A Life’s Calling
December 30, 2018*
First Sunday after Christmas
By Pastor John Partridge
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 Luke 2:41-52 Colossians 3:12-17
Tomorrow is the last day of the year and Tuesday we celebrate the arrival of a new year. Many of us will make resolutions, but often those don’t turn out well. We are filled with good intentions but making a new activity into a habit is a difficult thing. Gyms tend to be jammed full of new members at the beginning of a new year, but after a few weeks or months, negotiating the parking lots becomes a far more manageable activity.
Despite our failures, our intentions are good. We’re trying to make a change. Well-known Christian author C.S. Lewis once said, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” And since the beginning of a new year often has us thinking about changing our lives and making a new start, what is it that we should consider changing? Is there a better way to go about this than simply making resolutions that we don’t keep?
As we consider that question, let’s begin with a small taste of the story of the prophet Samuel that we find in 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26.
18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. 20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.” Then they would go home
26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.
Samuel was dedicated, by his mother, to the service of God from the time that he was old enough to be weaned from his mother’s breast. He worked in the service of the priests and his Mom would guess how much he had grown each year and bring him a new robe when they came for the annual sacrifice at Passover. But the interesting thing is not that he grew physically every year, as long as we eat, we can hardly avoid that. The interesting thing is that not only did he grow taller (that is, in stature), but he also grew to be a nice person and the people around him grew to like him and trust him. But we are also told that Samuel grew in favor in the eyes of God. So, not only did the people like him as he developed physically and mentally, but God’s love of Samuel increased as he grew spiritually.
But one of the reasons that this is interesting isn’t simply that it happened, but that this phrase is used in other places to describe other people. Specifically, we find it in the story of Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem, at the age of 12, as an adult under Jewish custom. (Luke 2:41-52)
41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
Jesus and his family, and likely most of his community, travel to Jerusalem for the same reason that Samuel’s family did, to celebrate the Passover. As an adult, Jesus was able to make his own choices of where to go and when to go there, and so he did not commit a sin by not traveling with the caravan that was heading home. Even so, as a twelve-year-old boy, adult or not, his mom and dad were not pleased. But there are two things that I want to highlight. First, Jesus already knew something about the call that God had on his life and was already pursuing teachers and scholars who could help him to grow spiritually. Second, the last sentence is almost the same as what we saw in the story of Samuel. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” As Jesus grew physically, he was also growing in wisdom, and not only did the people around him grow to like him, God did as well.
But what about us? What should we take home from all of this, especially as we prepare to usher in a new year? First and foremost, we should remember that whether we are seven, or seventeen, or seventy-seven, we can always grow in wisdom and in spiritual maturity. If it was important for Jesus to seek out teachers and scholars who could help him to grow, then it seems obvious that none of us should ever feel comfortable saying that we know all that there is to know and that we are done learning. But beyond that, let’s also look at Paul’s advice to the people in the church of Colossae in his letter to the Colossians. (Colossians 3:12-17)
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
As the followers of Jesus Christ, we are to wear compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience as obviously, prominently, and regularly as we wear a shirt or pants. We are to cut each other some slack when we are less than we could be and forgive each other when we mess up. And more important than all of these, is to remember to love because it is love that holds the whole package together. Without love, we can’t really be compassionate, gentle, humble, patient, or truly forgiving.
Every day we must allow Jesus to rule over our hearts and not get caught up in the materialism, greed, narcissism, hedonism, and all the other -isms that our culture tries to teach us. And the way that we are to grow in spiritual maturity and love is to keep the story and the teaching of Jesus in the center of everything we do. Find good Christian teachers, read good Christian books, sing Christian songs, coach one another when we make mistakes so that we stay on the right path, teach one another the lessons that we have learned, and we should do all these things because we are grateful to God for what he has done for us. And every day, both in words and in actions, give thanks to God for the gift of Jesus Christ.
Our goal in the new year, and every year, should be to be like Samuel and Jesus, and grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and the people around us. Our calling isn’t just to eat and grow physically. Our goal isn’t to grow taller, or fatter, or balder, or older, we are going to do those things rather naturally. Our goal is to grow the way that Samuel and Jesus did, to grow in wisdom, to grow so that the people around you notice your gentleness, compassion, and forgiveness and like being around you. Our goal is to grow in spiritual maturity so that we continually become more and more like Jesus. That’s one of the reasons that we need to make it a regular habit to come to church, attend a Bible study, and read scripture because these things aren’t going to happen by themselves any more than we are likely to lose weight and build muscle without exercising or going to the gym. If we are going to grow spiritually, then we need to exercise and work out, spiritually.
Many of these things are called spiritual disciplines for that very reason. It will take persistence, patience, practice, and discipline to accomplish.
That isn’t something that we’re going to accomplish in January by making a resolution or two.
That is something that we need to make a part of our regular lifestyle… today, tomorrow, next month, next year, and every year after that.
It is a life’s calling.
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