Why Did You Come Looking?

Not again! I mean really, not again! You’d think after a couple thousand years Mary and Joseph would get it. Surely after so many tellings of the story, they’d get ahead of the curve. Gosh, we all know the story. Jesus: 12. S’posed to be goin’ home with mom and dad, somewhere in the pack of cousins and relatives walkin’ home from the holidays. But no. ‘Doublin’ back to the Temple. Mom and dad freaked out. Jesus is missing. The three day search. Finally, they find him. Mary, good Jewish mom that she is, layin’ on the guilt trip. “Jesus, didn’t you know what you’d be doing to your poor mother?!” Jesus replying, “Why did you come looking for me? Didn’t you know I’d be right here in my Father’s house?” Just once when we tell the story, don’t you just wish Joseph would know somethin’ was up with this kid? I mean, ‘bust a move. ‘Double back to the Temple himself and when Jesus gets there be just-waiting! Imagine him greeting Jesus, “YOUNG MAN, just where do you think you’re going?! You’re grounded for a month. And I want your cell phone and you’re ear buds right now!” Yea, Joseph! Score one for parents everywhere. Even with Jesus.

But alas, this is a story we will never read. Instead I’ll continue to get notes like these, actually come across my desk. “I’ve noticed a trend watching kids, hearing stories from teachers/relatives. Kids are less respectful, don’t understand the value of family as much. In faith, what can we do? How do parents ensure these values in children?” And a little broader, this. “What’s discipleship for the modern era?  Dusty vagabonds are rounded up more aggressively now than 2000 years ago.”  Hmmm… let’s go back to the holy family’s story and see if we can get a little help with our own.

What’s the first lesson here? Boys will be boys? Parents are up against it? Jesus was just like us, or hardly like us at all? No. How about we try to remember this! It’s faith that forms families, and families that form faith. True then/now, Nazareth to right next door. Mary and Joseph attended to their faith! How are we doin’ with ours? Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem every year at Passover. Twelve years Jesus saw, heard, tasted, smelled, touched and was touched! It was custom, duty, devotion, ritual (like OC), joy! All this shaped the young Jesus. And the family. Because that’s how they chose to have their family take shape. You’re here today, others not. We don’t need to chide you. But we can absolutely invite you to invite others into this shared experience of guiding faith. [I’m reminded of the couple who came to me with multiple matters. They said, “We’ve decided to give faith a chance. We know that’s what we need.” Two weeks here. Gone six. Called, they report. “We gave up on it. We tried two weeks and were no better!” … Mary and Joseph with JESUS, mind you (and no daily dysfunction), at it 12 YEARS! ‘Nuff said! Family forms faith. But faith also forms family. The Proverb is right. The holy family knew it. Child, keep your father's commandment; don’t forsake your mother's teaching. Bind them upon your heart always; tie them about your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life. Of course, if Jesus is your first born, you’re not just the McGillicotti’s from Manikee! ‘Not just like us. But one of the richest parts of this story is that we can be a lot more like them (Holy Family). There IS tension as Jesus is missing. There IS distress when Mary confronts Jesus at Temple and he her. There are confused parents and a child who will need to grow in compliance. What gets them through all of it can and will get us through! And it’s Jesus who best puts the question so all of us can find our focus. “Why did you come looking for me?” he asks. [He still asking: us.] I invite/urge you to ask yourself in your devotions. ‘Around the dinner table with your kids and grands. On the way to or from church. At bedtime prayers. Why do you come looking for Jesus? What do you suppose of him that will change your life?

Do look, especially at home, for what God has hidden in plain sight, especially in Jesus. I love this. All those gurus of God gathered in the Temple were amazed at Jesus. The same ones who’d read the Prophet’s words many times, “And a little child shall lead them.” Jesus sitting (hmm, a 12 yr. old sitting, how refreshing!), listening, asking. They were amazed at him. Mary and Joseph were astonished! I mean bowled over! Here they’d hourly fed and led him, but could not see him as these total strangers saw. Familiar?

“My child/spouse/friend/church/family… do/know that, succeed at that? Where’d this come from?” I love the Bible line that says of God (in Christ), “He does not judge by what the eye sees…”, but, in effect, by what the Holy Heart knows. How often we miss what is right in front of us… in each other. And how often we miss of Christ what is right before our eyes. [Invite others to cite a story. E.g., Ben Carson, who once struggled just to read, blessed with Christ’s healing touch… mother induced.] What would we and ours look like if seen through the eyes of possibility even when we can not see any more than faint likelihood?

Do take this to heart. What we can merely hold, God can greatly grow. I like to underline the contrasts in this story. Mary “holds these things in her heart.” On the other hand, Jesus goes home and “grows in wisdom, stature, and favor” with God and with us. Whatever else oughta strike us about this story, this we dare not miss. God is not done with Jesus at 12. Nor with us, now. Mary cannot understand it all. But she can hold on. Hang in. Hang around. Wait and watch and see. And then believe and bear witness. This is our story, too. We’re not expected to come here and go away understanding every thing. Or unreservedly committed as though we did. We’re just to carry what we can, knowing God can provide the increase. [DM. SS Teach Story. Nothing/everything with Christ.] You see, ahead of Jesus there are children to be lifted up. There are parables to be posited. There are souls to be comforted and to be challenged. There is laughing and living and suffering and dying to be done. And a stone to be shattered. Mary can’t see it. Maybe, not even Jesus. Almost certainly, not those doctors and lawyers in the Temple.  But God will grow it all into being. I ask you to hold on to those who surround you in Christ. Who knows what God will grow in them and in you? All I can tell you for sure is: as we shape our faith together, our faith will shape us. Mary and Joseph and Jesus would say “Amen.” I can tell you, much of what waits is hidden in plain view. Keep a sharp eye for God’s possibilities. I can tell you for sure: Jesus wants to know, “Why do you come looking?” It will make all the difference in what you will grow to see and say, in your life and in Christ’s way.

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