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Faith Development (30-10-23)

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 13. 9 - 12 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

A Thought Our New Zealand friend, Anne, was sitting in a prayer meeting in a Sacristy at the back of a Catholic church. The small room was clearly used as a storage space with much clutter around the edges. Midway through the prayer time, Anne caught sight of a large plastic box. The label read: ‘CRIB FIGURES FOR INSIDE CHURCH: BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, ST JOSEPH, 2 X INFANT JESUS (DIFFERENT SIZES). Once her amusement had subsided, she began to reflect on the idea that Jesus in more than one size might be an appropriate metaphor for faith development.

Like most of us, one of my earliest images of Jesus was as a baby at his nativity. As I grew older, two other things made quite an impression on me. The first was putting my pennies into the collection at the Infants’ Sunday School. Then, each Sunday afternoon, I was given half a crown by my Granny, who also put the same amount in my missionary box (the ‘God’ box). I was left musing on why Jesus a) got the same amount of pocket money as me, and b) why he needed any money anyway when God was in charge of everything! I was a child and I thought like a child.

Fortunately, my understanding of Jesus didn’t remain there. During my early teens, I began to read my Bible regularly and started to understand more about the historical Jesus, his life and ministry, death and resurrection. I came to a living faith in Jesus in my late teens through the witness of a local church youth group and the Christian Union at school. I was putting the ways of childhood behind me and growing up.

My faith continued to develop as I journeyed on into adulthood. It has been shaped by my studies at theological college and subsequent ministry, and it has been further honed by life’s many ups and downs. Time and time again, I have realized that the Jesus (or God) I thought I knew is, as the Christian author JB Phillips put it, “too small”. God knows me through and through, but I still only know in part.

Over the years, much of my core faith has remained the same, but at the same time I continue to appreciate many more aspects of God. On the one hand, I recognize that God is unknowable, but on the other my understanding is always expanding. One day I will know fully, even as I am fully known, but until then I pray that my image of Jesus will come in different sizes, always getting bigger rather than remaining too small.

A Prayer Lord Jesus, continue to develop my faith and expand my understanding of who you are until we one day meet face to face. Amen.

A reminder of childlike simplicity without limiting ‘our great big God’

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