A Time to Turn

 

A Sermon for 2nd Sunday after Christmas

Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a, Luke 2:41-52

All parents know the stealth of children, not when one day there are such a cute 2-year-old and next thing we know an admirable adult. No, I’m referring to their ability to be right by you one moment, and the next, having tapped into to some cosmic warp, are suddenly nowhere to be seen; and then you hear the store page for a miss-placed parent and your name. One of our siblings, left one of their multitudinous brood at a picnic table at a rest stop, but not for very long. Some parents know the sheer terror of a missing child.

Once in my working life, I have apologized to a client, stood up and left, leaving work cases and references where they lay. Angie called, our daughter’s daycare had called to confirm she was sick because she had not gotten on the bus at her school. No, she was not; Angie had dropped her off at school as usual. They sent their driver back to the school. Angie stayed put as a contact point. As I had a car phone, I headed to the school.

The miss-adventure comes to an end with me in the principal’s office seeking an explanation. How had the school, I may have said ‘he, ‘allowed an uninformed substitute teacher to place my daughter in the wrong place at the Daycare pick up so that she was not visible, and therefore left? How was she left to her own devices to tell another teacher, the last one leaving the area, that she had been left by her bus?

We do not hear the story of adolescent Jesus every year; its appearance depends on the vagaries of the calendar the lectionary cycle, and the preacher’s inspiration. It is the only story in the Bible of Jesus as an adolescent (Allen). Luke gets the adolescent rebellion right: “Why were you searching for me? … I must be in my Father’s house?” (Epperly). There is also an element of the ordinary in the story. Cecil Francis Alexander notes how it relates to our everyday lives in the fourth verse of Once in David’s Royal City:

For He is our life long pattern,
daily when on earth He grew,
he was tempted, scorned rejected,
Tears and smiles like us He knew,
Thus He feels for all our sadness,
And He shares in all our gladness (Hymnal 1982) (Allen).

The high anxiety of a missing child aside, we can relate to the ordinary, though challenging time, of raising twelve-year-old kids. All of us, well most of us, can remember being twelve-years-old and the beginning of discovering who we are. This story is more than a transition to Jesus’ ministry (Allen). It is a hook by which we can relate to the very human aspect of the Gospel story.

There is another bit of this story. Luke states that Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival every year. I’ve heard that Jesus at twelve was going to begin his training for the Law or bar mitzvah. Bar Mitzvah cannot be traced to this time in Jewish history, so Jesus’ journey, as is his parents reflects the family’s piety(Harrelson) (Epperly). By the time Luke is writing his Gospel, there is a very real tension between Judaism and the nascent Christian community (Allen). This story moves beyond the typical ancient traditions of remarkable births and childhood exploits to reveal that Jesus grew up in a faithfully Jewish home. It makes known that Jesus, and, therefore, Jesus’ followers are genuinely Jewish, and should be accepted as followers of God(Allen). One commentator notes show the story also infers the reverse. In times of anti-Semitism, Christians should draw from this story that Jews are genuine followers of God. In less continuous times, Christians should acknowledge our misguided persecution of Jews.

Today, we are called to remember that Islam historically is a historically accepted as an Abrahamic faith. Muslims are descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s first child, whose descendants are blessed by God (Gen 16:10, 21:18). And as Christians are different in form and theology from Jews, Muslims are also different in form, and theology from both Jews and Christian and all three are authentically followers of God. Luke builds the case there is no Torah nor Prophetic basis for persecuting or excluding Christians. Likewise, there is no Scriptural basis for persecuting or excluding Muslims. This does not negate the truth that from time to time, including today, that a minority of Jews, Christians, and Muslims have perverted selected segments of divinely inspired teachings as a justification for brutal behavior towards others. This reality does not overcome the first and is not a moral basis for the mistreatment or exclusion of any group of people as a whole, for the misdeeds of some.

And yes, I am very aware of how this stance runs smack up against the utter terror of radical violence experienced in the US, Europe, and other nations. But this terror brings us right back to Joseph and Mary when Jesus goes missing. They do what they should; with reason and determination they go actively looking for their son. And we should follow their example. We should act with reason and determination to protect ourselves and others, and to eliminate the causes that allow perverted teaching such influence. We should also note how this segment of Luke’s Gospel story comes to an end.

In the beginning, Jesus is following his parents to Jerusalem. In the end, Jesus’ wisdom and stature, which describes Jesus’ growing attunement with God’s vision for his life, has captured everyone’s, including his parents’ attention (Epperly). So, while he continues to obey his parents, the truth is Jesus leads the way out of Jerusalem. Jesus is leading the way into the future (Allen).

In the beginning, Jesus is following his parents to Jerusalem. In the end, Jesus’ wisdom and stature, which describes Jesus’ growing attunement with God’s vision for his life, has captured everyone’s, including his parents’ attention (Epperly). So, while he continues to obey his parents, the truth is Jesus leads the way out of Jerusalem. Jesus is leading the way into the future (Allen).

Thursday night, Angie and I watched the New Year’s arrival in Time Square. The host began asking celebrities about their hopes for the new year. The triteness of the answers caused me to turn it off. But they raise an important question for us at the dawn of a new year. When the trials and tribulations, arise, and they will, what path will we seek to follow? Will we follow our ancestors in:

  • Herding Native Americans onto reservations and then violate the associated treaties?
  • Will we continue to disparage the descendants of those unwillingly brought to this country as slaves?
  • Will we denigrate those related to national enemies, as we did many of German origins in WWI?
  • Will we hang signs in shop windows saying “No Irish need apply”?
  • Will we intern citizens whose heritage is from a nation we are at war with as we did the Japanese in WWII?
  • Will we bar entry to those from a nation revolting from leadership we supported,
  • as we did Iranians in the ‘70s?

Or will we turn and follow Jesus, seeking to grow in stature and wisdom of life attuned to God’s eternal presence?

The new year will bring its times to turn. It has been written:

To everything –
There is a season –
And a time to every purpose under heaven (The Byrds).

May you be enlightened in your choosing.
May you be strengthened in your turning.
May you grow in stature of your purpose.

May your New Year be blessed.


 

References

Allen, Ron. Commentary on Luke 2:41-52. 3 1 2016. <http://www.workingpreacher.org/&gt;.
Church, Episcopal. Hymnal 1982. 1982.
Ellingsen, Mark. Christmas 1, Cycle C (2015). 27 12 2015. <http://www.lectionaryscripturenotes.com/&gt;.
Epperly, Bruce. The Adventurous Lectionary– The First Sunday after Christmas. 27 12 2015. <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/author/bruceepperly&gt;.
Harrelson, Walter J. The New Interpreters’ Study Bible. Abingdon Press, 2003. E-book.
Hoezee, Scott. The Lectionary Gospel Luke 2:41-52. 27 12 2015.
The Byrds. Turn Turn Turn. 3 1 2016. <http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/byrds/turnturnturn.html&gt;.

 

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