Sunday, January 2, 2011
Sermon for the Second Sunday after Christmas (January 2, 2011)
“In My Father’s House” (Luke 2:40-52)
At first, you might be tempted to think that Mary and Joseph were lousy parents. Unless, of course, you are one of the unfortunate parents who ever lost track of your one of your children. It can happen so suddenly. One wrong turn in the supermarket, you look behind you, and no kid. You panic. You quickly rush back, retracing your steps, looking down each aisle, until you finally find your child. You breathe a huge sigh of relief. Perhaps you feel like crying. You are so happy, but in a split second your mood changes from joy to anger. You grab your child by the shoulders and you say, “Don’t you ever let that happen again!” We who are parents can relate to Mary’s response, “Son, why have you treated us so?” You can understand Mary’s frustration.
Were Mary and Joseph lousy parents? No. People travelled in caravans in those days. It was better to travel in large numbers. It lessened the chance of being attacked by highway robbers. Besides, Jesus was twelve, after all. You might even trust your 12 year-old. On second thought, maybe you wouldn’t. But remember, this was Jesus. Mary and Joseph had twelve years of this perfect child. He never talked back to them. He always cleaned up when they told him. He went to bed without giving them any hassle. He always did his chores. He never gave Mary and Joseph any trouble whatsoever. And in this incident recorded for us by St. Luke, Jesus certainly wasn’t trying to treat his mother in such a way as to cause her to be angry.
So what happened to Jesus on this return trip to Nazareth? Mary and Joseph looked among their family and friends with whom they thought Jesus may have been traveling. When they didn’t find him, Mary and Joseph may have thought that something terrible had happened. Perhaps their Son got separated from the group and no one noticed. Lagging behind, alone, perhaps he fell prey to some evil person along the way.
When they finally found Jesus, he was surprised that they were looking for him. He genuinely thought that Mary and Joseph should have known where to look for him. He said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
“My Father’s house.” Jesus knew that this is where he belonged. Did Jesus always have a sense of who he was and what his mission was? Did Mary and Joseph tell him all the stories surrounding his miraculous birth? Did he have to grow into the knowledge of his being the Son of God as he grew in wisdom and stature? The Bible doesn’t really tell us. Whatever the case was, Jesus clearly knew his identity here. “I must be in my Father’s house.”
Wouldn’t we all love to have a child like that? One whom you don’t have to poke and prod to get out of bed on Sunday morning. One whom you don’t have to drag or coax to come to church. One who is excited about being in the Divine Service. One who is the ideal student of the Catechism, listening attentively to the teacher. One who asks probing questions and gives insightful answers. And don’t say to yourself, “Well, of course Jesus knew all the answers…he’s God!” But as True Man … or should I say, as “True 12 Year-Old” at this point in his life … he had to study and learn just like you and me. He never despised preaching and God’s Word, but always held it sacred and gladly heard and learned it.
Jesus did this throughout his life, all the way to the cross. There he suffered and died for the ways in which our 12-year olds … and you and I … have not held God’s Word sacred, for the ways in which we have neglected attendance in the Divine Service, the ways in which we have thought that receiving the Lord’s Supper often is really no big deal.
When I was growing up, if there was a church service, my family and I were always there. I don’t remember missing hardly any church services, unless someone was sick. Even when we were on vacation, my dad was always on the lookout for a Missouri Synod church to attend on Sunday morning. My dad understood Jesus’ words, “I must be in my Father’s house.”
Now, I’m not telling you this to tell you we had the perfect family. My parents … and me, too ... were sinners through and through. I still am one. Just ask my wife. I’m sure there were days when we would rather have slept in because we were up too late the night before. I’m sure there were times when we had a busy week and we gave some thought about staying home because Sunday was our only “free day.” But dad and mom always made it a priority for our family to be in church.
I’m not telling you this to tell you we had the perfect family. I am telling you this to get you to think about the choices you make. When you make choices that keep you away from the means of grace here in your Father’s house, you may indeed be “despising preaching and God’s Word.” Perhaps there are some choices of which you need to repent.
As sinners, none of us deserves to be in the Father’s house. But then we confess our sins together, and we remember that in Baptism and by faith in Jesus, we have been adopted into God’s family. You were chosen in Christ even before the world began, as St. Paul writes in today’s Epistle reading, “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Eph. 1:4-6) As adopted children, the Father of Jesus becomes our Father. We can call him “Our Father” as we do in the prayer Jesus taught us. We boldy enter into his house where he has many blessings in store for us.
What will you find in your Father’s house? First, you will find a forgiving welcome. Your Heavenly Father will not turn you away when you come with a heart that is sorry for your sins and that is eager to receive from him the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Christ. “In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood,” St. Paul says, “the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.” (Eph. 1:7-8) Jesus, our Elder Brother, promised he will not turn us away, either. “All that the Father gives me will come to me,” he said, “and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” (John 6:37) The forgiving welcome of Jesus leads us to open our arms to each other in the Father’s house. St. Paul wrote, “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Rom. 15:7)
In your Father’s house, you receive an inheritance. Jesus, the Son of God and Creator of all things, owns all things. All that he has also belongs to us as adopted children of God. The favor of God which rested upon Jesus now rests upon you. You who once were not the people of God have been made to be the people of God (1 Pet. 2:10). Once again, St. Paul says, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:11-14) Heaven is yours. A future resurrection is yours. Eternal life is yours. All these are your inheritance in Christ. You were sealed with the Holy Spirit in Baptism as the guarantee, the downpayment, on your inheritance until you receive it in full.
In your Father’s house, you receive wisdom. Here you hear God’s Word which teaches us to trust in him and revere him. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight,” Solomon said. (Prov. 9:10) Here we study God’s Word together and encounter the living Christ, who is the Word made Flesh. If you haven’t been regularly reading and studying God’s Word, perhaps it’s time to make a New Year’s resolution and join with us as we study the Scriptures together to gain the wisdom that God gives through his Word.
Solomon was commended for his request for wisdom. He didn’t ask for long life. He didn’t ask for wealth. He didn’t ask for honor. He asked for wisdom. That’s what God gave him. But he also gained riches and honor as a gracious blessing from the Lord, nonetheless. The Lord said to him, “Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”” (1 Kings 3:11-14)
Solomon is known for his great wisdom. He is also known for the way in which he did not keep God’s statutes and commandments towards the end of his reign, being influenced by his many foreign, idol-worshiping wives. But sitting in the temple, astonishing the teachers with his wisdom, was a 12 year-old boy who is the “one greater than Solomon.” (Luke 11:31) None like him has been before him. None like him will ever arise after him. When he became flesh, he gave up the riches and honor of heaven so that you and I would inherit them. No other king shall compare with him all his days. As our substitute, Jesus always walked in the ways of his Father, keeping his statutes and commandments. And God the Father lengthened his days when he raised his Son from the dead.
What else will you find in your Father’s house? You will find Jesus. Present wherever two or three are gathered. Present in his body and blood. Present with "the riches of his grace." And through Jesus, the favor of God is upon you.