Luke 2:41-51; Col 3.12-17
In all the gospels, we have only one story concerning the childhood of Jesus. That is why the Sunday after Christmas we are reading about Jesus when he was twelve. Of all the stories Luke could have shared this one is incredibly irritating. Just the idea of a child being lost sends tremors up our spines. A week or so ago I was finishing my Christmas shopping at Target. As I turned down an aisle I saw a young boy with a commode brush in one hand and its container in the other. He was desperately trying to return the brush to its proper place but was having little success. I started to help him, but then I stopped. Surely his mother was just around the corner. She wouldn’t dare let him out of her sight. If I approached the boy she might call 911 and have the security guard arrest me. On the other hand, what if the boy was lost? His mother must be out of her mind with worry. Maybe I should see if he was OK. As I was playing out all the possible scenarios in my mind, another young boy, obviously the older brother, came running around the corner screaming, “You better come quick or mom is going to light up your butt.” I looked around the corner and spotted a rather perturbed woman headed our way. The commode brush was the last of this young man’s problems. He dropped the brush at my feet and scampered away. As I picked it up a Target Associate looked at me with that, “You break it you pay for it look.” And folks wonder why I hate shopping.
Sometimes the mother is not just around the corner. Sometimes she is not even in the same town. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the
Temple in to celebrate the Passover on his
twelfth birthday. This was a huge event.
Boys would go to the Temple to recite various scriptures to the priest. At the end of the ceremony, anyone passing
the examination would be declared a man.
There is no doubt that Jesus had been reading his Torah for the past
year in preparation for this ritual.
Obviously the event had gone well. Mary and Joseph joined the rest of
their friends from Nazareth for the trip back home. It was assumed Jesus was playing with friends
so his disappearance was not discovered until they stopped to rest. Imagine the fear of the parents when they
discovered Jesus was missing. There was
no way they could travel the dangerous roads at night so they were forced to
sit and worry until daybreak. Then they
retraced ever step, disappointed with every turn. Finally they went to the Temple, and there he
was, unharmed and unfazed by the events of the last three days. Mary probably didn’t know whether to hug or
strangle him. As her love overcome her
anger she embraced the child and asked why he had scared them half of their
minds. Jesus’ choice of words left a
little to be desired. “Didn’t you know I
would be in my Father’s house?” Jerusalem
For three days Jesus had sat among the wisest men of his religion. At first he had recited the words he had learned. Then he took the second step in biblical interpretation. He began to ask questions about the scriptures he had memorized. Finally he began to interpret those scriptures with such a depth of understanding that even the wisest priests were impressed. Jesus embraced God’s word in such a way that it became impossible for him to continue to be just the son of a carpenter. Jesus discovered the word, the vision, the hope, the grace, the imagination, the possibility of becoming a child of God. As a child, in the house of his Father, the Word embraced the word and the child of God became the Son of God.
This story is about more than Jesus. I like to think of this church as our home. I like to imagine this is a place where we feel safe, secure, challenged, embraced and loved. I like to believe this community is where we come to discover a new way, a different way, a transforming way of living. But is our church a place we would risk being lost in order that we might be found? That takes more than viewing the church as a haven for good fellowship with friends. It calls on us to embrace God’s word to the extent that we discover what an irritating effect it can have on our minds and our souls.
I was in seminary when I first met Al Winn. He was the minister at Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond Virginia. He had done a lot of other things including being President of Louisville Seminary and moderator of our General Assembly. The year before Dr. Winn Second Presbyterian had been served by some very polished preachers. Then Dr. Winn arrived. It was to be his last church before retirement. He was a bit smallish, almost frail. His voice always needed to be aided by a P.A. system. The first Sunday he arrived the church was filled with anticipation but to be honest, his sermon was a bit disappointing. A month later, the church was not quite as crowded. By the end of the year some folks had found their way to one of the other Presbyterian churches. But those who stayed discovered something fascinating about this man. In his hands, the Bible became a living, breathing document, touching us in ways we had never been touched before. It was obvious that at some point in his life Dr. Winn consciously declared the church to be his home and God to be his Holy parent. Along the way Dr. Winn had quietly but firmly committed himself to the strange decision that God’s word was to be valued over conventional or worldly wisdom. Dr. Winn could read Colossians 3:12, “clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience”, with an absolute straight face. How many people do you know who can say, “I am going to be unconditionally kind, humble, meek, and patient” and then turn around and act that way?
Dr. Winn kept insisting this was possible and yet I would always think, “Who in their right mind can live up to the gospel? That is not the way the world works.” Yet, with a straight face, that kind and gentleman would continue to read, “Bear with each other, forgive each other, clothe yourself in harmony and let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” Those are crazy words, impractical words, words which might lead us to ruin, or defeat, or something even scarier; a deep and irrational trust in the one a 12 year old dared to call Father.
Imagine the consequences of devoting your life to being more compassionate, kind, lowly, meek, patient, forgiving and loving. Imagine if this could become our top priority. Imagine joining with Jesus in following the ways of his Father. Imagine being lost and found in God’s grace. We are all looking for a New Year’s Resolution. Imagine adding this one to our list.