"When I Grow Up, I Want To Be Like Jesus" by Pastor A.J. Houseman
On our journey this week in the Letter of Ephesians, we continue to learn more about this vast love of Christ. And this week, how we as disciples of Christ grow into this love.
The word in Greek for disciple is: mathétés (ma-the-tes') and it literally means to be a learner or pupil. For us to grow into the maturity of Christ we must be lifelong learners. This is that “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” To keep on learning.
And of course, there are different types of learning that we do. There’s classroom learning, apprenticeship, and immersion.
For many of us who grew up in the church, we participated in classroom learning in Sunday school, maybe even vacation Bible school. And even as adults we are challenged with classroom learning in Bible studies and adult forums.
But this is just not enough when it comes to growing into the fullness of Christ as a lifelong learner.
Maybe you’ve heard it said before, you can learn all about fixing a pipe, but it’s not the same as actually fixing the pipe.
The other two ways that we continue to be lifelong disciples is learning by apprenticeship and immersion.
Many of us have mentors in our life, those that we look up to. There is something to be said about having a mentor in our faith. Someone who can help guide us and help nurture our faith by challenging us and showing up how to live and be as a disciple of Christ.
But I think the biggest piece… the most impactful way that we learn and grow, change into the full beings of who we are as learners of Christ is by immersion. Our life experiences.
Once upon a time, I thought being gay was a sin. Yeah, I know... But I did because that is just what someone told me.
I had not done the work of soul searching and understanding myself let alone my faith and God. At the time I had friends who were/are gay and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with them. But I had not put the two ideas together in my faith.
As I grew, learning more about God, about faith, and about myself, I changed. I was fortunate in high school and college to have a vibrant faith life with summer camps, LYO (a synodical wide youth organization), and at my church. And as I learned and was challenged, my experiences of faith apprenticeship and immersion helped me mature and grow into a new understanding of Christ and love.
See as I learned more about this Christ and this God whose love is so vast that it is immeasurable and infinite as far as we can see. That it is deeper and wider than the ocean, and we can’t even measure that! That it is so powerful that we cannot even comprehend or imagine the totality of this love.
As I learned this, I slowly realized something. It doesn’t make sense that me or anyone else is outside this love. I realized that I believed that God loved my gay friends.
And once I realized that, I entered into a whole new discipleship of Christ. That was revelatory to me. It changed my entire perspective, that God loves everyone. It’s so simple yet took me so long to understand. That even if we can’t understand it, even if we can’t love them… God does anyways.
Our life experiences shape our growing in Christ. My life experiences taught me about the vast love of God, the never ending, cup overflowing, reaching down into our darkest and innermost beings kind of love.
And from there, my faith and curiosity for learning about God just took off.
We all have these moments in our lives. Moments where God stretches us in our faith and helps us to turn a corner of maturity and grow more fully into this love of Christ.
Take a minute to think, what were moments like this for you?
Maybe you, too, turned this corner of realizing that LGBT persons are beloved, gifted, children of God.
Maybe your corner was realizing that God welcomes all to the communion table. I went through that too!
Maybe you realized that God is not a man or a woman, but greater than our pronouns can even express!
Maybe you realized that it’s ok not to be perfect, that God loves you anyways!
And maybe you are still working on those things or something else, and that is ok. And guess what, God still loves you and is still working on you and your faith. Because we are ALL still learning.
Get that? We are all still learners. Our faith is continually changing us and molding us to mature in our faith. Christ is always continually revealing himself to us in new ways.
Even me. I don’t know everything. And I think that admitting that I don’t know everything is one step closer to making space for the Holy Spirit to come in and teach me some more!
My good friend, Vicar Taylor Berdahl reminded me this week, well, reminded all of us at our Bible study, that “faith is a journey, not an arrival.” It is continual work. Always. We each have growing edges, that's a fancy term from leadership development classes.
We all have our growing edges, no one’s faith is perfect… I’m not even sure what that would look like… Christ? When I grow up, I want to be like Jesus!
Jesus grew and evolved in his faith. Jesus turned corners of understanding his own love and the love of God. He was changed by the woman at the well and the Syrophoenician woman. He was changed by feeding the crowds and healing the sick. His love evolved and grew so much it led him to the cross. This infinite love.
Just as long as you are farther along in your journey today than you were a year ago, 5 years ago, and definitely farther than my high school self, you are just fine disciples.
God is still changing you, molding you, and growing you into this vast love of Christ. Amen.