First Sunday of
Shera Nesheim, DM
For one short-but-long summer I was a Camp
Counselor. After an intense week of training, my very first hands-on experience
working with kids was at the largest church in Bismarck. That week there were 6
eager camp counselors, and 80 kids doing Vacation Bible School. I definitely
had moments when I thought that the church was going to blow up, that I was
going to blow up, or a kid would blow up.
Fortunately, nothing blew up, but we experienced Jesus meeting us in
ways we never would have imagined.
One day we were gathering our kids to walk about 10
blocks across busy streets and road construction to the nearest park so they
could run off some of their abounding energy. And if you’ve ever been a camp
counselor, you know your number one skill is being able to count. Every time
you move your herd of children somewhere, you count them. Pretty soon you find
yourself counting ALL the time, even in non-camp situations. Even before bed I’d
count kids instead of sheep.
One of the counselors thought they had all of their
kids. We were playing capture the flag when some girls said something about how
their friends were missing. After a little bit of chaos and freaking out we
realized we had left three girls behind at the church. By the time we had
finally figured all of this out, the youth director of the church had already
arrived with the girls. It turns out that the girls were left in the bathroom
of the church…
have not yet lost my child amidst the department store racks, but I have seen
the frantic face of a mother who has. And I have also seen the mixed look of
sheer joy, relief, and anger when she finally finds her 4 year old bopping in
and out of the women’s dress clothes hiding all but a pair of tiny sneakers.
reading sets the stage for a similar scene. I can imagine this huge caravan of
people. Family, friends, relatives and acquaintances, lots of children, adults,
dogs, camels, and pure commotion setting out on their journey back home from
the yearly festival in Jerusalem. In the midst of this large group is Mary and
Joseph, and supposedly Jesus. We get the picture that they didn’t count their
children every 10 minutes like we did at camp. Perhaps there was an “it takes a
village to raise a child” mindset, so Mary and Joseph didn’t realize that Jesus
was missing until they were already 3 days down the road. Maybe Mary’s heart
sank. What could she pray? Dear God. I lost your Son? I’m sorry. Amen. But as
we hear, they made their way back to Jerusalem and found Jesus, not wandering
the streets, hidden in a market or bathroom, but they found him in the temple.
is here in today’s Scripture, we hear the first words of our Savior, straight
from the mouth of a 12-year-old boy. With more maturity than any 12-year-old I
have ever met, he defines to his mother (and to us) who he is and why he is
here on this earth. He is in his Father’s house, not Joseph’s house but the
temple, the place of worship, the house of God. So he names himself as God’s Son.
And he is living into his calling to engage the religious world around him: he
sits among the teachers of the temple. He challenges with questions, dialogue
and participates in deep, thoughtful conversation about God and religion and
the world. His parents were even astonished by him.
son, Jesus, is growing up before our eyes. Less than a week ago, we hear the
story of poor travelling parents, and at last, an infant is born. He lays so
tender, sweet and vulnerable in the manger of a cold stable. In the magic and
miracle of such a night, we sometimes forget that this child truly is God in
the flesh. And he will grow up!
is becoming the person who met us in his revolutionary message of hope, truth
and love. I think that sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in these early
stories, just as it is easy to get caught up in the living day to day and
survival of our own lives. Not thinking of the impact of the future ahead of
is easier to think about the picturesque, even glamorous nativity scene of
Christmas, and forget about the reason God came to live with us in the person
of Jesus Christ. Perhaps, Mary, much like you and I, could get caught up in the
day to day efforts of “what’s for supper,” or “what time does Jesus have soccer
practice.” Perhaps in the humdrum of every day living, Mary got used to life as
it was, and yes, she was frustrated that her son had not stayed with them and
caused her so much worry. Finding Jesus in the temple that day astonished and
shocked Mary and Joseph. It reminded them of his purpose on this earth and what
the angel had told Mary so many years ago.
In some ways it is humorous that Jesus gets “lost”
and his parents can’t find him. It definitely allows us to relate to the
predicament. I think that we have all have experienced losing someone, or
something, or perhaps being lost ourselves. And though this is funny, the fact
that Jesus gets lost is not the point of the story.
I feel the message the writer of Luke is trying to
convey here is telling us that Jesus, just 12 years old, knows who he is and wants
us to know who he is too. He is the son of God. He is God in the flesh, come
down to earth, to have life experiences like us, and to be with us in our pain
and in our joy. This, to me, is a powerful message of love. As we glimpse into
their life, I feel closer to Mary, Joseph and Jesus. I can relate to Jesus and
his family. It brings Jesus down to a much more personal level, than the
almighty untouchable God in the clouds. And I am thankful for these stories of
his life, so that I may know him better and better.
Jesus is a flesh and blood, real life Jesus, who will meet us on our life’s
journey, in our grief, in our questions, in our doubts. Jesus, who continues to
meet us in and through people we meet, experiences we have, and dreams we try
to live into.
After we hear of this 12-year-old Jesus, we don’t
hear about Jesus until he is around 30 years old. We don’t hear if he was
frustrated with the way tests went at school, or when he was tired, hungry or
needing a hug. We didn’t hear about when he first learned to walk and skinned
his knee. We don’t hear about when he left home for the first time. We do hear that Mary treasured all these
things, all these memories, in her heart. Even after 2,000 years, his story, is
our story. Jesus meets us in the story of human life. In his living and in his
dying, we can relate to our God who loves us so much that he came to earth to
be with us.