South & New Life Presbyterian Churches – December 27, 2015
The Reverend Dr. Jane Searjeant Watt
Have you ever lost track of a child in a crowd? Don’t feel badly if you have. Losing a child is a frightening experience for sure. Sometimes we wish we could lose them…maybe for a half hour or so! But to really loose a child is another story. One minute our children are with us. The next they are nowhere to be found. I know this panic first hand.
Years ago, our family was on our way to Nantucket. We were in the Boston airport waiting to board our plane. As we were rounding up the family, we discovered Lindsay was nowhere to be found. A chill went down my spine. I called her name. No answer. As I kept calling her, other people noted this and began to scan the crowd. Still no answer…..that’s when real panic crept in.
The adrenaline surged and all of a sudden I was in full-alert mode. I started listing the possibilities in my mind……perhaps she went to the ladies room unattended, or stopped to buckle her shoes… I left the gate area and started asking others “have you seen a little girl with a red sundress come this way?” “No,” they would say, shaking their heads.
The more they said “no”, the more my adrenaline pumped – as I began the “what if” file. What if, she fell? What if, she was kidnapped? I was not thinking rationally at all. I pushed my way through the crowd; people cleared the way. Then, I turned onto another concourse -there she was. Lindsay, at age four, having totally freaked out her Mother! She had found some folks who wanted to see the dolls in her basket….
On the one hand, I was relieved; on the other hand I was put out that she had left my side without telling me….Then I thought how irresponsible of me! Or her! There she was. She was safe. I hugged her tightly and then said in a scolding tone….”Don’t scare me like that. This is a big airport. Next time you leave my side, let me know!”
However, this was not the last time I “lost” a child. With both the two boys in the family, we went through a similar panic. And with each my reaction was different. With my first son, Jeffrey, I panicked much sooner than I had with Lindsay; plus, we were inexperienced parents. So that when we found him, I just hugged him tightly. He was as scared as we were.
With son Kevin, our youngest, he went AWOL at a fun park…I worried. I thought, “Did he go through the exit without us? Was he back at the bumper cars?” Where was he in a huge crowd of parents and children? seached as far as the Ferris wheel. Sure enough, there’s Kevin with a staff person; standing leisurely by his side, talking with him as if he’s known this person forever!
We saw each other and Kevin says, “Oh Hi. This is my new friend, Billie. He takes tickets for this ride.” Sigh……. He’s “just being Kevin.” WE were always worried whenever he’d go missing. However, Kevin always managed to be in a safe, comfortable place and with trusting people.
Now, let’s consider today’s scripture lesson. Jesus is about 12 years old, old enough in that culture to be semi-independent. He and his family are visiting Jerusalem during the Passover Feast which attracts thousands of people every year…even to this day. When the Feast ends, Mary and Joseph depart the city with a group of friends and relatives…starting for home.
Before we judge Mary and Joseph as bad parents, for losing Jesus in Jerusalem, let’s understand the situation a little more. For starters, they are good Jewish parents and they raise Jesus according to the law given to God gave Moses about 5,000 years before……
“You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, all your might, and these words shall be on your heart and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and daughters and you shall teach them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lay down and when you rise up.” (Deut.6:5-7). ……..
Thus, early in his life, Jesus learns the joy of studying the Scriptures from his elders, who encourage him to seek the wisdom of God.
At the end of Passover, the crowd made camp for the night. I can imagine a conversation like this: “Joseph, have you seen Jesus? No, I thought he was with you, Mary.” Again, we’ve all been there. Suddenly, Joseph and Mary realize that neither of them knows the whereabouts of their son! This means they must turn back to Jerusalem. And how long was it before they find him? (pause) Three days!
And where is he…in the temple hanging out with the rabbis! If Mary kept a journal, perhaps her account of finding her son in the temple, might read like this: “There he was in the temple among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. Thank God he was safe. But why hadn’t he asked us if he could stay on after the Passover Feast?”
“Joseph and I were filled with fear and worry in the last three days, not knowing what may have befallen him. And when we find him, his response to us was simply: “Why were you searching for me? I was here in my Father’s house.”
When I read commentaries or hear a sermon on this passage; the focus is usually on the response of Jesus. Jesus takes this opportunity to tell his parents he knows his real Father and what his mission will be. The most frequent interpretation of this passage is how this exchange foreshadows his final journey to Jerusalem. The loss of and search for Jesus and finding him on the third day; compare to passion, death and resurrection….which also took place during Passover. Luke seems to be setting the stage for the adult ministry of the Son of God.
But try as I may, I also have a hard time removing my “parent filter” when I read his passage. I have sympathy for Mary and Joseph in their search for their son; especially, when I think about the times I have lost a child and how upset I was.
For me, this passage is profoundly about searching. However, the world in which we exist is constantly challenging our commitment. We search for Jesus (pause), and when we find him or where we find him, (pause) we hear a voice saying, “Well sure enough, I was here all along! Where else did you think I would be?” (Pause)
Think for a moment, how far we travel… days, weeks, months… before we realize we are disconnected from Jesus? Are we, in fact, absolutely sure that Jesus is still with us on our journey of life and our journey of faith? (pause) When was the last time we have called upon him? Perhaps, we haven’t felt the need for Jesus. Perhaps, we feel smart enough or strong enough to be on our own? Or…. we save calling on Jesus only in times of desperation?
We often talk about our faith as a “search for the Christ.” Some consider this a search for meaning or a search for a deeper connection with God. How far do we travel before we realize we have misplaced Jesus? Often, we are too busy rushing around. Or we take for granted that Jesus is with us. Like Mary and Joseph, we take for granted that Jesus is in the crowd.
What is even more frustrating – it seems are “little things” that get in the way of our search. Trivial things like what pair of shoes to wear or shall I pick up ice cream on the way home from work. These things have little to do with what really matters! (pause) I don’t know about you, but these are the sort of things that eat away at me. Yet, I know my relationship with Jesus should be at the top of my bucket list.
It seems that everything in creation hinders me and keeps me from knowing Jesus. It is only when we clear through the debris field….or when we navigate the minefield of life … that we reach our destination! Finally! Then we ask, “Where were you?” (Pause) “Right here,” is the answer, “Where else did you think I would be?” (Pause x2)
I confess I am really ready to put 2015 to rest. Probably more than most other years I’ve been alive. The devastating weather patterns, suicide bombers, Isisal shenanigans, worrisome family concerns, the challenge of health issues with a total of three surgeries, plus, ending the year with shingles! (pause) It’s been a bizarre year in general for me.
However, this doesn’t mean that 2016 will be any easier. Forrest Gump is right….. Life is like a box of chocolates, in that we never know what we are going to get when we grab one. I have a goal for the beginning of 2016. I have decided to start with the conviction that Christ is exactly where Christ needs to be. (Pause)
As Christians, we are responsible for maintaining and developing our own individual relationship with Jesus. We must guard against wandering away from him, because this drifting can be so subtle and so dangerous. (pause) And this drifting is hardly discernable until our spiritual life collapses.
I invite you to an experiment – in 2016, let us together live by the example of Jesus. Have as our New Year’s resolution to increase in wisdom and understanding of God. Let us journey together – helping one another see the hope that comes with the birth of Jesus! It is through Scripture study, through worship, our daily prayers and through our Acts of Faith, that there is a good chance that we will find God, Christ and the Holy Spirit – waiting for us.
Throughout the New Year, our “spiritual job,” will be to confirm and affirm that we believe God is in the right place and that we together and individually are in the right place with God. As Mary treasured and pondered these things in her heart, let us do likewise as we face a new year. Our searching begins any time we are ready…… Amen……
Let us pray…..