Thursday, January 3, 2019

Our Father's Business (a sermon by Brian Popp on Luke 2:41-52)

OUR FATHER’S BUSINESS
a sermon by Brian Popp Dec 30th, 2018

Our Gospel reading this morning from Luke 2: 41-52 is the only passage in the Bible that tells about Jesus’ boyhood. From the story of Jesus birth in Bethlehem until he begins his active public ministry at the age of 30 there is no mention of his upbringing either as a human being or as God’s only son. Some scholars speculate that, for whatever reason, God chose not to tell us much about Jesus childhood so we have to trust our Heavenly Father that nothing occurred which we need to know about. We do know that the hand of God guided Jesus from his birth in a lowly manger to his death upon the cross!

Our gospel reading tells us that Mary and Joseph (Jesus earthly parents) and Jesus set out for Jerusalem with a large group of relatives and friends for the festival of the Passover, a major biblically derived holiday. Jewish people celebrate Passover as a commemoration of their liberation by God from slavery in ancient Egypt and their freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. The Passover, a one day festival, was combined with the seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jewish males were required to attend the combined festivals as well as two other festivals. Exodus 34:23 states:
“Three times in every year all your males shall appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel.”
Jesus came to Jerusalem for his first Passover when he was twelve years old. It is unclear to me whether he participated in a bar mitzvah celebration or not. Barmitzvah is the official recognition of a Jewish male’s desire to begin a lifelong walk with God. Walking with God is the ultimate goal of life. Bar mitzvah meansadopted son of the law. Jesus was the true Son of God.

Following the festivals the group of relatives and friends started their journey home. Usually the women and children began the journey earlier than the men because they traveled slower than the men. It wasn’t until the men and women met at the end of the day that they realized that Jesus was not with them. Mary probably thought that he was with his father Joseph and Joseph probably thought he was with his mother Mary.

Have you ever lost your child or grandchild even for a short period of time? It is a frightening experience! I know because one of our grandchildren disappeared for a brief period of time at the lake. I immediately thought the worst of what might have happened. As it turned out she was with another family member but I didn’t find that out before I frantically began to search for her.

When Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was missing they began to search for him among the large group of their relatives and friends. When they could not find him they retraced their steps back to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days of searching they finally found him in the outer court of the Temple sitting among the teachers – experts in Jewish law – listening to them and asking them questions, but also answering their questions to him! All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

When his parents saw him they were astonished. 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/ about my father’s business.”

This marks a turning point in the gospel. These are the first words of Jesus we have; for the first time Jesus father is named THE FATHER – his Heavenly Father in contrast to  Joseph – his earthly father. Mary and Joseph did not understand what Jesus meant. They did not comprehend that Jesus’ relationship with God, the Father, takes precedence over being their child. He has a special relationship with God!
Jesus left the Temple and returned to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph. Mary treasured everything that had been said in her heart. We learn at the end of today’s gospel that Jesus was obedient to his parents in everyday life. He continued to grow physically and in understanding preparing himself for the mission that lies ahead of him or as Luke 2:52 says:
“in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favor.”

As I mentioned at the beginning this is the only passage in the Bible that tells about Jesus’ boyhood. What lessons can we learn from our gospel this morning? I believe there are three of them!

Firstly, we can reaffirm our parental responsibilities to our children and grandchildren. Spiritual parenting is a major challenge, especially in today’s world. Change is a daily occurrence. Technology, the Internet, changing moral standards, regular mass shootings, war and famine all impact how we react to them  and how our children react. Mimi Doe has written a number of books on Spiritual Parenting.  She has identified five principles to guide parents/grandparents:
1.   Listen to your children – set aside time to listen to your child. Listen! Don’t do all the talking. Hear what he/she is saying and you’ll be amazed at all the things that come up.
2.    Add magic to the ordinary – creating magic out of the ordinary builds celebration that nourishes the soul.
3.    Create a flexible structure – the trick is to be structured without being rigid and to be secure while being spontaneous.
4.    Be a good mirror for your child – what he/she sees in you is a mirror of the bigger world.
5.    Make each day a new beginning – starting over each day is knowing that the spirit moves and breathes and is our life force. She also stresses – know God cares for you and trust and teach that all life is connected and has a purpose.

The Bible has a myriad of passages about parents’ responsibility to their children including:
Matthew 19:14 – Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.
Psalm 78:4 – we will not hide them from their children. But will tell to the coming generations the glorious deeds of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 – fathers, do not exasperate your children so that they will not lose heart.
We, as Christians, have a duty to teach our children about our Heavenly Father and the impact he can have on their personal growth and development just as Mary and Joseph taught Jesus.

The second lesson we can learn is children’s responsibility to their parents. We are all familiar with the fourth commandment found in Deuteronomy 5:16: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you”
Even Jesus, when he returned to Nazareth, was obedient to Mary and Joseph, his parents. There are many other biblical references to a child’s responsibility to his/her parents. Some of these include:
Ephesians 6:1 – children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.
Proverbs 6:20 – my child, keep your father’s commandment and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

Children have a commitment to their parents in much the same way as parents have obligations, spiritual and legal, to their children.

The third lesson we can take away from our gospel reading this morning is our responsibility to our Heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. As we draw near to the end of 2018 perhaps it is time to ”be about our Heavenly Father’s business.” It is a good time to contemplate what we have done during the past year to strengthen our faith, just as Jesus strengthened his – by reading, attending a bible or book study group or other learning pursuits. What have we done to love our neighbor as ourselves? How can we become a better neighbor to the people we know? The people we don’t know? How can we become a better steward of our earthly resources or a more devout disciple of Christ? How can we love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength? Take time to plan how 2019 can be a more spiritually rewarding and fulfilling year.

In conclusion, young Jesus taught us life lessons even at the age of 12. Parents love your children; children love and honor your parents. Fellow members of St. Margaret’s and visitors love one another just as Jesus grew up to love you. Let us be about our Father’s business just like Jesus was and is!

AMEN

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