Monday, December 28, 2009

Dec. 27 Sermon, Christmas 1, Losing Jesus

Texts: Colossians and Luke

Story about losing Wesley in the house:
It was one of two 911 calls we’ve made here in Morris—the other being a time that a skunk came through our open garage and through our cat door into our house. But that’s another story. This time, we were calling 911 because Wesley had disappeared. We were at home. We had all our doorknob thingies that make it hard even for an adult to open a door from the inside of our house installed. But somehow, Wesley had disappeared. We searched high and low with increasing anxiety. We knew something had to be wrong because Wesley always knew when we meant business that when we called to him, he had to answer, “Here I am!” But this time nothing. We were frantic, looking in increasingly ridiculous places. I remember looking in one of our endtables, and thinking. “He couldn’t even fit his head in there!” We had looked out in the garage, in both cars, in our storage room, and we were on our 3rd or 4th sweep around the house, looking everywhere we’d already looked. Lara was on the phone with the police department trying to explain what had happened. I was beginning to question whether or not all those hippies we had met in Sedona, Arizona were on to something with all their talk about vortexes. Then I saw him, crouched in the storage room off the garage, under a table behind a bookshelf, clutching a red can of Coca-Cola in his hands, and literally looking like the cat that ate the canary.

It was a far cry from Jesus being in the Temple with the scholars, listening, learning, and teaching, but boy it’s what I think of when I hear Luke tell this one and only story of Jesus’ childhood. You can taste that acrid anxieity that Joseph and Mary feel in your mouth, especially if you’ve ever lost a child, can’t you?

My parents have a similar story of losing me in a mall, hearing me described over the intercom, and then going to the store where I had been discovered only to hear that I had already been picked up by another man, and then really flying into a frenzy only to find that it was my uncle that had picked me up. Oh, the days before cellphones.

This is the only story from the gospels about Jesus’ childhood, and it is one that paints him and his family in a very familiar and human light, doesn’t it. Luke follows the majestic scenery of the nativity, with all the angels ushering people around, with this story about two parents on a dusty road and seemingly no one to help them find their son. You’d think that if angels would point the way for shepherd strangers, they’d at least give mom and dad a hand, huh?

I’ve always loved this story—and I particularly loved it as a teenager. Mom and dad come storming in, and Mary lays into him. And then he gives this answer that they can’t even understand. I totally heard this story from Jesus’ perspective until I became a parent and had the experience of losing a child.

The Bible is always like that. It sheds different light depending on where you are standing when you read it. I wonder what those children who have been lost to their parents because their parents have neglected them hear this story? They probably wonder what it must be like to have parents who drop everything and journey to go find them.

Today, you have an opportunity to contribute to our children’s home, which takes these children and gives them a home where they know they are loved and sought—if not by earthly parents, then for certain by their heavenly parent.

Perhaps during this holiday season, it has seemed to you as if Jesus has been “lost in the shuffle.” Perhaps you are at a point in your own life where you feel like you’ve lost sight of Jesus. You’ve been travelling along, and you didn’t even realize it, but Jesus just doesn’t seem to be alongside you anymore. You search around in all the customary places, you check with your caravan, but no-one seems to know where he is.

If that is true, then do as Mary and Joseph do and go back. Mary and Joseph and Jesus were in Jerusalem observing the sacred day of Passover and participating in what the Lord had commanded.

Think back to the last time that you experienced with certainty that Jesus was with you, and retrace your steps from that point. As Jesus says to his mother and father when they find him in the temple. “Why were you searching? Did you not know that I would be in my father’s house?” If you’re having trouble finding Jesus, then you should search a little more deeply here, at his father’s house.

Jesus’ presence here in his father’s house is not contingent upon me or my sermons, whether they are uplifting to you or not. His presence isn’t contingent upon how well the choir sings or how well Patsy plays. His presence doesn’t depend on how active our youth group is, or how many pot-lucks we have. IN short, Jesus Christ’s presence here at this church does not depend upon how you FEEL about being here at church.

Twice, Joseph and Mary are said to be "seeking" Jesus. This puts Jesus' parents, Joseph and Mary, in the same position as the rest of us. Later, "multitudes" also seek Jesus (6:19). Later, Jesus will also say that those who "seek" will find (11:9) and that we are to "seek" the kingdom of God, or the reign of God on earth (12:31).

Christ’s presence is partially about you seeking Christ. It is partially about how open your heart is to the possibility of finding Jesus. Jesus presence here in this place is a birthright. It is a gift given to us by God. You may question it all you want, but that does not negate the FACT that he is here. It is because of God’s grace that Jesus can and will be found here in this place, among you. He may be listening to you or he may be giving astonishing answers for you, but he is here, just like that 12 year old boy sitting in the temple.

Did you know that Luke bookends his story of Jesus with two stories of people on a journey who loved Jesus and grappling with their anxiety about losing him. These two stories are only found in Luke, and in both stories the time between Jesus and finding him again is specified as 3 days. In the second story, Jesus actually joins the travelers on their way, even though they don’t know it is him. In their grief, they tell Jesus, “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. [20] The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; [21] but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. [22] In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning [23] but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. [24] Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

When they invite Jesus into their home, and he joins them for a meal, they recognize him in the breaking of the bread.

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