Jesus, the boy, about his father’s business
Sermon delivered by The Reverend Jodi Baron on January 4, 2015
This morning’s Gospel is fascinating on many levels. It’s a good story, it’s totally unique, it has Jesus’ first words written down for us to hear…
But, perhaps the most interesting aspect about it, that I found, was that this is the only Gospel that mentions anything of Jesus’ childhood.
And when we crawl into it, we have this window into 1st century Israelite culture, family life, customs, and concerns. We have a glimpse at what it must have been like to be the Mother or Father of Jesus, the Son of God.
He must have been a handful, or at the very least precocious, right? This reading definitely displays that “twinkle” that lets us see that precociousness; those abilities or proclivities he had as an adolescent that put him in a different category than that of his peers.
That’s the other aspect about this morning’s reading, it gives us an idea, small as it maybe, of what the BOY Jesus may have been like.
And that matters on this Second Sunday of the Christmas Feast because we know where the Big Story is headed, but do we know anything about the time between the birth narratives and his public ministry?
In the years since Christ’s death and resurrection, there have surfaced many legends about the boy Jesus from historians and biblical scholars, but this is the only Gospel account our faith has held closely to for all of these years. And this story reveals not only the surrounding community’s Epiphany of who Jesus is and what God has done; but what Jesus’ own Epiphany of calling story may have been.
The story introduces us to a young family of seven; a mom, dad, and 5 kids. It takes place long ago in a far away land during a time of their religious year that brought thousands of people together from all the corners of the land.
The eldest, a boy named Jesus, was about 12 years old. Too young to decide which career path he would choose (either his father’s trade or to study in the Temple). Too old to be occupied solely with what his family was doing. A boy whose world was becoming bigger and bigger everyday. His questions, along with size, were becoming bigger too, and more profound.
And the mother and father were devout Jews. Every spring Joseph, the father, closed up shop and set out on the pilgrimage that would take them to the annual festival of remembrance of God’s Passover. The festival that lasted 8 days and took multiple days to walk to from where they hailed.
This particular year was very special for Jesus. He knew what would be coming next year, when he turned 13. When he would be permitted to sit among the teachers in the Temple and ponder the things of God, talk about scripture, and ask questions.
Keenly aware of what would be coming next year (yet not fully understanding why his age precluded him from participating in this activity which he was so clearly drawn to) Jesus decided to take his post along the edges and listen, once again, to the Teachers’ conversations and await for his turn to ask a question.
It was true then and remains true today. Knowing how to ask good questions is a very important skill to have. If you know what question to ask, you can unlock the secrets to many mysteries of life.
Well, this particular year, the festival was drawing to an end and the families were packing up to begin the long journey back to their homes. The hustling and bustling of these busy families, including the family of Jesus, was likely quite stressful as all were headed out to make the first leg of the journey.
As usual, the men and boys traveled in groups ahead of the women and young children. There were lots of people in that first leg to the first camp.
It would not have been uncommon for a parent to have had a child (or two) passed along to others in the caravan (kind of like what happens here, at Grace).
They understood that raising children in the ways of the Lord was not uniquely the vocation of the parents who were given charge over them. They knew that raising children was the vocation of the whole village.
When the families arrived at the first camp though, Mary, the mother of Jesus, became aware that something was wrong, someone wasn’t where they should be.
Stopping what she was about, she began to account for all her children. Upon realizing that it was Jesus who was missing, she inquired of Joseph, Jesus’ Father, if he had seen him. When it became clear that neither of them had actually seen Jesus since they left the City gates, they began to ask around and soon made arrangements for their other children to continue on with the caravan to Nazareth while they returned to the City to see if he was there, or along the way, perhaps in another group of travelers by mistake.
With each inquiry yielding empty results, their hearts grew weary but their resolve even stronger.
Meanwhile, back in the Temple, the boy Jesus, unaware of the anxiety and suffering his choices had caused his family, continued to lurk among the shadows of the Teacher’s conversations.
One of the teachers happened to notice him: actually, this teacher had noticed him for the past few Passovers eavesdropping on their meetings and noticed something different about him; and motioned for the boy to come nearer.
The teacher’s name was Gamaliel. Gamaliel was considered one of the great teachers of his time. He had many followers who dreamed of being one of his disciples. One of his later students went on to become one of the greatest teachers of Christianity, you may have heard of him: The Apostle they called Paul.
Gamaliel drew Jesus, the boy, close and invited him to ask a question of the teachers.
This young boy, still too young to be invited to such an important honor, was being called forth to share his thoughts and ask his questions.
And all were amazed at his understanding and his answers. Amazed.
