Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Notes for the Message Based on Luke 2:41-52; 1st week of Christmas Season

Scripture Readings are: 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV2010

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During Advent we looked at some of the members of Jesus’ earthly family. What we learned was that Jesus’ earthly family had its share of strange and shady characters; just like ours, their lives were filled with difficulties and frustrations, many of them had idiosyncrasies and shortcomings and members of Jesus earthly family were not all that different from most of us.

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On Christmas Eve we took a deeper look at the story that we call “the Christmas Story” or “the Story of the Nativity” and we recognized that through the years the Christmas story has been told and retold countless times and to countless generations. It has fascinated children and adults alike and it is a wonderful story full of meaning and significance for our lives and in our culture. All of us have heard this story and in our mind’s eye we have seen this story many times, and we know every minute detail of the story. And we discovered that the cultural story of the nativity is loosely based on Biblical accounts AND it takes many liberties with the Biblical accounts that we accept as trustworthy.

What I am trying to say is that by and large most of us have a skewed image of who Jesus really is because our human cognition cannot comprehend the vastness of God.

And that is what today’s reading is about.

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First of all, in today’s reading Jesus is twelve years old. In our culture twelve is still a child, not even a teenager. Let us not allow our concepts of age appropriate behavior blind us to the fact that Jesus was probably less than a year from his Bar-Mitzvah and that Mary was probably thirteen when Jesus was born, and that by the time Joseph was twelve he was probably already working as an apprentice in the carpentry trade. At twelve, Jesus was a heartbeat from adulthood and able to pretty much support himself and able to make his own decisions.

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After the Passover festival was over, the caravan from Nazareth left Jerusalem to go home. Mary probably assumed that Jesus was with Joseph. Joseph probably assumed that Jesus was with Mary. Let’s not forget that Jesus was considered to be almost an adult capable of taking responsibility for his own actions. The caravan traveled one day; that is when it was discovered that Jesus was not with the group.

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Can you imagine Mary and Joseph’s anguish, fear and anxiety? How did this happen? Was there any blame game? Were they worried about bandits? Were they worried about their son being in some sort of trouble, needing them? What will you do with your adult children when they do things that you do not find appropriate; especially when they are beyond “you are grounded” and “we can take away your TV and stop your allowance for a few weeks.”

Mary, Joseph and the rest of their children (remember Jesus had at least four brothers and at least two sisters; see Matthew 13:55-56 or last Sunday’s message) had to return to Jerusalem, and on the third day they found Jesus in the Temple.

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Imagine their relief? Imagine their frustration? Imagine their anger? “Jesus, thank God you are OK! Jesus, don’t you care? How could you do this to us?”

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Let’s be honest; twelve year old Jesus acted smart-alecky about the whole situation: “What are you worried about? Didn’t you realize that I would be in my Father’s house?”  Mary and Joseph were so filled with the emotions of angst, relief, frustration, and joy bubbling up that they could not even comprehend what Jesus was telling them. They could not even comprehend that God was preparing them for what was coming in about 20 years or so.

For three days they were separated from their child. For three days they lived with the experience and anxiety of loss and they now knew what was missing from their lives; they did not need to imagine this anymore; their worst fears materialized. When they found Jesus they probably felt relief and joy and gratitude that nothing terrible had happened to their child.

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There is one sentence found in Luke 4:51b, “But his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” That sentence always puzzled me. We just heard a story of loss, anxiety and frustration. What was Mary treasuring?

I think that for the first time Mary and Joseph saw Jesus – the human side of God – for what he really was and not for what they imagined him to become. They probably imagined him to become a carpenter and somehow do that Messiah thing on the side.

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In the Temple, they saw their son as teacher, rabbi, preacher, priest “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) and they recognized that their own limitations were limiting their son’s. For the first time they saw a glimpse of their son not as a future carpenter but as the long promised Messiah.

And that is what Mary (and probably Joseph) treasured in their hearts, “He IS the Christ, this is real, we are a part of God’s vision and what God is doing in this world.”

The reality is that we cannot possibly comprehend God with our reasoning and cognitive abilities. Today’s reading is probably the first time that Mary and Joseph understood that it was far too complicated for them to understand that their son is the Savior of the World.

I think that the real Jesus was lost in our society. We yearn for a simplified and innocuous Jesus that we can figure out with a minimum investment of time and effort. It is not how God works.

It is time that we rolled up our sleeves and figured out what the real Jesus was like, what the world that he lived in was like and what the parallels are between then and now. It is time that we figured out what it means that Jesus calls us to make disciples for the transformation of the world and what it looks like in the 21st century and in Chestertown, MD. It is time for us to learn to differentiate our legends (like the cultural story of the nativity) from what God has done throughout human history in the past and what God is doing in the present.

Recently someone asked me to address what we can do to make disciples. In the next few weeks I am planning to talk about practical steps we can take to make this happen.

My hope and prayer is that in the process we find the joy and exhilaration that Mary and Joseph felt when they found Jesus at the Temple.

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Last week someone asked me why some versions of the Apostle’s Creed say that “Jesus descended into Hell.”

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To understand that, we need to understand the ancient understanding of the Cosmos. Last fall someone asked me to preach about a place called Hell and I preached that sermon on 10/21 {here is the link}. I am not going to bore you and make you listen to the WHOLE sermon a second time; there is a link to that message in today’s entry on my blog. You can read it at your leisure.

{Review of the ancient understanding of Gehena}

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{Words “Sheol,” and “Hades” and King James Translation.}

The Apostle’s Creed affirms that Jesus was human and as human he had to experience death. To do so, he had to descend to the realm of the dead.

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To state that the Book of Common Worship of the Anglican Church dated 1662 (from which we split after the revolution of 1776) uses the following language:

Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell;

The Book of Common Worship of the Anglican Church dated 2000 uses the following language:

was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.

The traditional usage is “He descended into Hell.”

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Our Apostle’s Creed makes a reference to the traditional language with a (*) next to the word “buried; *” The reference reads “* Traditional use of this creed includes these words: ‘He descended into Hell.”

The bottom line is that we can spend a lot of time on semantics; what that sentence is trying to convey is that Jesus was fully human and as every human being he had to experience death in all of its brutality, finality and with all of it implications, and that means being dead, buried and spending the time in the realm of the dead.

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One response to “Notes for the Message Based on Luke 2:41-52; 1st week of Christmas Season

  1. pastorasher 30 December 2012 at 8:14 am

    “51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them”

    Note to self: Jesus probably recognized that neither Mary nor Joseph could comprehend the vastness of God; Jesus met his parents where they were by continuing to be their earthly son.

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