holiday meals>
Adolescence: Awareness of the being Loved and Un-Loved
The beginning of self awareness and the accountability of our actions is found at a different age for each person. Some people do not learn the responsiblities of their actions and their responsibility for others even as those in double digits of year or more.
Paul speaks to the church at Ephesus in terms of “Trickery, craftiness, and deceitful scheming” These activities are actions of evil done with the awareness that they are self-serving, un-true and misleading.
<examples of mischief, dirt in the potato bucket, etc.>
Maturity: Technicalities vs Ability to Love
A teenager has legal rights to determine which parent will be their primary residence. At fifteen and sixteen we allow folks to drive. R Movies at 17. Voting and military service at 18. Drinking and legal contracts at 21. President at 35. Retire at 62 or 65 or 67 for me. There is a difference between being legally permitted and adult behavior
We may grow in our responsibilities of church, work, life, community, but doesn’t me we grow in love.
Paul writes to the church, “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”
Not that we are fully matured, rather we are in process of maturing. As United Methodist we call this relationship of grace, SANCTIFICATION. While we know right from wrong, good from bad, faithful from unfaith, we may cross the lines, but we are aware and are working to improve.
Sometimes we act like children and even babies, but we know we are called to mature in faith, in both believe and practice.
We are living in times of financial struggle, political uncertainty and turmoil, there are wars, famines and others faiths and apathy that demand our attention.
The mature voice must be heard and must lead by example.
When we hear one another talk in the voice of spoiled children or infants crying for attention. We meet the needs but do not follow their example.
In Heart of our 5-Practices of Ministry is our INTENTIONAL Spiritual Growth.
This is the acknowledgement that we are called to mature our faith as an ongoing practice of our Christian Living.
RESPONSE: Sign up for Bible Study. Get back in the routine of Sunday School. Start a new devotion and prayer practice. Grow your faith and Grow up in God.