July 31, 2006

Looking forward to August 6, 2006 -- 9th Sunday after Pentecost

The Scripture readings this week are:
  • From the Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
  • Psalm 51 (VU p.776)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: Ephesians 4:1-16
  • From the Gospel: John 6:24-35

The Hymns this week are:

  • 402 We Are One
  • 624 Give to Us Laughter
  • 331 The Church's One Foundation
  • 420 Go To the World

The Sermon will be based on the Ephesians reading and is titled Growing in Faith -- Being Who We are Called to Be.

Early Thoughts: The life of faith is about growth. Only by opening ourselves to growth will we be able to do as the author requests in verse 1 of this passage I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. Later, in verses 14 and 15 he writes: 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. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. The life of faith calls us to be open to grow and mature and develop.

Many times in my life I have heard church-people complain that things are changing too much. There is often a desire for the faith to literally be "the faith of our fathers" or at least to be the faith of our childhood Sunday School. At the same time there is, in many of the mainline churches at least, a feeling among church leadership that not enough study, not enough growth is happening. If faith development is seen as Sunday School, youth group and confirmation (and in many places that is seen as the tasks of the Christian Education Committee, Adult Bible Study is seen as being somehow different) then we never have the chance to mature in faith.

But of course we don't stop developing when we become adults. Our lives continue to change. New questions come up that don't always fit with the old answers. We need to continue to study our faith, to ask questions of it and about it. We need to keep growing.

Many places today talk about church growth. Most of them are talking about things like building size, number of bums in the pews, number of baptisms, amount raised for ministry (local and broader outreach). But in the end there is only one type of church growth that matters. That is the growth of individuals as children of God, growth in the depth of faith. Without that all the numbers can easily become a social club. Growing in quantity isn't the issue, growing in quality is. (And there is always the, very real, chance that a church which grows in quality will develop such exuberant Christians that they naturally draw others to come and see what all the excitement is about.)

We are all God's children. God's hope is that we will grow and develop as long as we draw breath. What does it mean for us to 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 (verse 13)? Howw are we pushing ourselves and our faith to deeper levels? What questions are dying to be answered in our souls? Let's talk about it, let's talk about how and where we need to grow. Then let's work together to find ways to make that happen.

As a part of this Sunday some potential ideas for adult Bible Study in the fall and winter will be raised for people to consider...

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