Saturday, February 15, 2014

Oh Grow UP!

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

And so, brothers and sisters,[a] I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

When I was a kid one of my teachers would often reach her limit with the class and throw a big text book on her desk and then look at us with frustration and ask, “When will you people grow up?”

One time one of my classmates dared to respond to her and said, “You know, we’re only in the 5th grade – we’re not supposed to be grown up yet.”

Without a moment’s hesitation she glared at him and said, “Well, you 5th graders can at least try to act like 4th graders.”

Growing up is tough, but eventually I guess you have to do it.

Paul talks about how we should grow up in the faith.  

Paul is talking bluntly and boldly to the members of the church in Corinth.  He tells them that they are not all that grown up.  As their pastor he has to speak to them in a way that he might speak to a child.  He says he has to feed them milk because they are too immature for solid food.

What does it mean to grow up and to be spiritually mature?

Does it mean that you can quote lots of Scripture from memory?  Well that’s a good thing to do, but that’s not it.

Does it mean that you understand the doctrine of the Trinity?


Paul brings up spiritual maturity in chapter three of this letter to the Corinthians, but he keeps bringing it up from time to time in this letter.  At one point he says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”

He says that in 1st Corinthians 13, which is often called the love chapter – because it is all about love.

You probably remember those verses:

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. …  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”

Love is the mark of spiritual maturity.
 When we get to the point when we love God and others – that is when we have put aside childish things and are no longer being fed milk, but solid food.

         And if you think that you are loving God and your neighbor like a mature Christian should be doing, think again.
 Because you are not loving as you should.
 None of us are.

For every one of us, there is a blind spot in our soul.  There is a person, or a group of people, who are difficult for us to love. 

    And the ability to love all people is the one and only mark of spiritual maturity.  It is not in being able to read the Old Testament in Hebrew, nor is it to be able to quote Scripture, nor is it in how well you lead or inspire.  It is in your ability to love.

    It’s all about relationships.

    And Paul tells the Corinthians – and he tells us.  It’s time to grow up.

    Some people have done terrible things to us or others.  But Jesus tells us to love our enemy. 

    Love is the core of our faith, and yet, it often takes second place.  We become more concerned about some sort of rules or laws – what songs to sing – contemporary or traditional.  The people who dress up for Church are offended at the people who come to church in casual dress, and the people who dress casually think the people in suits are snobbish.  And everyone is concerned about whether the pastor should wear a robe, a suit, or an Hawaiian shirt.  We get so distracted. 

    And Paul says, it’s time to grow up.  To be mature in our faith.

    And that means love.


     The Apostle John said in his epistle: 
Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars.”(1 John 4:20)


         Those are strong words – how can we dare say we love God when we fail to love those with whom we come in contact?


    Paul tells us that it is time for us to grow up.  Be mature.  Love one another.

I read an interesting article in this week’s Time magazine.  You may know that there is an effort to send a small group of people to Mars.  It is a serious venture.  The name is Mars One – and that name not only refers to the first Mars colony, but also One in terms of a one way trip.  You see, the astronauts will commit to living on Mars with no hope of ever coming back to Earth.  They have already raised millions of dollars and over 200,000 people have applied to become one-way astronauts.  Mars One has interviewed these applicants and narrowed the field to about 1,058 possible astronauts.  Eventually, they hope to send 20 explorers. 

A reporter with Time Magazine interviewed 6 of these hopeful applicants.  The reporter expected to find introverts or even social rejects.  No – they are all very sociable and they love life.  They just want to be explorers and go to Mars.

One other thing he found was a bit disturbing. 

None of the handful of would be astronauts the reporter interviewed were Christians, or in any way religious.  One applicant for the trip of Mars put it this way:

"I’d worry about going to Mars with a religious person. 'They can be judgmental.’”


Are you telling me that the world out there sees Christians as so judgmental they wouldn’t even go on a one way trip to Mars with us?

Well yeah!  The world ought to look at us and say, “hey there goes a Christian.  They are so loving.  They are so accepting.”


They look at us and say, “Pssth, there goes a Christian – they are so judgmental.” 

Why can’t we be known for loving people? 

Because we don’t love people.

We ARE pretty judgmental when you get right down to it.

Paul says it is time for us to grow up.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”

A couple of weeks ago it was wonderful to see so many scouts here.  They fixed a great breakfast.  They served as ushers and greeters.  The scouts and their families filled up the front pews.

