Toorak Uniting Church

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A teenager with peculiar interests

Luke 2: 41 – 52
Rev. Anneke Oppewal
9:00 am, 31 December 2006

The story we have read this morning is another one of Luke’s stories where he tries to show how very special Jesus was. There were other stories about Jesus as a child, making birds of clay for instance and making them fly away. Stories that emphasized Jesus’ godhead more than his humanity. They never made it into the bible, because that is not how the Church has wanted to see Jesus primarily. Luke emphasizes that Jesus was a normal, human boy, with some peculiar interests. Luke shows that from early on Jesus’ passion was with "the things of his father", that that’s where he felt most at home, that that’s the place where he could lose himself completely and surrender to a deep desire to learn about God and grow closer to Him.
The story shows Jesus learning and teaching. It is pictured as a two way street. As Luke portrays him, Jesus is not a God who’s come down knowing everything there was to know at birth, he pictures him growing up like every other child. Only with an extraordinary interest in the things that concern God and faith. And like every teenager he has parents who are puzzled by some of the things he does, and disappointed when he goes his own, independent way. Not much different from any other parents, who can’t always understand our children’s passions, or any other teenager who is trying to find his or her place in life.

I wonder if you have passions, interests and drives like Jesus? That can make you completely and utterly lose yourself and forget everything around you. I wonder if you ever, ignoring everything and everybody around you been caught out. If there is something you can get totally absorbed in, feeling you are coming to your purpose and thus forgetting everything else?
And are you happy about that drive, is it a healthy one that is good for you and makes you grow, or are there some new year’s resolutions that need to be made?

Jesus pursued wisdom, knowledge about the things of God, he learned and his insights helped others learn.
Not a bad thing to be involved in. At the same time however it involved disappointing his parents and ignoring his mother’s worrying about him. A typical teenager I would say, human to the core, torn between his own interests and independence and parents who still expected him to follow them unquestioning and attentively.

It wasn’t Mary and Joseph’s fault that they lost Jesus. He was twelve, and at the time that meant he was considered to be a young adult rather than a child.
That it took them a full day to realize he wasn’t with them was with good reason: They would have travelled in a large group and expected Jesus to followed them home. Youngsters would probably have travelled together and not in the company of their parents, and only seeking their parents occasionally for food or money. So it is highly probable that Mary and Joseph would have started looking for him only after they’d arrived at a stop along the road where they would be sharing food and wondered where he was.

Teenagers still do that, they separate themselves from company of adults and it is only too easy to assume you know what they are up to and lose sight of them. With two teenagers in the house I can easily imagine how it happens and I expect so can some of you. One moment they are quietly doing something in their room upstairs and the next moment they have gone to walk the dog without telling you and wandered off in the direction of the video shop to look at the new releases, not quite sure why you are upset when they return an hour later.

Now let us imagine our Church as a group of people leaving Jerusalem and returning home. How does the Church relate to the youngsters that are travelling with them? Where and when do we turn around and wonder where they are? What they need? Do we know where they feel most at home? What drives them? Are we interested to hear their questions and their answers? Are we prepared to teach and be taught by them? Like the teachers in the temple? Where do they look for growth, how do they grow in wisdom? Where do they go looking for it and is there more we can do to provide what they need closer to home?

Jesus asked questions, looked for answers, loved exploring and discussing the issues. How do we relate to that? The Jews are still very good at that, one reason why I love our workshops with the synagogue. Why does the Church often seem to be so anxious about questions? Because we are afraid of the answers?

It is good perhaps to reflect on that, on the way we learn and grow and how questions, discussion and exploration of the issues are a necessary part of that and always have been. With Jesus, as a 12 year old, showing the way.

Jesus was capable of being naughty and causing distress. That is another thing Luke tells us with his story. He was not a holy child who lived a perfect life. He was human, with all the ambivalence and heart ache that comes with that. From the start he shared our existence as it is: making choices, developing passions, asking questions, seeking answers, not always fully considering the feelings or priorities of others.
We can follow his example and learn from his life because he was human, but a human who was, from the start, at home with the things of God like no other.

© Rev. Anneke Oppewal, 2006

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