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1.22.23 Sermon Summary "Growing in..."

1.22.23 Sermon Summary

This Weekend: Sunday at 10:30am “Growing in…”

Scriptures: Luke 2:39-40 & 51-52, Ephesians 4:1-16,Colossians 1:3-14, Philippians 2:5-8

Hymn of Promise – in the seed an apple tree, in cocoons a hidden promise.

We are a Christmas people, we are an Easter people, we are a Resurrection people – and we are an Epiphany people. We notice the everyday miracles.

The Scriptures we heard this week talk about the mystery of Jesus. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel – the eternal Word become flesh. In the two great hymns of Colossians 1 and Philippians 2, we hear about how Jesus is the perfect “image of the invisible God" – fully divine and sovereign, revealing the perfect and holy fullness of God. And in Philippians, we hear how that perfect divinity humbles himself, being obedient even unto death on a cross. Putting all this together challenges us – God, even revealed in Jesus, is more than we can fully comprehend. Add to that then the message of Luke 2:39-40 and 51-52. This Jesus grew. He learned, developed, truly lived a human life. It is amazing.

And we are called to be like Christ – to participate in everyday miracles.

Christ who was born an infant, Christ who grew… grew in wisdom and strength. Christ who studied Scripture, participated in tradition, Christ who was obedient – even unto death. Even unto death on a Cross.

We proclaim – correctly – that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We proclaim this because he is the eternal Word. True God of True God.

AND – it is also true that Jesus grew.

If we are to be like Christ – we are called, always, to grow.

From birth through childhood into adulthood. Discerning, deciding, taking the next step. Participating in ritual, tradition, storytelling, work, play, rest. The fullness of human life.

I shared recently an insight I once heard from Dr. Tom Albin, then Dean of the Upper Room – who asked a gathering I was at “if we are to be like Christ - when are we done growing?” If we are to follow Christ, let alone be like Christ, we too must learn and grow in wisdom, in faith and in service. We must grow in humility and obedience. And yet we are all gifted differently – Ephesians emphasizes that some are called to one path or way of living out their discipleship, some to another. All of us called to grow throughout our lives – building on the foundation of Christ. I find that exciting.

Spiritual Formation is a process. A gradual, life-long movement, not single, momentous conversion. This Goes against grain of our culture of quick-fixes, and instant results.

God us by “magnetic attraction,” (think of a compass pointing to magnetic North), awakening our desire for God / experience of Grace. We know the way to where we are going. Yet we are “drawn, not driven,” – Spiritual Formation, Discipleship, requires our active participation.

One of the things I most appreciate about the mission statement of First UMC

Fort Scott is its emphasis on “growing in Christ.” We are not called to static answers but to lived faith that grows, evolves, expands, becomes ever more Christlike, being, as the definition of Spiritual Formation I shared last week says: “conformed to the image of Christ”.

· Christ is the image of God made visible to us. (Colossians. 1). Remember that in Hellenistic philosophy, what is truly “real” is the idea – the image. The physical is just a poor representation of the real. It is 180 degrees opposite our culture’s focus on the material as real and thoughts as just “ideas.” In Colossians, Jesus is proclaimed as ultimately real – in the flesh.

· Image of Christ is the “pattern of human wholeness”— we share God's image (Genesis. 1). Christ reminds us that we bear God’s image and are called to wholeness. God's likeness feels strange since are misshapen by images & patterns of worldly culture.

John Wesley taught that humans have a natural image – our physical form, a political image (social – relationship in community) and a moral image – what we do, our understanding of right and wrong. All three are compromised by sin. And while punishment does have a place – some behaviors are appropriately curbed or corrected with consequences - our society is far too focused on that. Wesley – along with our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters, primarily understood sin as illness and the correction being healing.

We dis-eased – we lack the peace of Christ. We lack the wholeness of Christ. The Christ image heals, renews, & restores us! Still in the world, the process of Spiritual Formation moves us from being centered in self to being centered in God.

We are called to be born anew. We are called to grow in community – through ritual and tradition and shared witness. We are called by Christ to be Disciples, to know Christ personally, and sent forth INTO the World to serve and share. We are called to BE the church… We are called to bear fruit in every good work… and we can do that because of what Christ has done for us. Thanks be to God. Amen.



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