Jul 13 2017

Lifelong Learning

Hero Central: Discover Your Strength in God!

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in divine and human favor.
–Luke 2:52

It was on Wednesday, the third day of Bible School. The children shouted out the Hero Code of the day: “God’s Heroes Have Wisdom!” The Bible story was the familiar tale where Jesus’ anxious parents find their twelve-year old among the teachers at the Temple in Jerusalem. The kindergarten, first, and second grade groups seemed to have heard the story with particular clarity. “He was in the Temple!” “His parents lost him!” And importantly, “He was learning.”

We had learned on Monday that those serving God also have heart. The story of Samuel anointing David was one that could be told with flourish, as we could imagine all of the sons of Jesse being paraded before the prophet, the older ones impressive in their size and strength, but none of them being God’s chosen one. No, the future king was the runt of the litter, still out in the field tending the sheep. “People look at the outer appearance, but God looks at the heart.” And for all the wonder of the tale, the real revelation is Samuel, the lesser known character, who had the heart to trust God and fulfill God’s dangerous mission. Oh, that our children will realize qualities like heart and wisdom in themselves, and in the lives they will share with family, classmates, and community!

Still, Bible School has its challenges. Sometimes the curriculum throws you a curve ball! On Tuesday, when the theme was courage, the curriculum pointed us to the account of Abigail in 1 Samuel 25, a truly awful story to read to children verbatim: Nabal’s selfishness, David’s murderous rage, a slaughter in the making, God finishing off one of the characters. What do you do with this story in a VBS? Children flow into our classroom, eyes and ears open for a meaningful lesson. Yikes!

But running through the midst of the scary and painful account is the spirit of Abigail, Nabal’s wife. Alerted to the impending disaster, she goes out and faces David and his vengeful horde. She acknowledges her husband’s foolishness and makes amends. But what is really striking is the way she calls on David to be a better person. I hear her this way: “No matter how angry you are, you don’t have to be destructive and life-taking. You’ll regret it someday. You’re better than this.” Sometimes when you are searching for a nugget you discover a gold brick! It takes some work. But even kindergarten kids can relate to the importance of such a message and begin to apply it!

The story of young Jesus in the Temple is the only account we have of his life between his toddler years and adulthood. But it is a valuable one. The twelve-year old accompanies his family on the yearly pilgrimage for the Festival of Passover. When the group sets out to return to Nazareth, Jesus stays behind in Jerusalem. Realizing his absence, his frantic parents return to the holy city. After searching for him for three days, they discover him sitting among the teachers in the Temple, “listening and asking them questions”. We are told: “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers”.

The anxious Mary and Joseph overflow with angry emotion, and a great deal of relief. Jesus responds that it shouldn’t have been such a puzzle: Don’t they know that he needs to be in the place of spiritual nurture? That he is part of God’s family? His parents don’t understand what he means at first, but Mary winds up “treasuring these things in her heart”. Jesus is maturing, and already moving deeper and further into his faith life than his parents have taught him.

We know that for Jesus, growing is a lifetime thing. He continues to learn and develop throughout his ministry, not afraid to receive life-changing lessons of his own from someone like the Canaanite woman, or to share his own anxiety with God in the garden of Gethsemane.

Luke’s gospel portrays Jesus as much like the children of our faith community. Jesus listens and asks important questions; from his learning and expanding knowledge he brings forth new perspectives and fresh direction. He grows not just in stature but in wisdom; his relationships with God and with the people around him deepening. And what he has to offer winds up teaching the teachers!

As I write this I am preparing for Day Four. Jesus’ Beatitudes are the Bible text. “God’s Heroes Have Hope” is the Hero Code. I wonder what I’ll learn today?



Pastor Scott’s Archived E-pistles