Today we heard the bible story about Jesus in the temple. It’s the story you can find in picture form on the front of your bulletin. I hope you feel free to continue coloring throughout my sermon while I’m talking–I won’t be offended. This story tells us about when Jesus and his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. Once the festival was over his parents left, thinking Jesus was with relatives. But Jesus stayed behind at the temple to ask questions and learn.
As we gather in our own place of worship, to learn together, let us pray.
Help us listen to you. Give us the right questions to ask so that we may discover what you are calling us to be. Thank you for this safe place, this church where we can come together among family and friends to read stories and sing songs and learn more about you.
In Christ’s name we pray,
This week we have been celebrating Christmas. It’s such a wonderful time, we’re still celebrating today. I’m sure I’m not the only one who ate too many cookies this week. It was great to be with family, too. Yesterday I got to watch my niece and nephew open presents. They are four and five years old and they were so excited to open their gifts. I can’t blame them. I loved opening presents this week. Christmas is great. Baby Jesus is so cute and the decorations are so nice, all the Christmas lights and greenery.
But in our bible story for today, Jesus has grown up a little bit, no more baby Jesus. I know, that was pretty quick. Just a few days ago he was born and now he is twelve. So not to rush us past Christmas, but this is an amazing story. This is the only story we have of Jesus as a kid. We don’t get to hear anything else in the bible about what he was like when he was a little boy or a teenager. We just get this one story about what he was doing when he was twelve.
Is anyone here today twelve?
I’ve got to tell you, I was pretty awkward at twelve. I was in the 7th grade, Jr. High. I had really bad hair. And I know I went to church with my family, but I don’t think I was paying much attention. I think I spent more time writing notes to my sisters than anything else.
So I’m impressed with Jesus the twelve year old. He has gone with his parents to the temple, probably like how many of you have come with your parents to church today. I’m guessing if you’re twelve you didn’t drive yourself here. But the really incredible thing is that once Jesus got to the temple, he didn’t seem to want to leave.
This is great!
Having kids in worship is a really wonderful thing. Those of us who were here last week to see Amahl just loved Henry playing the title role of Amahl. I think you can tell how much adults love to have kids in worship when you hear how much the adults enjoy the family meditations, when all the kids come up front and we get to hear what you’re thinking about.
Having Jesus at the temple is amazing then not just because he was sitting there looking cute, but because how interested he was in what the teachers at the temple had to say. He was asking questions and learning. And it says the teachers were amazed at his answers.
Now, of course, it’s not all fun and games. Part of this story is when Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, can’t find him for three days. This is not so great. How many of you have been a parent of a 12-year-old? Think of when your child was twelve, or if they are now, and now think of them being missing for three days. This suddenly makes this a nightmare of a story. As we hear Mary saying, these parents had “great anxiety.” I would translate that as Jesus scared them to death. No one likes to have a lost child.
But the Gospel of Luke, the part of the bible where we find our scripture today, loves to tell stories about being lost and found. That’s where we find the stories of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. So here we have one more lost person, boy Jesus, who is found at the temple by his parents, right where he says he belongs. Of course he belongs at his father’s house.
And of course he belongs at the temple. Jesus was a good Jewish boy, who must have been familiar with the temple. The gospel of Luke gives us many reminders about Jesus being Jewish. This story about the festival of Passover and Jesus and his family at the temple is just one of the many ways Luke lets us know that Jesus was part of the Jewish faith.
And why would Luke do this? Why is it so important for the people who are hearing this story to know that Jesus is Jewish?
Well, part of it is that Luke wants the people who are hearing the story to know that Jesus is just like them. Many of the early listeners of the story Luke tells would have been Jewish themselves.
It’s always easier to hear a message from someone who is like you, from someone you trust. When this story was first told thousands of years ago, the people who were listening to it would have been familiar with the festival of Passover. They would’ve loved to hear this story about how Jesus belonged at the temple. We’re building a lot of trust for Jesus early on in the gospel of Luke.
People have always enjoyed hearing these very sweet stories about Jesus found in the gospel of Luke. Such a wonderful little baby, what a smart 12-year-old boy. So wise. So adorable in the manger.
We know what that’s like. Aren’t kids so cute and nice? Don’t they look darling in their Christmas outfits, sound so sweet when they sing silent night? Don’t they say the cutest things during the children’s sermon?
But of course, just like Jesus, kids grow up.
If you’re 8, or 13, or 17, or 21–let me tell you, many of the people who are older than you are excited that you are part of church and that you’re here. But if they were wise, they would also be just a little bit terrified.
Read the whole book of Luke sometime. It’s a pretty good book. And if you make it to chapter 19 you’ll find this bit where Jesus has grown up and comes back to the temple as an adult. He doesn’t walk in and sit quietly and listen anymore. He yells and makes a scene and throws a whole bunch of people out. He even quotes their own scriptures back at them, to really make it clear that they should leave.
That’s what you get when you let your kids get too comfortable in a place of worship.
My life is an example of what happens when you welcome children into church. I was reading scripture, being the lay reader, at my home church when I was probably about twelve. I think I hyperventilated the first time I read scripture, but that doesn’t matter.
I’ve always been comfortable in church–maybe too comfortable at times.
But I learned about the bible in Sunday School and I participated in worship leadership. And then there were a whole bunch of choices between then and now, but I’ve returned to the church as an adult. And I’ve been put in charge of things and people listen to what I say. I think.
I think there are some wonderful things about hiring a 25-year-old, but let me tell you it’s not all fun and games.
Ask John about any time I try to get him to use Google Docs.
I use computers and my phone like any millennial, without thinking. So Google Docs is just something I use. I used it to write this sermon. It’s like being able to name my favorite filters on Instagram. It’s just this knowledge that I have, without really asking for it.
Not so with our friend John Lentz. I have to celebrate his successes, he did edit a Google Doc this week and I think will soon remember the phrase “QR code.” But more often than not, when I talk about something like Google Docs, I can sense John’s confusion start to slowly rise.
I’m picking on John, but it’s not his fault. He’s experienced the world differently than I have, just as a 12-year-old knows things I will never understand. Generation to generation we adapt and change.
Our choice is how we choose to welcome that change.
If you are young, I want you to know that you will change things. You are already changing the church. And if the church doesn’t welcome you, what I’ve found from my friends is that people will still get together to be church, no matter what. You will experience the love of God in your life and that will be challenging to those who are older than you, as it may not look like how they experienced the love of God in their life. And I want you to follow the example of Jesus. Don’t change this just because, but help bring about a better world because of your love for it.
If you are not so young, I want you to know that your welcome is critical. Being able to be with someone from when they are a baby, then a child, then an awkward teenager, and then as an adult is so important. And then you have to be prepared for these little kids bringing you scary, challenging, and transformational ideas. If they come back to clear out your temple, don’t be surprised.
True welcome is dangerous. When people stay cute and little, there’s no risk. But we want children to stay with us throughout their whole lives. We want church to be a place of welcome from age 5, to 12, to 25, to 40, to 85.
Celebrate Jesus as a baby, but keep an eye to the future. Who knows what this child will grow up to do?