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12.30.12 “Growing as a Christian” Luke 2:41-52, Sermon Summary

by on December 31, 2012

In only five days, worship attendance drops by seventy percent. Sound like a sensational headline? It’s not. Nor is it new.

Summary Points

  • Worship and other ways people grow spiritually
  • The importance of the “Temple” community
  • Tensions in our various “families”
  • Growing in the spiritual life

Can you imagine the Temple scene at Passover? People having traveled long distances to worship together. Congested roads and airways due to holiday travelers. Families having a reunion around a major religious holiday. Individuals taking a break from busy-ness of the season to think about God. Everyone wearing their best clothes. There are no more reservations being taken at hotels and restaurants. There’s standing room only in the Temple.

And then five days later? Mary and Joseph travel a day, travel back a day, and search for Jesus three days—that’s five days later and they’re back at the Temple. It’s pretty much empty except for Jesus and the teachers. There are no crowds. Parking is easy. Finding a seat is even easier. All just five days later. Sound familiar?

Five days after a major worship event, Jesus’ family is back at the Temple, and Luke tells us that, “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, in divine and human favor.” There’s a principle here we should all pay attention to. It is that spiritual growth occurs in community. Not the once or twice a year worship event, but the frequent, routine gathering. In such community, as Luke presents Jesus, we can ask questions, offer our own answers, and experience the give and take of relationships.

In regular worship, the Colossians reading tells us, we “let the word of Christ dwell among us richly; teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in our hearts we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” Here, in this context, we grow in wisdom and divine favor, just like Jesus.

But it isn’t just in worship. It’s also over coffee, in praying for one another. In sharing life’s stories. These are the ways we grow spiritually, and it only happens in community.

This is what the “Temple” signifies in Jesus’ life. It was at the Temple that Mary and Joseph received the testimonies of Simeon and Anna. Luke is sure to tell us that Jesus’ parents made the yearly festival of Passover. It was in the Temple that Jesus interacted with the teachers. His “first sermon” occurred in worship. And it is in the context of a discussion on what is appropriate in worship that Jesus’ critics help him articulate one of his fundamental truths: that the Sabbath is made for us, not us for the Sabbath.

God used the “Temple” community in Jesus’ life to reveal things he and his biological family didn’t already know. Similarly, we can say that the “Temple” community of faith in some ways supersedes our biological “family.” This is why Jesus responds to his mother by saying he had to be about his “Father’s business” (or in his “Father’s house” depending on translation). He says later in Luke that his “mother, brothers, and sisters” are those who listen to his teaching and do the will of God (Luke 8:19-21). And he comforts his disciples by assuring them that he goes, “to prepare a place” for them in the Father’s house (John 14:2-3).

So we can say that we multiple understandings of “family” in the church. There is our family that consists of our parents (Mary and Joseph). There’s the family consisting of our extended blood relatives (those Mary and Joseph figured Jesus was traveling with). There’s the family with whom we worship God (Simeon, Anna, the teachers in the Temple, e.g.). Then there’re all the family members God chooses to include, which, scandalously includes the Gentiles. To put this in perspective, Jesus uses hyperbole in saying his disciples must “hate their father and mother” (Luke 14:26).

Sometimes these various family connections come into tension with one another. In this scene, the tension is palpable: Mary and Joseph frantically searching for Jesus who so cavalierly dismisses their anxiety. But Luke tells us that Jesus went with his parents and was “obedient.” For the time being, Jesus remained in submission to his biological family. We should be grateful for our family of origin, and go as far as with them as they will take you.

But eventually there comes a time in everyone’s life when we are called to move into God house. God’s household is less self-preserving, more welcoming, more inclusive than most biological families’. God’s household members are called to take greater risks, but in exchange, will experience greater growth. In God’s household, God isn’t threatened by our growing up, in contrast to some parents who have a hard time letting their children be different than they are.

These multiple family associations are what are signified at the font in baptism. Jesus says we must be “born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). We are to be grateful for our birth in water—our family of origin. But we must also honor our being “born again of the Spirit.” In our baptismal birth, we realize that we belong to God first. And if to God, then to God’s people. We are, first and foremost, part of God’s kingdom. Not the kingdom of our family. Not the kingdom of our nation. We belong to God’s kingdom, and if to God’s kingdom, then to each other

This spiritual reality can cause some tensions. The solution to these tensions is not to forsake or abandon our family of origin, but to invite our original family members into the family of faith. The solution is also not to abandon our family of faith.

So can you picture yourself, like Jesus, growing in wisdom and divine favor? You will if you continue to grow in the family of faith. Worship more frequently. Get involved in a small group. Serve others with people from the church. Ask questions. Provide answers. Pray with one another. These are the ways Jesus grew. These are the ways we will grow also.

Questions for Discussion or Reflection

  • This week do a “favor factor” assessment. If Jesus could grow in wisdom and divine favor, so can you. So in what areas can you grow in?
  • Read a Proverb a week, or one a day, and see how the wisdom of the Bible can instruct your life.
  • What are some tension areas in your life among the various families you’re a part of? Do you have members of your biological family that are part of another Christian tradition (Protestant compared to Roman Catholic, Reformed compared to Baptist, for example)? Are there other religious traditions in your blood family? How can you relate better together in the coming year?
  • How strong is you “Temple” community? How strong is your “Temple” commitment? Since this was so important to Jesus’ growth, how can you strengthen in your life?

 

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