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NO GROWTH WITHOUT CURIOSITY
(Dec. 27. ’09. Luke 2:41-52)
Here we are four days away from the end of yet another year… An entire
year raced by; somehow it seemed like only a few months, weeks maybe – the
blink of an eye. Doesn’t it feel like that? Einstein described it in
his Theory of Relativity: we can freely move around in the 3 dimensions of
space: forward and backwards, left and right, up
and down. But he also proved there’s a 4th
dimension through which we move: time. Past,
present and future time. For some reason we cannot
move around in this dimension, we can only be in the present, the now. The
future is always ahead of
us, the past always behind. When this day is done,
it gone. Gone forever. We can’t look back and see all our yesterdays
sitting there in a neat
long row. There’s no gallery of the days and years we have lived, we
can’t walk back and
experience them again. Time is like a river on which we’re carried
along in a canoe. There’s
only one direction to go: slowly forward, only experiencing the here and
Reading the New Testament, Jesus’ childhood seems just like that: gone
apostles only seem to relate to the Jesus they experienced, the here and
now in a sense.
There’s only this one story about Jesus’ childhood, this one
brief passage from Luke.
The time and years of Jesus’ childhood through youth to adulthood seem
implied by Luke.
He writes: “The child Jesus grew into a mature adult, filled with wisdom,
and God regarded
That’s it! Not much content. We have no idea how he progressed from
saying ‘mum’ and
‘dada’ to pronouncing big words like ‘messianic’ and ‘Deuteronomy’!
Or how his first baby cry evolved to the singing of songs of joy – or
There’s only this big gap in time. And we are left to wonder or speculate.
Yet that fleeting
moment in time that Luke describes, that brief temple experience can serve
as a model for
growing up and growing in wisdom.
On the verge of adulthood, the child Jesus retreats to the temple, the “church”,
to reflect and
question... It’s his first time there, and immediately he realizes
he’s entirely at home here.
Time flies by. Three entire days – just gone. These 3 days in the temple
were a fundamental
moment in his spiritual evolution. Jesus grew spiritually by fully embracing
tradition. And not only that: he also absorbed and digested it all.
Many years pass, and the next time we read about him, we see a person who
has taken this
faith and transformed it into something radically different. Jesus gave the
faith of his
forefathers entirely new life and new meaning, pushing its boundaries to
new horizons never
So what happened in the time between the 12-year old Jesus who discovers
and explores his
faith, and the 30-something Jesus who proclaims God’s Kingdom of justice
What happened was the child Jesus grew into a mature adult, in Luke’s
words: “filled with
wisdom, gaining favour with God and people...”
The text gives us 2 key words. The first one is “growing”. Jesus
grew. From being a
helpless child he grew into adulthood, where he was capable of holding down
a job, making
and keeping friends, thinking things over, separating fantasy from fact,
without hurting others, caring for others and not expecting anything back. “The
Jesus grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favour with God and people...”
The other word is “wisdom”. Jesus grew in body - and wisdom.
He discovered that a fool
and his money are soon parted, and that the love of money is the root of
many evils. He
learned you cannot tell a book by its cover. That power corrupts, that the
devil can quote
scripture, and a smile sometimes is a mask for hate. Through all this “The
child Jesus Jesus
grew both in body and in wisdom, gaining favour with God and people...”
And whenever he came near or in a temple, things happened. Forgiveness and
happen – but also heated exchanges with the priests and other dignitaries.
them and their faith, continuing what he started as a 12-year old child.
Jesus was restless, he had to share his vision with all who would listen.
By doing this he and
took risks, big risks; and both the priests and the Romans didn’t like
it one bit. Priesthood
and the temple had always been places of comfortable rest and quietude, and
now here’s this
Jesus who starts stirring the pot, rocking the boat. Who has a very different
image of God,
namely as a loving parent. Jesus who heals the sick, who speaks out when
injustice is done,
who treats prostitutes and corrupt tax collectors as valuable human beings,
forgiveness for all – Jews and gentiles, friends and enemies. The mature
Jesus came to the
temple to experience and live this faith, as a person and as a community – not
where you have to pay a priest to mediate with God on your behalf.
Jesus embraced his faith, and his curious, probing mind realized early in
life that faith isn’t
about stagnation and status quo. It’s about growth and taking chances.
It’s about questioning
the status quo and opening yourself to new horizons, being unafraid of new
your faith means living on the edge of something new. It can be wonderful
and scary at the
How we meet that “new” makes us who we are, as individuals and
as a congregation. It
sounds so obvious, doesn’t it? But is it…? Ask yourself when
was the last time you picked
up a book with the intention to learn something genuinely new about your
that maybe shook up some of your existing beliefs, something that made you
stop in your
tracks and think: wow, I never realized that…Or do we stick to what
feels comfortable and familiar, and keep things as they are…?
Growing in wisdom and stature as Jesus showed us calls us to take our faith
seriously enough to study scripture, wrestle with what feels comfortable,
explore new images of God,
Christ, and salvation, and spend time in prayer, meditation, and service.
Faith is like a seed,
as Jesus illustrates in one of his parables: it won’t grow automatically,
but requires nurturing
and work. It requires going to our own spiritual ‘temple’ regularly
to listen, to be curious,
Let’s make this our New Year resolution: to greet these new horizons
in this coming year,
unafraid and fully aware of the fact that we’re always on the edge
of something new about
to take form. Without it, a vibrant congregational and personal life is just
And then maybe it can be said of us all: these people... these congregations,
grew into a
mature adulthood, filled with wisdom, and God regarded them favourably...
(illustration: “Jesus in the Temple”, by Éric de Saussure)