“I Had to Be in My Father’s House” Dec. 30, 2018
“I Had to Be in My Father’s House”
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26
When an Arab peasant discovered a collection of ancient manuscripts in upper Egypt in December of 1945, it caused quite a stir amongst the religious scholars of the world. These writings are still a source of lively debate to this day. It’s too bad that many of these manuscripts were sold on the black market, were used as fire starters, or otherwise just lost. It might help clarify things because those that remain serve to raise more questions than provide answers. These, combined with other discovered manuscripts, have become known as the gnostic gospels. They are the writings of the life and teachings of Christ from others besides Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And like I said, they raise more questions than answers. I picked up a copy of The Gospel of Thomas some years ago; supposedly the writings of the disciple we know by the same name, and it didn’t take long to realize why this was never included in the canon- this Bible- that we use today. It was puzzling and full of contradictions, but I found that if you don’t take it so serious as to consider it “Scripture” it was interesting to read. For example, in the Thomas book, there is a story of Jesus as a young lad playing with his friends. They were making birds out of wet clay when, according to the writings, Jesus the boy commanded that these clay birds flap their wings and fly away – which they did! And that was it; no lesson, no deeper meaning, no wonderful metaphor…just kind of a magic trick for our amusement. It was disappointing. But it does help a little, I guess. It does help because we are naturally curious. We can’t help it that we would like to know everything about the life of Christ, including how he grew up. What was he like as a child? Was he serious or kind of a prankster? Did he get along with people – (I certainly hope so!) or did he mostly stay to himself?
Yes, it’s true that we want to hear stories of Jesus as a child. Think of all they fun that we have telling stories about the stunts we pulled as kids. Unfortunately, the story of Jesus getting left behind in Jerusalem is the only record we have of Jesus as a kid, at least in accepted scripture. To be honest, I don’t know what to think about it. It’s all so…well, unusual. First of all, it is every parent’s worst nightmare – the shame and the horror of leaving your own child behind; of losing sight or losing track of this young person that you are responsible for. It’s awful. I was tempted to find a copy of “Home Alone” to watch to see if I could find some similarities, but decided against it, especially when I found out there is a grand total of 5 Home Alone movies in all. That’s just a bit much.
So what are we to do with this unique and tricky account of Jesus as a 12 year old? I mean really, we’ve just came out of the biggest season of the year: Advent followed by Christmas Day. It is the season of hope, joy, peace, and love; the season to celebrate the coming of the Christ King, the season to celebrate the coming of light into the darkness. And it is glorious.
But now what? From the birth of the Savior of the world to what appears to be the actions of a rebellious teenager, what do we do with this? How are we to think, to feel about this youngster who has caused his parents so much grief and worry? It was N. T. Wright that once said that when you try to point something out to a dog, the dog will look at your finger instead of what you are pointing at. I have to remind myself of this fact from time to time. I have to remind myself because so often in the study of scripture God is trying to point me in the right direction of understanding and acceptance and I just don’t get it. I just don’t get it because I’m focused on the finger that is doing the pointing rather than where he is leading me to go. I overthink, I over study, and then I get frustrated and miss the point completely. Funny thing is, maybe, just maybe, we miss the point here because it is being made by a 12 year old kid. (Lk 2:48) When his parents saw him they were astonished. “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been worried sick looking for you.” And Jesus replied, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
You know what would be fun? It would be fun to read this text to all the members of a congregation – heck, to random people on the street for that matter – and then ask then without giving it a lot of thought, what they think? Just first impressions; the first thing that pops into your head? I would be especially interested to know what kids might have to say. These are our kids, you know – the kids who are used to explaining things to us, the kids who have learned to be patient with us because so often, like Joseph and Mary, we do not understand what they are saying to us. It might sound something like this, “Well, it’s really simple, see? Mary and Joseph were his mom and dad, but Jesus is the son of God, so he had to go to church because that’s where we go to be with God.” See? It’s simple, easy to understand and the best of all, is based on faith. It is an answer based on the obedient faith of a child that the Christmas story we have just experienced is wonderful beyond words. Faith that God took the chance of coming to us in the flesh for the sheer love of being with us. Faith that God says, “I am with you because you are where my heart is.”
So what do we make of this time after Christmas? Maybe, it might be a good time to fess up that we don’t have all the answers. Maybe, it might be a good time to ask the right questions of the right people, and when the children of this world bring us once again to our Father’s house, let us hope and pray that like Mary, we will come to treasure these things in our hearts.
Amen & Shalom