Sunday, August 02, 2015

Growing Up

St. Paul’s Church in Bergen, Jersey City NJ
August 2, 2015

Year B, Proper 13: The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a
Psalm 51:1-13
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

Growing Up
            Sometimes I forget how old I am. I mean, I know the number (It’s 32, actually…) but sometimes I forget that I am – or am supposed to be – a grown up.
            Does this ever happen to you?
            But, then every once in a while I get reminded that I’m not a kid anymore – that in fact I am, or at least should be and am expected to be, a grown-up.
            It happens every time I get a haircut and I look in the mirror and see my middle-aged face looking back at me under hair that by now is at least as gray as it is brown.
            And it happened to me on Friday when I had a lunch meeting in Newark with some church leaders.
            Obviously, I’ve been at many, many meetings – too many, believe me – and plenty of lunch meetings but there was something about this one that, well, felt very grown up to me – it felt like I was no longer at the kids’ table but had been promoted to sit with the grown ups!
            Sometimes we feel very grown up when we’re given new responsibilities – maybe a promotion or a new job or, of course, when we feel the weight of responsibility for a child or grandchild or when we find ourselves responsible for a parent or grandparent when their health fails.
            And, unfortunately, sometimes we feel very grown up when we face fear – the fear of a lost job, the fear of not enough money to pay the bills, the fear of not being able to provide for ourselves and for those who depend on us.
            Growing up.
            It’s a lifelong task, isn’t it?
            In today’s second lesson, the author of the Letter to the Ephesians calls on us Christians to grow up.
            He writes, “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…”
            Growing up.
            Well, in today’s Old Testament lesson, King David does some growing up, doesn’t he?
            If you were here last week, I’m sure you’ll remember the juicy and very terrible story of David and Bathsheba.
            David spots the beautiful Bathsheba bathing on the roof and decides that he wants her for himself. After all, he’s the king and, like a child, he wants what he wants and doesn’t care about “minor” details like the fact that Bathsheba is married to one of David’s finest and most loyal warriors, Uriah the Hittite.
            After Bathsheba gets pregnant with David’s child, the king scrambles to cover up his sin, finally making the horrific decision to arrange it so that Uriah is killed in battle, leaving Bathsheba for David and, he thinks, covering up the secret forever.
            Except, of course, that, as we heard today, God knows what has happened.
            And, God sends the Prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin in a very clever way, using a parable to trick David into essentially condemning himself.
            We can hear the sadness, shame and guilt in David’s simple words, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
            Growing up means learning that there are some things – and some ones – who aren’t available to us.
            Growing up means learning that our actions have consequences.
            Even if you’re a king.
            Now, let’s turn to today’s gospel lesson where we hear about people who certainly sound like they have some growing up to do.
            We pick up pretty much where we left off last week.
            Jesus performed one of his greatest miracles – the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes – somehow feeding thousands of people with just a few loaves and a couple of fish.
            Now, some of those same people have come looking for Jesus.
            Jesus criticizes the crowd, saying, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”
            Jesus tells them that they just care about the bread. He goes on to tell the crowd that they must believe in him.
            Now, remember these are the same people who had just been fed most miraculously by Jesus the day before. And, yet, they say to Jesus: “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you?”
            They sound like children saying, “That was fun! Do it again!”
            Like children saying, “That’s it? I want more!”
            “What have you done for us lately?”
            Finally, Jesus gives them more than they can understand, tells them more than they can probably handle: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
            Growing up.
            No matter our age, no matter our responsibilities, we all have some growing up to do.
            We grow up when, like King David, we recognize that not everything – not every one – is available to us. We grow up when we recognize that there are consequences to our actions.
            We grow up when we stop expecting God to be the divine magician, performing tricks for our entertainment and benefit.
            We grow up when we realize that God gives us all that we need – gives us the Bread of Life – that God gives us the Bread of Life each time we gather here in this holy place, in this holy community – each time come to the altar and reach out our hands and receive the Body and Blood of Christ into our bodies and souls.
            We grow up when we realize that God gives us Jesus – gives us the Bread of Life – gives us the nourishment we need to face the trials and challenges of life.
            We grow up when we realize that God gives us the Bread of life – gives us the strength and sustenance to take care of each other here at St. Paul’s and to go out into our neighborhood, out into the world, offering love – love especially to those who are so hard to love.
            We grow up when we become more like Christ – when we, in the words of the Letter to the Ephesians - when we grow up into the calling to which we have been called, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
            And, finally, we grow up when we realize that we’re not fully grown up – that, yes, sometimes we want and take what’s not available to us – sometimes we demand that God be a magician to make us happy, to make our lives easier, to give us what we want – that sometimes we don’t speak the truth in love – sometimes we’re not humble, gentle, or patient, sometimes we refuse to even try to love those who are so hard to love.
            No matter our age or our responsibilities, we’re not fully grown up.
            The Good News is that, like a good parent, God continues to forgive, continues to teach, and continues to feed us with the Bread of Life.
            And, together, we’re growing up.
            Thanks be to God.