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Epiphany 1 – Luke 2:41-52

by pastorjuhl ~ January 7th, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Glinda the good witch in The Wizard of Oz was right. There’s no place like home. For a Christian, home is as much in church as at their place of residence. Today Jesus goes home, but not to Nazareth. He goes to His Father’s House to listen to the teachers and ask them questions. For Mary and Joseph, for you and me, this is not an ordinary Code Adam moment. The boy Jesus in the temple shows the importance of being a regular guest within the Father’s House.

Mary and Joseph left the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem minus their twelve-year-old son. Saint Luke says they did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. Responsible parents would never assume their child is among their traveling companions. They would make sure their child is close by, at least within eyesight. Though they give their Son a great amount of trust by letting Him not be by their side but with their company, they discover their trust misplaced along with their Son.

Misplaced trust happens in families today. Perhaps you worried a bit the first few times you let older children stay home by themselves. Then there is the first overnight “home alone” experience and fears of parties or other activities behind your back. There is another kind of misplaced trust that is rarely talked about among Christian families. This kind of misplaced trust is the assumption that children seemingly by osmosis will pick up matters of the faith simply by being in a Christian family. There’s no need of regular attendance at Divine Service, let alone Sunday School. It’s as if the child’s baptismal waters are magical, bestowing some kind of divine super powers over a child. Somehow, they know everything there is to know about the Christian faith without actually having much to do with the faith!

Whose fault is it that children are literally confirmed out of the church? The buck stops first with mom and dad. When you do not model a Christian home for your children, they will grow up thinking church is an option. Children look to their parents to set the tone for their lives. If you see Divine Service as a sometimes thing rather than an every weekend thing, so will your children. If you see the Catechism as something learned for a couple years then dispensed with after confirmation, so will your children. If you rarely pray, read Holy Scripture, or talk about living a Christ-centered life in your home, your children will rarely pray, read their Bible, or live a Christ-centered life.

It’s true that you cannot live their lives for them. It’s also true that you cannot be a surrogate Christian for them. The Christian faith, contrary to what the Mormons believe, knows nothing of proxy baptism. We Lutheran Christians are not proxies for our children or family members. Everyone must believe for themselves. This is why we confess in the Creeds: “I believe” rather than “I believe on behalf of so-and-so”.

Jesus says to His earthly parents and all earthly parents: Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business? Mary and Joseph did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Perhaps you don’t understand it either. Shouldn’t Jesus be obedient to His earthly parents? Shouldn’t He follow them home to Nazareth? Under most circumstances, Jesus would obey His parents. This time, however, Jesus is obedient first to His Father before His parents. His actions show you how things must be in this world.

When you look for forgiveness and life; when you look for the Sun of Grace that shines in a dark place, you could look among your friends and family. You could look to music, food, drink, drugs, or sex. You won’t find the Sun of Grace shining there. You will find the Sun of Grace shining in the place where He is about His Father’s business. You will find the Sun of Grace shining in your Father’s House, a Home away from home where Jesus delivers His Father’s joy.

Consider the Ark of the Covenant entering the newly built temple for the first time in today’s Old Testament reading. When the priests came out of the holy place…the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD. The people gathered at the temple that day knew they didn’t have to look any farther than the temple to find the presence of the Lord. As the pillar of cloud led the wandering Israelites through the wilderness in their exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, so the pillar of cloud landed upon the Lord’s house amid His children. The temple is where the sacrifice for sin was made daily. The temple is where the Father dwelled among His children.

A cloud does not envelop every house of the Lord. Nevertheless, you have clear signs that Jesus is among His people in His house today. You have the Word proclaimed faithfully, declaring the heavenly Father’s innocent judgment of your sins because of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Perhaps this was one of the topics discussed by the Boy Jesus that day in the temple. The full epiphany for pondering hearts would happen over a generation later when Jesus was the epiphany; the manifestation of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

You have Holy Baptism separating you from the world and sealing you within the ark of the Church. Your baptism is not merely a “get out of hell free card”. Your baptism is your union with the sinless Savior of the Nations. Saint Paul writes in today’s Epistle: do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Living out your baptism amid a world that decays before your very eyes shows those who know not the Lord Jesus the reason for your hope of eternal life.

You have the Lord’s Supper feeding you with Christ’s True Body and Blood under bread and wine. The Holy Supper cannot be found anywhere else than in the Lord’s Holy House, the place where His glory dwells. You may have guilt over how your children or your family members have despised God’s House. Jesus is here today to take away that guilt and put His forgiveness and life in you through preaching and the Supper. He hears your cries for mercy and answers them with his abundant grace.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Welcome home!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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