That was NOT the word his mother used about her pre-teen boy.
In fact, remember how I was telling you about their weariness and days of searching high and low for him because he stayed behind without a word to either of his parents….the ones to whom God Almighty had entrusted his precious, his yet dependent life with??? Yeah, those ones. They were NOT impressed.
His mother, Mary, indeed had a quite different response to Jesus’ being in the Temple among the Teachers of the Law at the age of 12. In her words, which we heard in this morning’s reading, we feel the pain he had caused them through his choices.
You see, raising children is a tricky thing for any of us, let alone if you were charged to raise the SON OF GOD!!!!
I don’t know if you knew this or not, but babies…they don’t come with instruction manuals. They only come bundled in their parents, Godparents, and surrounding community’s hopes and dreams for the future of humanity.
And, if you’re anything like me, you know that there is no such thing as “Perfect Parenting.” Parents fail, epic-ally at times, almost daily, to live up to what they’ve been called to do in raising these tiny humans. We need the prayers and assistance of others in our community to know our children and love them too.
Nevertheless, we try as hard as we can to raise our young ones to hopefully do more than survive within the confines of our property lines. We pray for them to find good friends who will point them to their Heavenly Father, and hope against hope…that when they are old enough to leave your house to explore this great big world, that they will return to us in one piece, and will have learned for themselves how to turn pain into wisdom and carry on.
Being attentive to the job of parenthood takes a lot of patience, character, and fortitude (not to mention the growth of a few grey hairs along the way).
Just like me, they were fearfully and wonderfully knit together in their mother’s womb.
They, like you, have a budding vocation within them, that needs the nourishment your water, soil, and light can offer until they are mature enough to stand on their own.
But none of us, well most of us, ever expect to see that vocation in our young so blatantly, so abundantly clear, at the age of 12.
Surely they will need to wait a bit, right?
That must have been what Mary and Joseph were thinking when we heard her say,
“Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father & I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”
In that moment, right there…when Mary called Jesus’ dad “father” he had an Epiphany moment of calling. We hear it in those very first words, only recorded in these verses of Luke,
“Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Befuddled & rejected, Mary & Joseph did not understand what he said.
We can see in the juxtaposition of the next sentence that Jesus became keenly aware of his unique relationship with God and that his life would thereafter be guided by this destiny.
To reveal to us mere mortals what was meant by the sayings of all the Prophets, why God gave the Israelites the Law, how we too can make our way toward friendship with our Creator.
Like the cosmos and all of eternity was opened up for him in that moment, but only for a moment.
Then it was closed up and the whisper of God said to him,
“Not yet, my boy. It’s not your time yet. You have much to learn from these two I’ve entrusted with your care. Be faithful to them and learn from them all that there is to know about being my servant. They will teach you. In the daily occupations of home life, to the prayers around your mealtimes. They will point you to me and help you grow until that time when you are revealed to all of humanity as my only true and begotten Son. Emmanuel.”
You see, my friends, the Christmas hope is that God will continue to break into our lives in new and unexpected ways. Jesus came that we might know God so intimately, as a friend knows, and serve him without Fear!
All of these stories, recorded in the first two chapters of Luke, were to announce the unique relationship Jesus had with God and that through Jesus we were being invited into friendship with God as well.
Jesus was born to reveal to us not only how to be better humans but to show us how to fulfill the commandments of God; how to approach the Father, in prayer and supplication, when we fail to follow his ways; what reconciliation truly looks like.
This story, my friends, is about vocation. A vocation that was spoken to each one of us at the creation of the world and again through baptism.
And, I think, it invites you to consider, or reflect upon, what your own vocation is or might be.
That thing which you sense God wooing you to become.
Maybe, in this new year, that can be your prayer.
To re-visit, or consider for the first time, what ministry it is that God is inviting you to consider, here at Grace or in your community.
Do not be afraid, the Angel of the Lord has brought you good news of how God wants to break into your life in new and exciting ways.
Jesus the Christ was born to be the Savior of the world and he became aware of his calling during this episode, in the Temple, when he was “about his Father’s business.”
This is the “deep memory” to which our liturgies and seasons of the Church year are designed to evoke. Especially Christmas. And Epiphany, which is this Tuesday, is that feast, immediately following the Great Feast of Christmas, that is supposed to expand the unfolding impact of God’s Incarnation. It celebrates the manifestation of Jesus as the Christ to those who live outside the boundaries of his own territory.
In a few moments, we’re going to have the Episcopalian version of an “Altar Call”. Where you will be invited to come into God’s courts with thanksgiving and to make good your vows to the Most High.
All are invited.
God’s house has many rooms, Jesus told us so.