Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Growing Up

December 30th:

Potsdam & WS
Call:    Colossians 3: 12-17
Text:    Luke 2: 41-52
Read: W&S # 8

            Growing Up

[Read Luke 2: 41-52]

There are a lot of reasons to like this story of Jesus being left behind in Jerusalem.

With my off beat mind, I like it because it sets up some fun questions:
   Why didn't his parents let him have a cell phone?
   If we had been there, would we have called child protective services on Mary and Joseph?

Too, I like it because I relate to it a bit
My parents actually did once arrive home from church
   Only to discover that they had left my brother Bob behind.
Of course, when they returned to pick him up
   They didn't find Bob teaching the pastor and the Sunday School staff

I like it because by informing us
   That Mary and Joseph made annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem
      And that this visit was not just a one time thing.
We learn that Jesus was raised in a family
   Where worshiping God was given priority.

And I like this story because I still recall learning it in Sunday School
   When I was about 8 or 9
   And that, I have to admit, was,  well ... more than 20 years ago.

It is one of several stories that I still recall first learning in Sunday School, among them:
   The story of Jacob and Esau
   The story of Hannah giving Samuel to the Lord
   The story of Solomon determining which of the women was actually the mother of the baby by suggesting that the baby be cut in half
      Although it was not until adulthood
that I learned the women were actually prostitutes
the Sunday School materials left that fact out

I like remembering that I learned these and other stories in Sunday School
   For doing so reminds me that our Sunday Schools
   Have an impact on our being nurtured in Christ
      I am Exhibit # 1

But there is another, even more important reason that I like the story

For it conveys a message that helps me when I feel inadequate or confused - particularly as regards faith and service.

For in the story, we are reminded
that even Jesus   had to grow up and mature
that even Jesus   had to learn things
    so that his ministry would be successful.

We see that when we observe the astonishment of the twelve year old Jesus
   discovering that his parents had been worried and looking for him

His mother asked,
   "Child, why have you treated us like this?
   Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety."

Jesus was floored.

His response, was an amazed
   "Why were you searching for me?
   "Did you not know that I must be in my father's house?"

He was astonished and he amazed that they had been worried about him.

And he was astonished and he was amazed that they had not immediately understood
that where he would be
should have been obvious.

He learned something about people that day.
   He learned about how they react
And he took this knowledge
and he used it to communicate his message

And he was not done learning

We know that because the last verse of our scripture says,
   "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years
   And in divine and human favor."

When I feel inadequate or confused in matters of faith and service
I find it comforting and I find it reassuring
to know that even Jesus had to grow up
      Just like you and I have to.

Understanding that he shared this need for growth with us
Should enable us to prevail over discouragement
when we realize that we are not yet perfect
when we realize that we have room for improvement
when we realize that we have failed.
   When we realize we don't know everything.

For on each of those realizations,
   We need to focus on learning and improving
   Rather than on failure and giving up

Even Jesus had to learn
   Is there anything more obvious
than that you and I have to as well?

We can do it.

The biggest obstacle to our growth
Is our tendency to allow our pride to blind us
      To our need to do so.

For growing often requires us to
admit that our previous understanding was immature and incomplete - even wrong

For most human beings
there are not many harder things to do than that.

That's where this story can help us
   For if Jesus had to grow
   Then you and I shouldn't be embarrassed
      To admit our need to learn
      To admit our failures of the past
      To admit that we have, at times, been wrong
         Not just in our actions
         But also in our understanding of our faith

I was talking the other day with a man who attends a nondenominational church whose pastor
is very conservative
and very inflexible.

The pastor lost his wife to cancer a couple of years ago.

Some time later he began to date a woman who is divorced from her first husband
   Apparently a fine, decent woman
Whom he had met while she helped to take care of his wife

His congregation should be pleased for him.
They should be delighted that this man
about whom they have cared a great deal
and who suffered such a loss when his wife died
is able to again experience happiness in his private life

But sadly, that is not the case.
The congregation instead is coming apart.

The saddest aspect is that it is coming apart because
For years, this pastor had taught them
   That that it is a sin
      To marry or be involved with someone who is divorced

He has, in fact, on several occasions, used his power as pastor
   to reject men from becoming deacons
      for the very reason
      that they had married divorced women!

And many who have left the church - and some still in it -
   Think that not only is he now being sinful
   But also
      That he is a hypocrite
      And they question his faith and his call.

I have met this pastor
   Very frankly, I have never been all that crazy about him

But my heart went out to him
   As I heard what is happening to the congregation he serves.

[My heart has gone out to the congregation as well.]

I doubt very much
that this pastor is a hypocrite
And I suspect
that he really is a man of faith who has been called to service

Therefore, I would love to tell him
   To stand in front of his congregation
   And admit to them that
as he has allowed the Holy Spirit
to continue to work  on him   and in him
and as he has spent time prayerfully studying the teachings of Christ
   he has come to the conclusion
that he had been immature in his faith and understanding

I would like him to tell that congregation
that his inflexible position before was inconsistent with
Christ's message of love, mercy, and forgiveness

I would like him to tell them that he repents
for the hurt and harm he has caused others
because of his immature faith.

I would like him to tell them
that our seeking to understand the teachings and life of Christ
is a life long journey
   never completed during our time on earth.

In doing so, I would hope that he would remind them of this story
   that even Jesus Christ himself
had to grow in wisdom and understanding

It might or might not save his job
But it would be a teaching
that might save others from letting their own inflexible pride get in the way of their maturing in understanding and faith
      And one that might help his congregation recognize
their continual need to grow in that faith.

As for our own growth, we would be well advised
To turn to - among other things -
the prescription that Paul provided
in his letter to the Colossians,
   The words that called us to worship this morning

Paul told us there
That to mature in faith, understanding, and service, we need
to clothe ourselves
      Not with arrogance or inflexibility

But rather
      With compassion, kindness, humility,
meekness, and patience

Paul told us there
That to mature in faith, understanding, and service we must
      Bear with one another
      And forgive each other

Paul told us that above all
To mature in faith, understanding, and service, we need
to clothe ourselves in love
which binds us together in perfect harmony
to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts
and   to be thankful.

If we do all this
   We can - like Jesus himself - mature and grow up.

If we can't,
   Our growth will be stunted

And as far as the story of the 12 year old's stay in Jerusalem
   We will be back to liking it only
      Because we can joke about Jesus needing a cell phone
   And   Because we wonder if we would have called child protective.

Let's grow
Even if it means
that we have to admit we have not always fully understood in the past.