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When I Was A Child

Luke 4:21-32

The Rev. Jon Roberts

3 February

2019

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Caper′na-um, do here also in your own country.’” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Eli′jah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Eli′jah was sent to none of them but only to Zar′ephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Eli′sha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Na′aman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away. And he went down to Caper′na-um, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the sabbath; and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word was with authority.

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Monk by the Sea by Caspar David Freidrich, 1808-1810

When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child and
I reasoned like a child.[1]

“Dad, I want to ask you a question,” said little Josh after his first day of Sunday School.
“Of course,” said his Dad. “The teacher was reading the Bible, about the Children of Israel building the Temple, the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea, the Children of Israel making the sacrifices,” said Josh. “So what’s your question?” his Dad asked. “Well, didn’t the grown-ups do anything?!”

When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child and
I reasoned like a child.
But when I became a grown up
I put away childish things.

The letter written by St. Paul to the church in Corinth became a hymn of not Christian virtue, although no where in this thirteenth chapter does it mention Christ. It has become the most widely used text in wedding ceremonies. A time when, “kids” come together, declaring their love for one another until, ”death do [them] part.” Merely children who see dimly in a mirror but over fifty years of “bliss” see the other face to face. Then, if in accordance to God’s will, they have children of their own and the cycle continues, including behavior that is observed and passed down. Children speak, think and reason based on what they see, “What do grown ups do”

In 2006 the Australian director, Sean Meehan, released a shocking video on YouTube under the brand, Childfriendly.org.au. It is shocking because it show adults, followed and mimicked by children in various parts of Sydney doing what they do. It begins with a man in a suit, in a hurry with cell phone against ear, oblivious to the people around him, including the homeless man asking for help. Right behind him, a young boy, with a cell phone doing the same. Next is a woman on a public pay phone, obviously frustrated with whom she is talking, using hand motions, stomping her feet and pounding her fist on the side. A young girl, in the next booth, is doing the same. Another man standing behind the yellow line in an empty subway station, repeatedly looks at his watch. A boy, just behind him is doing the same. On an escalator a woman is smoking in public and when she reaches the top, she tosses her butt to the ground and then puts it out under foot. Shocking, a young girl behind her is smoking also and repeats the action.
The video gets more chilling with scenes of a child flipping off a person in traffic, a boy shouting at a worker, a husband abusing his wife, all because that’s what the grown ups do. So often, we see the child following the way of their grown ups and it’s not always the desirable qualities that are remembered.

When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child and
I reasoned like a child.

St. Paul’s letter says 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 truth. Sometimes we find these virtues best suited within children, and not grown ups. It is so wonderful to read in another, older text, the story of the young prophet Jeremiah, who God speaks to when he was a child. Another popular line heard, “Before I formed you in the mother’s womb I knew you.”[2] Perhaps we are closest to God’s will as a child. Perhaps we are not as, “set in our own ways.” Perhaps God has special purpose for us, if we only held on to that which is childlike, rather than what is childish. Be warned: some people do not like it when asked to change.

This brings us to the “brow of the hill” in the passage of our Gospel from St. Luke, the evangelist and physician. The “Brow of the Hill” is a phrase that relates to a geographical place called Mt. Precipice. It is a cliff, 1300 feet up, and Nazareth is right beside it. A path leads up to this rocky overlook. Another particular YouTube video, shot by an tourist, shows a Jewish guide standing on the side of it, pointing out other places like Mt. Tabor, Capernaum, the Jezreel Valley. Then, you can see what looks like a storm approaching but it is actually a dense fog. One can imagine the setting in Jesus’ time when he was led up there by an angry mob, his own people, from his home town, wanting to throw him off and hurl him to his death.[3] What a terrible behavior and action for what?

You may recall that in the twenty-first verse of Luke’s fourth chapter, Jesus read from the Book of Isaiah, that prophesied the Messiah. When finished, he basically said, “that’s me.” Questions over who he was, child of Joseph the simple carpenter made them doubt and become angry at his claim. Jesus was speaking more to the next generation, multitudes that would question, “Aren’t we God’s children? Didn’t we build the temple? Didn’t we cross through the Red Sea? Didn’t we make sacrifices? Over time the grown ups forgot. Through Jesus’s words and actions he spoke like a child of God, He thought like a child of God; He reasoned like a child of God.

Today, we are called to do the same. No longer can we afford to reject the purpose that God entrusted us, before we were even placed in the mother’s womb. Will you receive these virtues and restore what is broken? Will you believe in the Son of God? Will you become and behave the way He intended in the moments where we humbly confess, “When I was a child.”

[1] 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
[2] Jeremiah 1:4-10
[3] Luke 4:21-32

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