Grow up!

by susan on July 28, 2015

During our Sunday worship gatherings, we’re continuing to move through the New Testament letter to the Ephesians. This is the message that was shared.

Grow Up!
Ephesians 4:1-16

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with 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. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. 7But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8Therefore 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? 10He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until 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. 14We 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. 15But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16from 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.

When I turned twelve years old, I celebrated by having a slumber party with my closest friends. Late in the evening, while they were upstairs in my bedroom talking and having fun, I came downstairs in tears and found my mom and dad to let them know I had made a very important decision. I had decided I did not want to grow up.

I am not sure what caused this sudden fear of getting older, but I just remember thinking I don’t want to leave home, I don’t want to have a job, or anything else that comes with growing up. Twelve was good enough for me.

With some hugs and reassurance, the feeling eventually passed & I went back to having fun. I guess you could call that my “Peter Pan moment”. Peter Pan is one of my favorite Disney movies. Peter Pan remains a kid, like forever. He refuses to grow up. In one of the songs in the musical, he sings:

I won’t grow up,
I don’t want to go to school.
Just to learn to be a parrot,
And recite a silly rule.
If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree,
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up, not me!

Peter and his crew of forever children have watched what happens to adults and they want no part in it. They choose, like many of us, to stay as they are.

There is a part of each of us that doesn’t really want to grow up, isn’t there?
Maybe because we don’t want to take responsibility for our lives or we fear becoming boring or set in our ways.
What does it does it mean to grow up anyway?
And what does it mean to grow up in our faith?

I used to believe it meant becoming more certain about everything but, the older I get, I’m going to be honest, the more I learn and the more uncertain I become that I have anything figured out. If I am honest, more often than not, the appropriate response to the many questions I am asked is “I don’t know”.

Why does God allow so much suffering? I don’t know.
What exactly is going to happen when we die? I don’t know.
When will we finally have a place to launch our community collaborative? I don’t know.

So, if growing up in our faith does not mean having all of the answers, then what does it mean?

After several pages of greetings, reminders and prayers, we come to the second half of Paul’s letter to a group of Gentile Christians and we get to the heart of the message. Paul urges, begs, pleads for these followers of Jesus to lead a life worthy of their calling. And, he uses the image of growing up.

In discipleship, as in life, like it or not, growing up is necessary. We are not meant to stay children forever.

The first move toward maturity is to identify yourself as one who is “called,”which for some of us is a really BIG deal. unfortunately, that word “called” has been used to manipulate, justify and coerce. It implies hearing the audible voice of God telling us to do something which does not happen for everyone. We often hear people use it to explain why they are choosing to move in a certain direction, which conveniently seems to benefit them greatly.

“Called” the way Paul uses it though means chosen by God. It is reminiscent of the Israelites who in the Old Testament were called out of Egypt and into a journey of deep dependence on God. Being called requires some things. It means leaving something behind to move in a new direction.

Callings are like that. When I felt called to pursue a career in occupational therapy, I couldn’t just go get a job. I had to learn and invest time and money and years of my life in preparation.

Being called or chosen is not a “shew, thank goodness I’m in”. It’s more like an “ok, I’m ready to begin”.
It’s starting an ongoing apprenticeship into the kingdom of God way of living and dying that we know through Jesus.
It’s not signing up for a boring life of becoming set in your ways. It’s saying yes to an adventure in humility, peace, patience, love & unity.

For some that calling included specific roles that would guide the life of the early church. The purpose of these gifts was not for power or personal gain. According to The Message translation, the point of these gifts is to help Christ followers become “fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.” You have been called, says Paul. Now, lead a life worthy of that calling.

Then, to all who were receiving this letter – those who were well established in faith, to those who were curious or skeptical or feeling ready to take the plunge, Paul puts it bluntly: You must grow up.

One of the most important milestones we accomplish in our growth as human beings happens when we turn one. Moms and dads get their cameras ready to capture it and are so bummed if they are not the ones to see it. We take our first step. We learn to walk. And, we are able to move anywhere. It’s a crazy, life-giving and dangerous time.

I think what Paul was saying to this group of people who had been chosen and called and given new life is that they were going to have to learn to walk the way of Jesus.

Humility and love and peace and unity and speaking the truth in love were not going to be easy or popular or even natural at times. Faith was going to have to be learned and sometimes learned the hard way. It would not necessarily result in material gain or worldly comforts or a life of ease as some will tell you. It will not keep you free from suffering or assure you have all the answers. In fact, at times, walking this will get you into real trouble. After all, Paul was writing from prison.

So, then how would these Christians know they were growing up?
Paul does not say they will become more certain. He does not say they will have all the right answers. He does not say growing up will mean telling everyone else they are on the wrong path and you are on the right one. He says growing up will look like becoming alive in Christ.

Christ is our measure for growth. Christ, who welcomed all, Christ who proclaimed a new way of being in the world & who suffered and died because of it. Christ is how we measure our growth. We learn to walk as he walked and that can be awkward and uncomfortable at best.

This week, I spent time with those who are learning to walk. I attended my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I walked into the old, run down building that used to be the neighborhood bar. The group of young and old shared a series of rituals, read portions of “the big blue book”. They reminded one another they are seeking progress, not perfection. They shared stories, struggles and celebrations. One participant told another how you can’t expect yourself to walk a new way overnight. It was one of the most real and meaningful conversations I’ve been apart of lately. It was a refreshing reminder of what the church can be: a community of those learning to walk a new way together.

There are no precise roadmaps, no quick shortcuts, no easy answers.
There is just with God’s help, learning to walk the Jesus way.

How are you needing to grow up?
How are you needing to become more alive in Christ?
What step are you willing to take?

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