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Date: May 28, 2017 (Easter 7) 1. Texts: Acts 1:6-14; Ps. 68:1-10, 33-36; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11; John 17:1-11. 2. Subject: discipleship. 3. Topic: spiritual and religious maturity. 4. Aim: inspire. 5. Proposition: “Spiritual and religious maturity is desirable, achievable and perceivable.”

 

 

GROW UP ALREADY!

 

Like most every parishioner, I now qualify for seniors’ rates in a number of places—restaurants, craft stores and insurance companies. I like this. I finally get to describe myself as “mature”. Of course, real maturity has nothing to do with age. It’s much more a quality of one’s character. “Mature” describes a recognizable level of wisdom achieved through reflection on life’s experiences. “Maturity” describes not our age but our coming of age. We reach a distinguishable level of discernment, selfawareness and personal development which enables us to both better understand life and to cope with the ups and downs of life. I hope that I can accurately describe myself as somewhat mature. Spiritual and religious maturity is a different matter. Oh, it’s still a desirable character trait. The New Testament sets spiritual and religious maturity as a goal for all of Christ’s disciples. St. Paul wanted us to move from being infants in the gospel, drinking only spiritual milk, to being mature adults in the faith, feasting on the meat of the gospel.1 Such maturity is definitely one of our God-given goals. Fortunately, we can actually assess our level of spiritual and religious maturity. The more mature disciple ✓ develops an increasing capacity to minister to other people. ✓ has facility with the disciplines of the faith, such as prayer, worship, and immersion in Scripture. 1 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 14:20. Put bullet points on projector or flip charts. Page 2 of 3 -Spiritual and religious maturity- ✓ has the ability to effectively mentor other disciples. ✓ can effectively proclaim the gospel in word and deed. We can recognize spiritual and religious maturity in Christian disciples. Mature disciples ✓ know the core realities of the faith. ✓ see God’s mission as an expression of his love and as the motivation for the Church’s ministry. ✓ are able to use faith in Christ and love for God as tools with which to cope with the circumstances of life. When such maturity is shared amongst the disciples, the congregation itself takes on a mature character. Spiritually and religiously mature congregations ✓ are energized by the faith. ✓ see themselves as part of the Family of God and the Body of Christ. ✓ are focussed outwardly on ministry as opposed to inwardly on survival. ✓ are able to be flexible, spontaneous, experimental and able to face the real costs of change. ✓ are genuinely welcoming. ✓ are able to do the core ministries well (worship, pastoral care, discipleship development, communication). The real question is, of course, how do we mature as disciples? We already know that it is never a matter of merely growing older. Heck, some people actually make immaturity their goal as they say, “I’m going to be a kid forever.” As a disciple of Jesus, maturity is one of our goals towards which we actually have to work. Maturity doesn’t happen to us—maturity is something we choose. According to the First Letter of Peter which we read today, that choice starts with our surrender to God and as we submit our lives to him. It is in humility that we take on spiritual and religious maturity as his goal and desire for our lives. In other words, we admit to ourselves and to God that Christlikeness is not only desirable but that we want him to bring us to that state. Put bullet points on projector or flip charts. Put bullet points on projector or flip charts. Page 3 of 3 -Spiritual and religious maturityThen, we choose to be trained in that Christlikeness. We seek our transformation through worship, prayer, immersion in Scripture and sharing in the Body of Christ. We behave our way into a new way of thinking and being. We seek the support and mentorship from the Body of Christ. We work at the reorientation of our lives and our fundamentals, even in the presence of our questions and doubts. This process is guided by our vision for God’s mission and by the Holy Spirit. We cooperate with God’s mission and find ourselves maturing as a consequence. As we mature in the Spirit and allow the Spirit ever deeper access to our lives ✓ zeal replaces complacency. ✓ humility replaces pride. ✓ wisdom replaces self-righteousness. ✓ unity replaces disharmony. ✓ forgiveness replaces bitterness. ✓ kindness replaces anger. ✓ compassion replaces malice. ✓ hope replaces despair. St. Paul worded it this way: By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.2 Such are the markers along our pathway towards spiritual and religious maturity. We’ve made some real strides this morning. We understand what spiritual and religious maturity looks like and can identify some of its characteristics. We can identify some of the tools we use to work towards that Christlike reality. We’ve accepted maturity as God’s plan and intent for our spiritual and religious lives and know at least in part how to achieve that goal. All we have to do know is commit ourselves to that path. That’s all. AMEN.