"Growing Up" - Pentecost 11B
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Delivered By
Pr. David Fleener
Delivered On
August 5, 2018 at 10:15 AM
Central Passage
Ephesians 4:1-16
Pentecost 11B

Pr. David Fleener

Sermon: August 5, 2018 – Pentecost 11B

Ephesians 4:1-16; John 6:24-35


Growing Up


            In the 1954 musical Peter Pan, Peter and the Lost Boys sing, “I Won’t Grow Up”, which includes these lyrics:


I won't grow up.
Not a penny will I pinch.
I will never grow a mustache,
Or a fraction of an inch.
'Cause growing up is awfuller
Than all the awful things that ever were.
I'll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up,
No sir,
Not I,
Not me,
So there![1]


Though unlike Peter Pan, we all grow up, there’s some attraction to the notion of eternal childhood. Many of us already look back on our childhoods with nostalgia. Many of us remember childhood as a simpler time. No rent, no mortgage, no bills to pay. No kids of our own to be responsible for. No navigating the adult working world. And don’t forget, when you were a kid you got your summers off! Of course, for some of us school was difficult. And to be sure, some of us suffered in other ways during childhood – maybe some of you did have adult responsibilities at a young age or suffered abuse in some way. Nevertheless, I would guess that most of us look back on childhood with a degree of fondness or longing. Not long ago I heard this sort of longing when a parishioner told me that one day she wondered, “Where had all the old people gone?” And suddenly to her shock, she realized that she and her friends were now “the old people”.


            Despite our longing to go back to a time where we don’t have to grow up, we do. Just as we grow up in every other sphere of our lives: physically, mentally, and emotionally, God also calls us to grow up spiritually. As we hear in our Ephesians reading, God gave different gifts to different people – some are apostles or prophets, some are evangelists, pastors, or teachers, to “equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults – to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.”


            God’s goal for us is to become mature adults in the fullness of Christ. In other words, God calls us to grow into the full humanity of Jesus – the complete human being. But often, out of fear or boredom or anger or apathy, our faith gets in a rut. Sometimes we tenaciously cling to an immature faith, not seeing it as our own or something that we’ve been given stewardship over. Many of us grow in faith until we get through confirmation, and then we’re done. We’ve gone through Jesus school, we’re finished, thank you very much. And often, we can justify this lack of growth by pointing to Jesus’ own words, “Unless you become like a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” We easily misinterpret the words of Christ to justify our own refusal to grow in faith. We won’t grow up.


            And this is understandable to some extent. We live in crazy world. And when we live in a world where the future is so uncertain, we can desire our faith and the way we worship to be something certain. To remain as rocksteady as it was seemed we were children. Even the Israelites in our reading this morning prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar so much that they end up romanticizing slavery! Church historian Mark Granquist calls this the “Pastor Johnson syndrome” – the belief that church should be done the same way as it was done back when “Pastor Johnson” was pastor. The problem is that nothing, except God, remains the same over time. Even the faith that the letter of Jude says was “given once for all to the saints” grows and changes in us as we come to a greater understanding of how God is active in our lives and in the lives of our families and communities. Faith is designed to be living and active. When we refuse to grow in our faith, we strangle it.


            And that might be it for us. Except that Jesus, again, steps in to enliven our faith and give us the courage to let it grow.


            When Jesus is speaking to that crowd on the lakeshore, he does not mince words. He tells them the truth. He knows exactly why they have come to the other side of the shore – to see him do another miracle and to have their fill of food again. And this is where he drops a major truth on them. The miracle of the loaves was merely a pointer – a pointer to himself. Jesus himself is the bread of life, given for the sake of the world that God loves. He is the bread that nourishes our souls as we grow into the image of Christ. He is the bread that is present now, in the words of Scripture and in the meal of bread and wine we will share. Jesus is the bread that sustains us for eternal life.


            And when we take that bread, in which we trust that Jesus is truly present, we receive the food that enables us to grow more and more into his image. We receive the nourishment we need to have the courage to grow as well. The world can be very frightening sometimes. Add to that a change or unexpected growth in our faith, and we can be downright terrified about God, the world, and our purpose in it. But Jesus is always here for us, always here to nourish us with himself in bread and wine, water and word.


            With Jesus, there is no need to fear “growing up” in our faith, in coming to a new understanding of God and how he works in us and the world. The future ahead is uncertain. It always is. But just as God led the Israelites through the desert, Jesus will lead us through this desert and every other desert, giving us bread for the journey, until we reach our journey’s end.


            Let us pray.


            Help us to trust you, Lord Jesus, as you lead us through our lives. Give us courage through the word we hear and the bread and wine we receive to live in a world that sometimes seems to be out of control, trusting that you are ultimately in control of all things. Amen.


© 2018, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given


[1] Peter Pan, “I Won’t Grow Up”, songwriters David B. Chase / Morris I. Charlap / Carolyn Leigh, © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.