The Readings for today (1 Samuel 2.18-26; Colossians 3.12-17; Luke 2.41-52) teach us how to prepare to have a rich spiritual life of love and service as God’s chosen people. This new life begins with a rediscovery of our identity as children of God which has been stolen from us by a secular culture. Jesus was fully human so the Readings show us how he grew spiritually by reading the Scriptures, seeking out wise teachers and spending time with them. It was only after He had spent 30 years growing in wisdom and stature that He was able to step out in ministry as a teacher and healer. These readings explain why many churches are not thriving in our time – they have lost their spiritual identity and are not in favour with God and man.
1. Our identity as “God’s chosen people” has been stolen
Our identity has been stolen by the big cultural lie of “inclusion”. The worst thing you can do in our culture is make a judgement that offends someone. We have gone from freedom of speech to freedom of speech as long as you do not offend anyone. This leads to confusion and chaos – no right and wrong and no “true truth”:
- Religious discussion and proclamation by definition involves telling people that they may be wrong about the Bible or God.
- This is what Jesus was doing with the teachers in the Temple
- Asking questions leads to questioning the answers – which leads to debate and sometimes argument – how we test truth
- This is the process of learning and growing in wisdom
- Know a priest who will not say the words in the BAS “gifts of God for the people of God” – to avoid offending Jewish people
- Much of our healing ministry is helping people recover identity
2. Jesus worked hard to grow in wisdom and stature
Jesus risked offending His parents to spend time with the teachers. He was seeking spiritual wisdom. He would know the oral and written history and experience of the Hebrew people. Wisdom is learning from that knowledge through discussion with wise teachers. We forget Jesus was also fully human and had to learn for 30 years before His three year ministry.
- Anglican Church has failed many people through a lack of Baptismal preparation, serious Bible teaching and the encouragement of small group Bible study.
- Like many people I did not become a serious spiritual person until I began a process of daily Bible reading and prayer and read the whole Bible.
3. Wisdom and stature equip us for ministry
The Christians Paul is writing to in Colosse (Turkey) are being taught how to live a rich spiritual life. He gives them their identity as “God’s chosen people” deliberately (and insensitively) stealing this title from the Jewish people – so they know who they are, who they belong to and what they are expected to do:
- First they are to be “holy” – cleansed of sin and born again
- Clothed with spiritual gifts – love, compassion, kindness
- Teach and admonish one another with wisdom through psalms, songs of gratitude from the Holy Spirit
4. The Readings challenge us to:
- Recover our Christian identity as “people of God”
- Belonging to God
- From God and
- Part of the “body of Christ”
- Be a community of witnesses – modeling love, compassion, forgiveness and patience with each other
- Be a community where people can grow in spiritual wisdom and stature through listening to deep teaching (vs platitudes), Bible Study, worship and healing experiences
In the New Year we all need to become more serious about Bible Study groups so we can all grow in wisdom and stature.