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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

 

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Lost?

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

September 9, 2018

Luke 2: 41-52

 

As a child, were you ever lost? As a parent, have you ever had a child who couldn’t be found? A child getting lost can be scary – for the parent and the child. Those are experiences that we never forget!

 

One day, when my daughter, Marissa, was less than a year old, we were shopping at Rosedale Mall. She was in a stroller and I was carrying several of bags of purchases. We were getting on the elevator my arms were full so I set down the bags. I pushed her stroller into the elevator, and was then going to pick up my bags and get on the elevator myself. Suddenly, the elevator door closed shut with Marissa in the elevator and me outside. I pushed frantically on the button to open the door, but the elevator had already whisked away to another floor. You can imagine the panic I felt! I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I stood there, dazed and worried. Then the elevator returned, the door opened and there was an Asian family on the elevator with Marissa. As they looked from her to me, they could see the panic and relief as we were reunited. We had only been separated for 2 or 3 minutes but I’ll never forget what that felt like. Can you imagine what Mary and Joseph were feeling after Jesus was lost for 3 days? What a stressful experience!

 

Was Jesus really lost? No, not really. He knew where he was, and he was where he wanted to be – in his Father’s house. He was having rich conversations with the religious leaders. There were lots of questions and answers going back and forth between 12-year-old Jesus and these men of faith. Their lively conversation made an impression                                    on the religious leaders as well as on Jesus. The Bible tells us that they were amazed at his understanding. 

 

Why did it take Mary and Joseph so long to find Jesus? They were looking in the wrong places. They weren’t looking in the place where Jesus was. It must not have occurred to them that he would be in the temple.

 

It seems that this is a story filled with many questions. Why did Jesus stay behind in the temple when his family was returning home? Was there something that happened during this Passover celebration that raised new questions in him? Or inspired him? Did it awaken in Jesus a greater sense of who he was? Did it get him thinking about what God had planned for him? Maybe. One thing we know is that as a 12-year-old, Jesus knew that he was the Son of God. It is an identity he would continue to grow into the rest of his life.

 

I have often wondered what it was like for Jesus growing up. His earthly parents knew from the beginning that he was a special child, God’s own Son. But what did Jesus know and when did he know it? When did he realize he was special? Did he have the power to cure the sick, or raise the dead, or curse a fig tree and watch it wither before his eyes when he was a boy growing up? Or did that come later? How did he learn to control it? What does it mean to raise a child that is fully human and fully divine?

 

What was it like for Mary and Joseph to parent the Son of God? How do you discipline the Son of God? Or did he need discipline? Did being sinless mean he never got into trouble? Or did that provide other challenges? He seems pretty precocious – especially in his ability to talk about spiritual matters. What kinds of questions did he ask his parents? How were they to answer?

 

Those things are interesting to think about. We don’t get answers to all of these questions. But we do know that when he was 12, Jesus understood that God was his Father, and he was God’s son. He had a clear sense of his identity as the Son of God.

 

Twelve years old is an important time in the lives of most children. In the Jewish tradition, it is time for Bar Mitzvah; in our tradition it is when kids begin Confirmation.

 

It is when kids transition from elementary school to middle school, from childhood to adolescence. Bodies change. Voices change. At 12, kids have a greater understanding of the world and of life. At 12, they know right from wrong. At 12, they can take on greater responsibility. Kids attend fire arms safety training at 12, so they can shoot a gun! I started babysitting when I was 12 years old. People entrusted me with the care of their children when I was just 12!

 

A pivotal moment in this text is when Mary and Joseph have just found Jesus and Mary says: “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” Jesus responded: “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

 

Did you notice the father reference? When Mary says, “Your father and I have been searching for you” she’s talking about Joseph. When Jesus responds that he was in his Father’s house, he is talking about God. From that moment on, we know Jesus knows he is the Son of God.

 

Our scripture tells us that after they left Jerusalem. Jesus returned with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth, where he obeyed them, and he grew wisdom and in years. I imagine that from this point forward, though, things were different. Jesus became more and more clear on his mission. Joseph’s realized that his dreams of handing off his carpentry business to his eldest son would not be fulfilled. Mary’s realized that her hopes for grandchildren through her oldest son would not be met. God had other plans for Jesus. Mary and Joseph had important roles to play as Jesus’ earthly parents, but ultimately God’s purposes for Jesus took priority.

 

Jesus had disciples to recruit and train. He had people hurting in body and in soul to cure. He had parables to teach and scripture to preach. He had miracles to perform. And he had a world to save – through his own sacrifice. There would be another Passover Festival, where Jesus would disappear for three days – this time in the tomb, to be resurrected as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of world. 

 

Yes, in all these ways Jesus was one of a kind. But in other ways Jesus is not so different from other children. All parents are entrusted with the responsibility to care for their children, to protect them, to provide for them while they are young and vulnerable. All parents are given the responsibility to raise their children in the faith, to instill in them values and habits of life that please God – like Mary and Joseph were doing as they were bringing Jesus to the Passover. All children challenge their parents in different ways, asking questions the parents may not be able to answer. All children making some life choices that may not be what the parent wishes but honors who the child is. All parents ultimately need to let their children go to grow into their full identity and follow God’s path for them.

 

As we begin another school year and Sunday School year and Confirmation program, it is a time to think about the important role of children and young people in our world. God has purposes for each child. Responsible adults are the ones entrusted with the sacred duty of helping children grow into the people God created them to be. Responsible adults help children discover their unique gifts and live into their identities as God’s beloved children. This is true for parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and also for teachers, coaches, and school bus drivers. For day care providers, nursery volunteers, and Sunday School teachers. For youth leaders, mentors, baptismal sponsors, and all who have a role in nurturing our kids.

 

If a 12-year-old were to walk into our church asking questions and wanting to talk about God, what kind of reception would that young person receive? My hope is that they would find many eager conversation partners among the adults at Immanuel. I’m quite sure that if we took the time to listen to them and talk with them we’d be amazed at what they have to say. They might even ask questions we never thought about or offer new insights into faith that help us grow in our own faith.

 

As I look for the good news in this story I find in it that we are all God’s beloved children. Jesus had a special role to play, and that can not be underestimated. But so, too, do all of God’s children. If we notice a child, any child created in the image of God, and give them our full attention, who knows what holy purpose God might fulfill through us?

 

So today, I lift up this story of Jesus’ time in the temple, and encourage you to find the image of God in each child you encounter. As Jesus grew in wisdom his whole life, my prayer is that each of us continue to grow in faith and wisdom our whole life, and that we nurture that growth in faith and wisdom in the next generation.

 

May it be so! Amen