Windsor Community United Methodist Church
Monday, December 09, 2013
Mike Turgeon Outside the box: “Lost and found” December 11, 2011
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day's journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. Luke 2:41-52
Outside the box: Lost and found
Jesus at twelve years old? I’d be willing to bet that ninety-nine per cent of the time we picture Jesus as a newborn in that little box, or as a grown man walking the roads of Galilee,
or the road to Calvary. But it’s not often we think of him as a twelve year-old. Only when this passage comes around, the only one of its kind, the only glimpse we get of Jesus between his birth and his baptism.
Now, maybe it’s just me, but I kind of detect a bit of an adolescent attitude here on Jesus’ part:
"Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"
I never could imagine that line going over too well with the parents.
Outside the box: Lost and found
And since this is the only story we get about boyhood Jesus, I have a question--did he show much interest in girls? The Da Vinci Code industry of the last few years is based on speculation about whether or not Jesus had a wife. Actually, it would have been out of the ordinary for a rabbi like Jesus not to be married. Will we ever know for sure? No, the evidence is all circumstantial.
But there’s another question I find even more interesting as long as we’re investigating the human side of Jesus--did he show any aptitude as a carpenter? By all accounts, Joseph was a carpenter and it would have been normal also for Jesus to have that trade passed down to him; so, did he know his way around a cabinet shop?
You see, without much detail, the mind is curious as to what it might be missing.
But from his parents’ perspective, there are too many details to deal with. The ones that keep playing over and over in their minds. I though you were watching him; I thought he was with his aunt and uncle. I’m wracking my brain, what was the last thing I heard him say? Who was the last person I saw him with?
As a parent hearing this story, it makes your hair stand up on the back of your neck. The moment of panic. The universal fear of every parent, the missing child. The fear that of all the things that you could lose, the one thing you can’t imagine living without, is lost without explanation. We easily imagine Joseph and Mary in anguish, churning as they search frantically for their lost son. Mary’s words here don’t do the situation justice. “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”
That’s it? Great anxiety? For all the glory and glitz of Luke’s Gospel with the angels and shepherds and wise men and the star, I think he could have gone further here in describing the emotions involved.
For a parent’s worst nightmare, great anxiety doesn’t even come close. How about paralyzing adrenaline rush. Or how about jolting despair? Your life as a parent flashing before your eyes. The Amber Alert freeway signs lit up with your child’s name flashing on it? This story cuts way too close to home. It’s a moment of serious perspective--the things we try to pretend are precious-- our possessions, our place in the world, our home, our stuff--they all pale in comparison to this wrenching loss.
So what is the big lesson here? Is this temple exchange between Jesus and his parents merely a story of disobedience? No, we find something much deeper here--the beginning of God’s plan for salvation and hope for humanity.
Yes, his parents are distraught, Jesus is thoroughly disobedient and dangerously lost; but Jesus doesn’t see it that way.
It’s been 25 years now but my wife and I went through this. Extended family outing in Muir Woods. A crowded Saturday, half paying attention to what the kids were doing when our son shows up concerned that his younger sister ran on ahead and just kept going. Adrenaline panic.
Our daughter was only about 6 years old and she had always been a bit of a wanderer. There was the time a couple years before this incident when Chris and I were home one afternoon and we both realized at the same time she wasn’t out in the front yard. As we were searching the neighborhood, about 5 minutes later a neighbor from a couple blocks away came along, bringing her in tow. She had set off to go to her Dad’s house. He lived about a mile away, and in her little world, it was no big deal to just go there.
As I ran the pathway in Muir Woods, assuming there was only one direction she could go, every imaginable scenario came to mind. Kidnapped. Injured. Scared out of her wits. Within a few minutes, however, I found her standing next to a car that looked a lot like ours in one of the parking lots. She was a bit impatient, wondering why we had taken so long to get back there.
I’m afraid I didn’t act even as well as Joseph and Mary in the story. A mixture of anger and relief settled in as I explained to her that she was at the wrong car. A couple of years ago I asked her if she remembered this incident. She still had a vague memory, how hot it was that day, how annoyed she had been with all of us for making her wait. But mostly she remembered my anger, how over the top it seemed to her.
After that, her days of wandering tapered off, at least until she became a senior in high school.
In her mind, on that day in the woods, she was right where she needed to be.
Like Jesus this morning. According to his way of thinking, one person’s lost is another person’s found.
Today we know the ‘why’ and the ‘what’ of God’s plan for Jesus--to bring all of humanity into everlasting life through him. What we see in this passage is the beginning of the ‘how’ of God’s plan for Jesus.
What is it about being lost and found? Probably the most well-known line from any church hymn is the one that goes,
“I once was lost...”
One of the most highly-rated TV shows of the last 5 years was
Any story that deals with basic human insecurity like the fear of loss and being lost is going to get great ratings. I don’t know, maybe there is a certain therapeutic value in having our worst fears fed back to us. We have so much invested in our identity, our home, our place in the world. Yet we eventually lose them all.
On the deepest level we struggle mightily about whether we are lost or found, when in reality Jesus took care of that long, long ago.
Parker Palmer, the eminent Quaker writer and thinker once said:
“The power of a fully lived life or a truly learned mind is not a power to be sought or contrived. It comes as we let go of what we possess and find ourselves possessed by a truth greater than our own.” Parker Palmer
Brothers and sisters, there is no greater power and truth than what God invested in Jesus Christ. That Christ himself began to let go of what little he possessed at such a tender age in order to prepare our salvation is the greatest gift we ever receive.
Here we are once again, poised to receive and re-kindle that gift of Christ’s birth, not just in two weeks on Christmas Day but right now, right here. In Advent we set aside a time to prepare but we never have to wait. The arrival of this gift of grace in our midst came once and for all for all time inside of a little box.
Our job now is to spread that gift outside the box and share it to the best of our capability.
Now, I’m not sure how each and every one of you is going to carry out that mission, but I am sure of one thing. You won’t be using your capability on Christ’s behalf if you believe that you are lost. You are found in the most dazzling way, upheld in the grace of Jesus Christ.
Can we practice being found here for just a brief moment?
(Mike takes a moment to have people reflect)
So easy, yet so hard. Continual surrender to Christ requires constant vigilance.
So Mary and Joseph do what any one of us would do, they drop everything and with their hearts pounding in their ears, they search. And 12 year-old Jesus may have blown it in the short run, but in the long run his purpose is unassailable--carrying out God’s plan for his life, putting in place the lost and found of the soul, your soul and my soul. Sometimes it is better to ask forgiveness than permission.
You know, the hardest decisions in life are not the ones between right and wrong, we figure those out pretty quick. The really tough choices are choosing God’s purpose for our lives over all the other distractions at our disposal. That will never be an easy choice, but you’ll know you’ve made the right one when your life becomes an ever-deepening testament to the love of Jesus in your heart.
That love is always there, what will you do with it? Claim Christ’s victory of love over fear, forgiveness over hate, openness over bitterness, and yes, being found over being lost.