I've heard adults lament that after they had grown up and moved out the house, their mothers had cleaned up their rooms and tossed their toy boxes, contents and all. It was like a period placed at the end of a sentence: childhood was over. Perhaps we adults miss the "simpler times" mainly because we didn't have to pay the bills and someone who loved us dearly worried if we merely sneezed. Also perhaps, we also grieve that our enemies, both real and imagined, weren't hauled off with our toy boxes.
The apostle Paul reminded his readers that there is a time to grow up. In that wonderful chapter about true love (1 Corinthians 13), he wrote, "When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child; I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." (v. 11)
Epiphany is ending and we've read how God is revealed to us, as that must always be the way it is. We're not capable of discovering Him on our own. The fact that bullies still remain (and sometimes "they" are actually "us") should teach us that we don't grow up in this present spiritual wilderness. But the paradox is that we must remain as children in the kingdom of God on this present earth. We were born in the spiritual desert of sin, led by the Prince of the Air who also tempted the newly-baptized Jesus in the desert. We cling to mirages of youthful beauty and innocence while assigning blame to others for our corruption. Paul also aptly describes how dimly we see God and even ourselves. "For now, we see in a mirror dimly..." Next, he describes how we will fully know Jesus, but it won't be here and now.
This coming Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday, February 13. Those 40 days before Easter are the perfect time to see a clearer picture of God and what He is like. He had to become a human to teach us the meaning of life--faith in Him. (Luke 4: 31-43). He casts out demons that correctly identified who He is: "You are the Son of God!" (v. 41) but too often our lives more reflect the devil's than God's. We'd rather have a dim mirror that doesn't show our flaws and lifelong frailties because we'd rather see ourselves as we'd prefer, not as God sees us and intended us to be. That desire is a mirror image of what another demon who rightly identified Jesus asked Him, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?"
The answer: He's our Creator and wants us to live with Him forever. We don't find Him by embarking on our own spiritual field trips. We who were baptized also entered a spiritual wasteland, and we need Him to reveal Himself to us. And He does so in His Word, the same Word that He used to reject the devil's temptations after 40 days in the desert. May we read John 6: 44-67 and learn that being a grownup in this world can only begin by being a child of God. Verse 67 calls for a focused Lenten question: What is it that makes you go away? Gloria Deo--Glory to God
Pastor Timothy Matthew
is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran
Church in Kennett.