As I sit down to write this article the Vicarage is full to bursting with our daughter Emma’s friends, up for the weekend to celebrate her 21st Birthday. And of course we have been looking back over the years and calling to mind all our favourite memories of her – at least partly to embarrass her in front of her friends! But our overwhelming feeling this weekend is gratitude for the gradual transformation from tiny baby to confident, mature and beautiful adult with so much still to give to the world.
But what if somehow through her own choice she hadn’t changed or matured – how would we be feeling – naturally I think we would have felt disappointed and let down.
When it comes to our lives as Christians, one of the truths that the Bible gives us is that we are children of God – hence we read in John 1:12 that to those who put their faith in Jesus, God gives the right to become children of God. But the Bible also tells us that Jesus expects us to grow and mature as his disciples – hence we read in Hebrews 5 of the writer’s feelings of disappointment towards some of his hearers because they have not moved on in their faith – ‘Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!’
Therefore the $64,000 question we all need to be asking ourselves is, as followers of Jesus, are we still needing to feed on milk, on the basics of faith, or have we progressed to solid food, food that shows we have matured as God’s children. Emma will always be my child, but she has not remained a child; I will always be a child of God, but growing in maturity in the faith has to be my goal.
As a parish we are preparing for another clergy vacancy, this time with Darren moving on at the beginning of March to be chaplain at Wakefield Hospice (congratulations to you, Darren on this exciting new post – our prayers are with you and Cass as you prepare for this new phase in your life). At this time the need for spiritual depth and maturity is all the greater. We need wise and mature Christians to either continue or take on particular ministries so that St John’s and perhaps especially St Luke’s can continue to grow and mature as congregations – for it is not just as individuals God wants us to move on from milk to solid food – He also wants the same from the body of Christ as expressed in the local church.
Therefore let’s keep on asking ourselves both as individuals and as a church if we are reaching our potential, if we have moved on sufficiently from the early days of our faith when, like my daughter Emma, we were all cute and cuddly but not able to contribute to much, to a mature, robust, serving faith where we make a significant and lasting contribution to the calling of the body of Christ to be a blessing to him and to the world.