“Connecting the Dots”

Luke 2:41-52

27 December, 2015, 3rd Day of Christmas, Year C

the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Luke 2:41-52

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 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.’ He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

 

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

 

 

Prayer.

 

Childhood waxes and wanes

in the early teens

when hormones give moxey

and a growth spurt gives

false confidence.

 

 

It is an awkward time.

Neurological connections

that operate

coordination

and good judgment

have yet to be sewn

by biology’s thread.

 

Females lead the way

(who’s surprised?)

and are the first to make

progress towards

a transformation

from a child

to a woman.

Males are slower to mature

(who’s surprised?)

insisting on holding on

to childhood’s last vestiges;

refusing to part with toys

from ages past.

 

 

Contemporary developmental psychologists

report insightful treasures

unlocked by years of research and study.

They tell us that

it is during these vulnerable years,

between when a

child is transformed

from a completely and wholly dependent individual

into an adult of legal

obligation and responsibility

that the ability to understand

 

 

metaphorbegins to take root.

For many

this is a time of great awakening,

a multi-year “ah, ha” moment

when one becomes aware

of deeper, additional meaning

to otherwise simple, ordinary stories.

 

 

Metaphor transforms a simple

two-dimensional world

into a multi-dimensional place

filled with texture and richness.

For example:

metaphor transforms the Ten Commandments

from a list to be memorized

by rote recitation

into God’s greater plan

for humanity to live together

with peace and justice towards one another

and in harmony with a loving Creator.

 

 

For example:

Our Lord’s parables

become transformed by metaphor

from simple stories

into eternal truths and Divine wisdom.

 

 

Metaphor allows the

artist to mix primary colors

to unlock a whole new pallet

of infinite color and beauty.

Metaphor is the Spirit’s means

to breath new life

into otherwise suffocating

organized religion.

 

It was at this very time

at this great junction

in the life of the boy, Jesus,

 

 

when he and his parents

made the pilgrimage

south

in a curculios route

to avoid Samaria

round and down the Jordan valley

and up the mountain

to Jerusalem’s Temple mount

for the annual celebration of Passover.

 

This was a family

and extended family event.

Some of the food was still on the hoof

 

 

being herded

along with cart and wagon

carrying tent and supplies

for a multi-day adventure

for these relative country bumpkins

to the big city of Jerusalem.

Undoubtedly

cousins played,

aunts planned and cooked,

and uncles talked politics and taxes.

Camped with the swelling

crowds, at, perhaps, Bethany

- a mere stone’s throw across the valley -

the family would return daily

to the Temple towering

over the ancient city.

 

 

Up the magnificent stair cases

all would ascend,

stopping at times to rest

or to catch their breath

before setting foot

inside the sacred Temple courtyard.

The crowd’s pace

would have been slow

and hot.

Parents patience

and tempers would be tested

by squirming, climbing children complaining,

“are we there yet?”

 

 

At the top of the two grand

stair cases would be

an expansive outdoor plaza

filled with the hustle and bustle of

banking and commerce.

Currency would be exchanged into the common Temple coinage

(undoubtedly at an inflated rate).

Live animals would be sold by

Temple authorities,

guaranteed unblemished and

raised in a sheltered flock,

to be used for slaughter and sacrifice

to a quiet and unseen God.

 

 

Men and boys would queue to the right

Women and girls to the left

to enter the indoor inner courtyard

where the Temple tax would be collected

and the animal would be sacrificed

by a member of the priestly family

standing before

the Holy of Holies

housing inside and out of view

the Arc of the Covenant.

Noise would be hushed

inside the Temple’s inner courts;

Holy men would be giving guidance and council

to those who seek them out

in quiet, reflective whispers

in a darkened room

lit only by the flicker

of candle and lamp.

 

 

It was here

that the young Jesus

had engaged in conversation

with teachers from the Temple’s court,

asking questions

listening for answers

applying his newly discovered tools of adolescence

to his budding faith.

It was here

in the midst of the

atonement substitution of animal sacrifice

- of personal sins in exchange for the life of the animal -

that Jesus began to construct

a faith built upon history,

tradition, scripture, and experience.

 

 

After three days

his mother finds him

undoubtedly frantic

and says to him,

‘Child,

why have you treated us like this?

Look, your father and I

have been searching for you

in great anxiety.’

In his mother’s eye

he was still a child

unconcerned and irresponsible.

But God was doing

greater things.

He said to them,

‘Why were you searching for me?

Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’

But they did not understand what he said to them.

 

 

In three short days

dependence for the child Jesus

had been transferred from earthly parents

to an adult Jesus

who recognized that his dependence

was now wholly, and exclusively

upon a heavenly Father.

Guidance and direction would come

less and less from Mary and Joseph,

and more and more from God above.

 

Many of us never make this connection,

and if we do,

it usually comes well into adulthood,

with wisdom and experience.

Some of us might recognize

these same feelings

on the occasion of a death of a parent.

Few, if any, of us

come to this understanding

during adolescence.

 

 

Being in “my Father’s house”

is more than being under the same roof.

It is about

wherein one places their dependence,

faith,

hope,

and belief.

It is about

wherein one decides to abide.

 

Consider your own faith history.

When did you enter your Father’s house?

When did you become aware

of the reality

that God had already established?

Perhaps you are still in the process

of awakening

 

 

of connecting the metaphorical dots

that all of life

ultimately

is wholly and completely dependent

upon our loving God.

Perhaps you have already arrived,

And have lived comfortably in the Lord’s dwelling

For years or decades.

 

For me,

it didn’t come with baptism, confirmation,

or even ordination;

though I suspect this is where

the seeds were first sown.

My awakening really took hold

when I walked

the Valley of the Shadow of Death,

with the death of my father,

with the stark re-evaluation of where my life was headed,

as a result of juggling too many responsibilities at one time,

and as the result in a change in my health.

The confluence was a wake-up call

for me

to learn that I was no longer dependent

upon my parents;

I was no longer dependent

upon a church bound by appointment obligations;

I was no longer dependent

upon the popular opinion of

one or the majority.

 

When I woke to the fact

that my life is lived

completely supported and upheld by the grace of God,

my life and ministry turned a vital corner,

one that can’t be taught

but must be experienced,

one that John Wesley described

in his life

as when his “heart was strangely warmed”

while walking on Aldersgate street in London.

 

 

Has your awakening taken hold?

Have you connected the dots?

 

Here we stand

perched on the precipice

of a new calendar year.

Let the new year ring!

 

 

For some of us

Let the new year inspire us

To make the decision to dwell with the Lord,

To abide in his house,

And to more deeply inquire of his ways.

 

 

For others of us

Let the new year spur

a thankful memory of when we

took that developmental leap of faith and

entered our Father’s house

content to live out our mortal years.

 

May all of us be at home with the Lord

This new year,

To abide in his presence

And to partake of his grace.

Let the changing of the guard spark

a new and heartfelt desire

to sit and stay awhile

and inquire further.

We reside this day

in a sanctuary built of stone and steel and wood.

 

 

Yet, our Father’s house

isn’t found in these boards, carpeting, furniture, or candles.

Our Father’s house

can only be found

within our hearts.

 

Amen.