St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-30-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 12-30-2018

Seeking Jesus

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26, Psalm 148, Colossians 3:12-17, Luke 2:41-52

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

An evangelist on the street corner is asking everyone passing by “Have you found Jesus?” As you can imagine he wasn’t getting much response from those he spoke to; most kept on walking like they didn’t hear. This he expected but he kept up his call hoping for at least one lost soul to pause long enough that he could engage them with his well rehearsed message of salvation. What he didn’t expect and what he wasn’t prepared for, however, was that the one person to respond did so saying “Oh my God, no, I didn’t know he was lost!”

There’s a lot of coming and going mentioned in the Gospel of Luke before we get to today’s reading. Zechariah, the priest and father of John comes up to the Temple and goes home again; in between that coming and going he goes into the sanctuary and out again; and in between that coming and going the angel Gabriel came to him and left.

The angel Gabriel came to Mary and left; Mary came to Elizabeth and returned to Nazareth; Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem and return to Nazareth; in between that coming and going an angel comes to some shepherds and leaves; and the shepherds come to see the newborn Christ and leave.

Joseph and Mary take Jesus to Jerusalem for his dedication and go home again; but in between that coming and going Simeon; who was promised by God that he would not die before he saw the Messiah; came to the Temple, met the family, and went home.

(One exception to the coming and going occurs here in the Temple. The elderly prophet Anna meets the family also but she is said to be always in the Temple, day and night)

Joseph and Mary and Jesus faithfully go to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover every year, each time returning to their home in Nazareth; which they were doing at the beginning of today’s reading.

With all this coming and going it’s a wonder that no one was lost along the way (except you and I trying to keep up with the story).

But this time it happens; this time Jesus is lost; or so it seems to Joseph and Mary.

You can imagine the panic that strikes their heart as they realize Jesus isn’t with them in the traveling crowd; as they make another day’s journey back to Jerusalem; as they spend three days searching the city for their beloved 12 year old son. And I’m sure you can imagine how their anxiety turned to righteous anger when they found him safe and sound in the Temple.

But Jesus wasn’t lost. He was where he was supposed to be, in “his Father’s House”; going about the business of his Father; learning, questioning, engaging in dialog with concerns of growing in his understanding of the will of his Father.

It was Joseph and Mary who were lost; they lost track, not only of Jesus, but also of his identity. They seem to have forgotten what the angel told Mary about him even before he was conceived; they misplaced the message Elizabeth spoke when Mary visited her, what the shepherds told everyone about what the angel revealed to them in the fields, what Simeon and Anna had said about Jesus in the Temple. Add to all of that the fact that they had taken Jesus to the Temple every year of his life. Surely, they should have known that the Temple would be the place to find him; at least that it is the first place they should have looked.

But then, this is only the beginning. As Luke reminds us; Jesus did leave the Temple and go home with his parents to Nazareth and for another twenty-something years “increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor”.

After that time he went into the wilderness: but wasn’t lost! He roamed the country preaching, healing, and teaching; but he wasn’t lost! He died on the cross; but he still wasn’t lost! In fact, Jesus spent his entire ministry seeking the lost; gathering the wayward souls into his flock and shepherding them into one community of God’s people.

But it is those same people who are once again becoming lost. They come to Church and go home; some every Sunday, some on an annual pilgrimage. They hear the words of the prophets, the angels, and the shepherds but soon lose the message in the day-to-day busyness of life and fail to notice the revelation of God to be found in-between their coming and going.

They are lost. But they do not bear the blame for their waywardness, at least not all the blame; rather, those of us who remain in the fold too often do. Yes, even the best of us can get lost when we lose sight of Christ and the work he calls us to do.

As faithful followers of Christ we are not only responsible for keeping ourselves within the community, we are also obligated to find those who have strayed and bring them back in. We keep ourselves in by coming and going, by coming to Church and going home. But we find the lost and wayward and bring them in by revealing the God who lives within us, every moment in-between our coming and going.

Our challenge is to be certain that everything we say and do in the presence of everyone we encounter reflects the light of Christ so unmistakably that no one can fail to notice; to show them, as Madeline L’Engle wrote, “…a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it”!

I propose then, that we of St. Matthew’s congregation, recommit ourselves in this new year to letting our best light shine, not only here within these four walls on Sunday mornings, but in every time and place!

With God’s help may it be so.

Amen

 

1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
2:18 Samuel was ministering before the LORD, a boy wearing a linen ephod.
2:19 His mother used to make for him a little robe and take it to him each year, when she went up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.
2:20 Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, and say, “May the LORD repay you with children by this woman for the gift that she made to the LORD”; and then they would return to their home.
2:26 Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and with the people.

Colossians 3:12-17
3:12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
3:13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
3:14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Luke 2:41-52
2:41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.
2:42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.
2:43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.
2:44 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.
2:45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
2:46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
2:47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
2:48 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.”
2:49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
2:50 But they did not understand what he said to them.
2:51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.