Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
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Christ the King 11/23

When I was nine I knew girls who liked the New Kids on the Block. (If you’re too young to know who they are, let’s just say that they were forerunners of the Jonas Brothers.) Girls bought New Kids on the Block albums, posters featuring their likeness, learned every detail they could about them, begged their parents to buy them tickets to their concerts, and dreamed about marrying them. Personally I thought it was highly unlikely that they were just waiting for the right nine year old to settle down with, but I prudently kept that to myself when surrounded by their fans.

I’m sure that a lot of parents must have heard similar declaration from their daughters, those detailed plots of how they were going to become Mrs. Joey McIntyre. Yet parents didn’t generally panic at those declarations. Instead they probably smiled as they presented their girls with the latest New Kids on the Block merchandise and thought it was cute. So why didn’t they panic? Why did they think it was cute? They thought it was cute, because it was sweet, innocent and almost its own rite of passage. Their daughters had discovered boys. Best of all they had discovered boys that their parents didn’t have to worry about. They had discovered a mild mannered boy band which they were unlikely to ever meet in person, much less date. They were about the safest crushes a girl could have, and while one’s daughter fixated on them, the parents breathe a little easier. It might be a little while before their daughter focused on someone down the block, someone they actually had to worry about. In the meantime, their daughter was happy, squealing with excitement.

Those parents were right not to worry. Chances were, their daughters never did get too up close and personal with any of the New Kids on the Block. Instead they had a good time dreaming about them and then at some point they became yesterday’s news. Their daughters moved on to relationships with real people they actually knew. They got married. They had kids. Today the New Kids on the block are on a reunion tour. You can go to their website and buy a t-shirt that declares you to be “Property of Donnie Wahlberg” or whichever Kid floats your boat. But somehow I think there’s a lot less heavy sighing and writing of “Mrs. Jordan Knight” accompanying this tour than their previous ones. For the women who go it’s less about getting to see their romantic dream made flesh, and more about reliving their youth, if for just a moment. It’s about remembering what it felt like to be so young and carefree, with stars in their eyes. It’s a look at their youth before they go back to careers, spouses, and children. It’s not serious. They don’t want to be nine years old again. It’s just a bit of fun and nostalgia. They want to remember what it felt like to be so young, before they grew up and matured and their lives changed. They would be quite disturbed if someone they knew had never grown up, but still lived with all of their New Kids on the Block posters and pinned all of their hopes on marrying one of them. It would be like their body grew up but their mind never did. We would worry about their functionality and stability. There would definitely be something wrong with them.

When it comes to life, we expect growth and change. There is only one area that we tend to exempt, that of faith. We expect that we will grow and change, but not our faith. We keep the faith that we had when we were nine and think that somehow that’s enough.

We have changed and everything around us has changed. Our relationships have changed. When I was nine, my mom still packed my lunch and bought my clothes. Now we call each other and discuss things like ulcers and 401k’s. None of our relationships that has endured over the years has done so without effort.  Can any of you who have been happily married say that the relationship would have lasted so long, much less happily, if you hadn’t put work into it? Relationships require adapting to change, growing and hard work. Nobody is automatically a good parent all the time. Other things compete for your attention. You’ve had a long, hard day and somebody’s just dumped spaghetti all over the floor. They get bigger and their horomones are raging, but they don’t seem to think ahead and think about consequences. Handling it well isn’t always easy. It takes a lot of love, patience and effort.

Well, our faith takes effort too. If we want our relationship with God to grow, our faith needs to grow with us. No, we can’t create our own faith, but we are in charge of how it grows. Does our faith remain like it was when we were nine; go to church, maybe drop something in the plate, because that is what we were taught to do? Or does our faith grow in new unexpected ways? Do we seek new ways to serve God? Are we ever a neighbor to one in need? Do we deepen our understanding? Does our faith grow with us or does it stagnate and remain shallow?

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus speaks a word none of us want to hear, one of judgment. We all want to run and hide behind faith against works. What we tend to forget is that faith is about a relationship between us and God. If we don’t tend to that relationship, there’s not much there. We may have faith that could protect a nine year old, but we’ve grown and we’re considerably bigger than that. What has happened to our faith? Has it deepened? Has it come to include a wider view than these four walls?

Every baby is the center of its own little universe. As we grew, we came to understand that there were others in our universe and that they mattered too, not everything revolved around us. In our spiritual lives have we come to understand that or do we remain spiritual infants, seeing ourselves and God in relation to ourselves, but seeing no one else? Or have we grown spiritually? Have we begun to see that God loved not just us, but the whole world? Have we begun to see that we aren’t the only ones who can address God as “Father” and that our brothers and sisters in Christ are family and thus a part of our concern as well?

We have all been given that essential relationship with God. It can remain the relationship of first infatuation, with posters on the wall and names written in notebooks. Or it can grow into a relationship of meaning and depth, beyond swooning and mooning, to knowing and caring. Spiritually we can grow or we can remain forever nine years old.

In Ezekiel today, everyone is a sheep. But some are fat sheep and some are skinny sheep. We all have faith, but what we feed it, how much work we put into it, is up to us. As this Sunday proclaims, Christ is our King. Why then do we treat our relationship with Him like it’s not that important, caring for it only in our spare time? When the rest of us is no longer the same, why do we accept a faith unchanged since we were nine? If in the end we want to go before God in faith, let us go in faith that fits us.

Vicar Joy Proper

 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

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“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”
 
 

 

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