It was great!

Now we’ve had the Boy Scouts here for a number of years.  The Cub Scout Pack is brand new. 

Not many of you will know the reason why they are here.

They are here because another church kicked them out.

The other church was angry because the national organization of the Boy Scouts of America has opened its membership to gays. 

I’ve been a Scout.  I’ve been a leader of cub scouts and boy scouts. 

Cub Scouts aren’t worried about what the national organization of scouting is or is not doing.  Most of them have no clue about their own orientation yet.  They just want to meet together in Cub Packs and they want to make crafts and they want to sing songs, and they want grow up and become Boy Scouts!

And this pack got kicked out of one church because of what the national organization did – BUT they were welcomed by a group of Grace Covenant scout leaders.

It didn’t have anything to do with gays – it had to do with kids!  It had to do with love.  Acceptance.  Welcoming.

I hope that when they grow up, what they will remember is not that one group of Christians threw them out – but that another group of Christians embraced them and welcomed them.

Jesus was once asked about the greatest commandment.  He didn’t say anything about murder.  I think that’s a big one – but it isn’t the greatest commandment.  He didn’t say anything about adultery, greed, gluttony (I’m kind of glad that one didn’t make the list).

Love – that was great commandment.  Number one – Love God.  Number two – Love Neighbors.

And by the way, you don’t get to choose who your neighbor is.  It means everyone.

Paul says it is time for us to grow up.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”

Gainesville State School had a football team.  They never played a home game.  One season they went 0 and 9.  That means that of the nine games they played, they lost every single one of them.

The Gainesville State School is a juvenile correctional facility in Texas. It’s not just a juvenile correctional facility, but a maximum security prison for these young men.  A small number of these inmates are allowed to play on the school’s football team.  Of the players, many had convictions for assault, drugs, and robbery. Some team members had families who had disowned them.

Every game night, they would travel by bus to another school along with armed guards.  At those games no one sat in the visitor’s bleachers.  No cheerleaders danced or gave cheers.  No parents were there to see their sons compete.

And game after game, the Gainesville Tornadoes lost.

Then one night in November, 2008, they arrived at the Grapevine Faith School in Grapevine, Texas.  When they came out of the locker room to run on the field there were cheerleaders holding a banner so the players could, for the first time, run through and break through a banner and hit the field like athletes instead of prisoners.

Half the parents of the home team sat in the visitor’s bleachers and cheered the opposing team.  Half the cheerleaders shouted from the home team, but the other half was on the visitor’s side. 

 It was the idea of Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan. He decided that he wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. 

Faith had never played Gainesville before but Hogan knew the odds of Gainesville winning were slim. Faith had a 7-2 winning record and Gainesville had only scored two touchdowns all year. According to ESPN, Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest football equipment and involved parents.  Gainesville, on the other hand, had teenagers with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery -- all wearing 7-year-old shoulder pads and outdated helmets.

Coach Hogan sent an email message to the Faith community. He asked that half of his fans cheer for the Tornados, half of the cheerleaders root for them, and everyone was asked to learn rival team members by name so that each one could hear his name being cheered.

Not everyone was initially excited about the idea. According to ESPN, one Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?”

Hogan replied, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you.”

“Here's the message I want you to send," Hogan said. “You are just as valuable as any other child of God on this earth.”

It was a strange experience for the boys from Gainesville.

One player said, "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games." You can see it in their eyes. We’re nothing but worthless criminals.  But these people, they were yellin' for us! Cheering us on and calling us by our names!"

That night, the Gainesville players played the best game of their lives, scoring two touchdowns.  They still lost, but it was a great game.

As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus, they were each handed a bag for the trip home -- a burger, some fries, a soft drink, some candy, a Bible, and an encouraging letter from a Grapevine Faith player.

The Gainesville coach also found Hogan after the game and grabbed him by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."

In the wake of the game, the prison itself became a different place.

One teacher who has worked at the school for five years told ESPN magazine "The boys, a lot of them, just hadn’t had anybody care about them.  When they saw that some people could care about them, they brought that back. And then their peers heard that these people cared about them -- really cared about them."  It began to change their grades in the school.  The conduct of the inmates improved. 

It is easy to judge.

It is easy NOT to love.

It is a challenge to really love others.

Paul says it is time for us to grow up.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”