Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:4-13
I spent time at the horse farm writing Holy Week sermons. Or at least that was my plan. I wrote about seven lines. I mostly watched Maple, a two-week old filly who had been released, with her mother, into a paddock. Maple stood still, ran with wild abandon, inspected a rouge paper towel roll that had taken residence in her field, and observed the yearlings in the neighboring field with great interest. All under the watchful eye of her mother.
After running for her life from the evil paper towel roll, Maple stood beside her mother and watched her graze. Maple decided to imitate her mother and eat some grass, as well. Newly-born colts drink their mother’s milk and eat grass at an early age. Secret, her mother, had no trouble extending her head down to the ground to graze. She, after all, is an adult, and her body is fully developed.
Maple is still a colt. Her neck has not grown to its full length, and is a bit too short for her easily to eat grass from the ground. After all, she’s still nursing from her mother. So ingenious Maple spread her front legs f-a-r apart to lower her head closer and closer to the ground and the luscious grass…
But fell instead. Face plant. Right into the grass. So she laid there, in the grass, and ate for a bit. Then she stood up, found Mom, and got some milk.
In a few weeks and months, Maple’s neck will grow so grazing will be easy for her. She will grow up. But she’s not grown right now. Until then, she will graze as she can and nurse from her mother.
Until the normal and natural course of growth offers her another way.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians – you know, the one read at EVERY wedding, we can get so caught up in his poetry about love that we miss the observation he makes about growing up and maturing as followers of Christ.
Like Maple, when we are newly-born in Christ, our selves and souls are capable of some things but not others. We are children who think like a child and reason like children. We may struggle to eat the wildness of mystery, so we return to the mother’s milk of clear and easy doctrine.
But our life as Christians is a life of growth. We grow in faith, in love, in mercy. We mature in our lives of faith. What that maturity looks like is different for all of us, but we are called to grow and (yes, here it comes) change.
Easter is about change and growth. The Jesus the disciples knew before the Resurrection is different from the one who gathers with them with wounds in his hands and side. Jesus is, whether they know it or not, weaning them off the Mother’s Milk of his constant physical presence and preparing them for what is to come. He is helping them grow up.
Jesus helps us grow, as well. As we journey though life, Jesus invites us to discover, to learn new things, to experience faith differently. Jesus invites us to grow and mature so that we can be the disciples he longs for us to be. After all, the saints of the church didn’t start off that way. They grew into themselves, often after some interesting side-trips.
We are called to grow as Christians. We may be called to leave behind old expectations and assumptions about church. We may be called to ingest new things about faith. We may even be called to change our minds. God’s like that. Full of surprises and change. Such is the stuff of faith and growth.
So when and where we need to be young in our faith, be young and child-like. And where we need to begin to grow, let us be willing to stick out our necks and grow.
When is the last time you explored something new about your faith? Pick a book that offers a different understanding of worship, discover a new prayer practice, volunteer for a ministry that you’ve never tried, maybe even go to the worship service at your church that you usually don’t attend for a few weeks. Experience change and see if that creates some space for new and holy growth.