Epiphany 1 (modified from 2011)
January 8, 2017 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A perfectly obedient child is easy to neglect. And so it is that Our Lord’s parents assume He is with them.
Anxiety and guilt transform us. It is our fight or flight instinct. We usually choose to fight. An awful lot of arguments would never happen if the person in the wrong just fessed up, but when you call a drunk a drunk, rather than bringing him to recognition, he usually gets mad. Throw a rock into a pack of dogs. The only that yelps is the one you hit.
St. Mary yelps in the Temple. She is feeling the burning shame of having left a twelve-year old unattended for 3 days. What did He eat? Where did He sleep? There is no way to get a hold of him. She can’t call. She has to go back. What if He starts home while they head to Jerusalem and they pass on the road? What if He holes up, where will He be?
In light of that pain and grief, when she finds Him, she lashes out. She accuses Him of having made her feel that way, claiming that it was His fault.
We choose to feel the way we feel. We choose our reactions. We may be provoked, but that doesn’t excuse us. No one makes us angry. Rather, we give in to our anger. We blame others at every step. It is possible to have righteous anger. Jesus did not sin when He cleansed the Temple.
But most of the things about which we’re angry, if we examine them, reveal our self-righteousness. Think of the person who is angry because the Colts’ coach made bad decisions all season or even the one who is angry because IPFW is getting the shaft from IU and Purdue. We have a tendency to think that we know more than people in authority. We think that we are smarter and have more common sense. We assume that our motives are good and those of others are self-serving. We give in not to righteous anger but to self-righteousness.
Sometimes, to be sure, we’ve been and we are victims. Neither Pagano nor Mitch Daniels are inspired by the Holy Spirit and they have positions that require them to accept criticism. But we add to the hurt and we hurt ourselves with bad responses to bad behavior. It does no good to respond to the IPFW crisis or Trump’s election or the Colts’ losing season with anger, gossip, or worry. Repent. Trust God. He will provide.
Having done one bad thing, neglected her Son, St. Mary made it worse by panicking and then blaming Him. His rebuke is gentle. He does chastise her when He says: “Why were you looking for Me?” That means, in part, “how is that I came to be lost? What went wrong? Whose responsibility was it?” But it also hints at the answer. They are looking for Him not just because He is their charge and He was lost, but also because He is their Savior and they were lost without Him. The next bit has bite as well. He wants them to remember that contrary to St. Mary’s heated accusation, Joseph is not His Father according to the flesh but only His guardian. Mainly, however, Our Lord confesses who He is and what He is about. He must be among His Father’s things.
Our translations here all fail. I don’t know why. The KJV was better. There Our Lord says “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” St. Luke doesn’t record either the word “house” or “business.” He also doesn’t render it in the first person. It is not “I must.” Rather it is simply “It is necessary.” So literally rendered it would read: “Did you not know that it is necessary for me to be among My Father’s things?”
It is necessary to leave “it is necessary” in that form. That form indicates prophecy. This is the formulation Our Lord uses to announce the necessity of His betrayal, beating, and crucifixion. It is not that translating “I must be in My Father’s House” is way off but it misses the nuance and fails to connect this saying with the predictions of the crucifixion – connections that need to be made – for St. Mary and for us.
The next problem is rendering “things” as either business or house. Business is not that bad, but not that good. House is terrible. House simply inserts the idea from the space and not from the words. The idea is not all bad, but it misses the edge of the sword, and swords are all about the edge.
Jesus is not in His Father’s House. He is among His Father’s things. What things? The lampstand, the altar of incense, the altar for whole burnt offerings, and the like. He is there among the stuff of sacrifice, in the midst of the stuff that renders God’s people clean through blood and reconciles them to the Father that they might bring their prayers and petitions to Him. The entire purpose of the Temple was to give God’s people safe access to Him. God doesn’t need the Temple. We do.
Jesus is not simply there near and around that stuff, among His Father’s things, rather the point is that is what He is. He is one of the Temple things, one of His Father’s things, one of the things that God gave for cleansing and forgiving the people. In fact, He is THE Thing.
He is where He belongs, not simply in His Father’s House, but on the Altar, as the Priest and the Victim. