Sunday, January 03, 2010

Keeping After It

Colossians 3: 12-17, Luke 2: 41-52

I’m in the middle of a book right now called Three Cups of Tea, which is about a man named Craig Mortenson’s efforts to build a school in the Pakistani village that nursed him back to health after a disastrous attempt to climb K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Every class in Joe’s school is reading it in some form by the end of the year, and I want to be in the loop!

It’s a very interesting story. Like most climbers, Mortenson idolizes the man who was the first Western man to climb Mt. Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, (a Sherpa man named Tenzing Norgay, one of the local tribesmen, accompanied him) and Mortenson quotes him at one point from a speech as saying this: “I was just an enthusiastic mountaineer of modest abilities who was willing to work quite hard and had the necessary imagination and determination.”

Many had tried to climb Mt. Everest before Hilary, and all had failed. I remember an article a few years back about the recovery of the body of man who had made an early attempt about 80-90 years ago.

A mountain climb is an effort of singular significance. Elsewhere in the book it is said that a mountain climb of the sort that Hilary and others mount is like planning a war. And like most projects, things have to develop over time. People have to get used to the idea, and if not see the need, at least understand the reasons for the project. Awareness and understanding sometimes has to mature or develop, like a tree has to grow for a few years before it can yield fruit.

Our Gospel story this morning is one that parents can sometimes chuckle at. Jesus, who is 12 years old in this story, goes missing after a family pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the holy feast of Passover. He’s not immediately missed because of the large body of people traveling together for safety, his parents just assume he’s in with the scrum of children running around the caravan. But a day goes by and he’s still not around, they do get worried, and return to Jerusalem. And, after three days of searching the city, there he is, in the temple, asking questions and learning. Asking really good questions, according to Luke. So, of course Mary and Joseph are a little tense about his being gone and all, and Mary says, “Boy, where have you been? We’ve been worried sick!”

Now, as I’ve gotten older and now have a intelligent son of my own, I hear Jesus’ response differently. No longer is it the pious tone of an angelic voice saying “Why, of course, I was in the temple the whole time. I am Jesus, the Son of God, where else would I be?”
No, what I hear now is: “Jeez, mom, of course I’d be in the temple. Duh! Where else would I be?”

Our only story of Jesus as anything other than a baby or an adult is a story of rebellion. That phase really is inescapable, isn’t it?

Isn’t it interesting to note that Jesus stayed back in Jerusalem, without his parents’ knowledge, to learn. Not to go to some shop or bazaar that his parents wouldn’t let him go to, not because of a girl he met, but because he needed to learn. Is it odd for you to think that Jesus, the son of God, needed to learn? That there was something that the elders of the temple could teach him? That Jesus wasn’t ready to go right out of the box? That he needed to learn and mature? Even Jesus needed to grow into his job?

If it is true for Jesus, then how much more so is it for us? This first Sunday of 2010, what is it that we are growing into? What is it we are maturing toward? And let me ask this; if you don’t feel like you are maturing toward anything, what would you like to do? And how does coming here every week or however often you come, help that?

I would submit that people come to church for all different reasons. Not everyone comes because they need to refresh their souls at the well before continuing to evangelize the world for Christ. Some come just to hear something good or positive in a very hard life, some come just to be with people. It’s not always about preaching Christ for those who are lost for everyone; for many of us, it is “can I get a word of encouragement and confidence in my life?”

Yes. But I will also say to you that hoping for a word of encouragement about a life that is standing still isn’t going to be satisfying for long. Life is change. Life is learning. Life is planning and attempting to climb a mountain.

What is the mountain that you need to climb? Is it to build a school in a town halfway around the world? Is it to preach the gospel? Is it the ambition of promotion at a job? Is it to work in order to be a good provider to the children that have been entrusted to you by God? Is it to leave an abusive relationship? Is it to provide a comfortable loving environment to a loved one who is sick or dying?

Whatever it may be, such efforts take time, and choices must be made. In writing his commentary for the gospel passage, John Wesley writes this:
“It plainly follows, that though a man were pure, even as Christ was pure, still he would have room to increase in holiness, and in consequence thereof, to increase in the favor as well as the love of God.”
Though this is Jesus we’re talking about, he was a twelve year old Jesus. He still smarts off to his mom. He came to be human, and stages have to be passed through. Growth still has to occur, even for the Savior of the Universe.

Your personal goal may or may not be growth in Christ. But you are still here, (or still reading this), so let me suggest this as a goal, no matter what else you have in mind:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

I’m pretty confident in being able to say that this will help you, no matter what your goal is. No matter your resolution for the New Year, clothing yourself with love will help you be successful. Allow yourself to grow, and to have time to grow. Just keep after it, with an attitude of forgiveness and patience.

It takes time to climb a mountain.

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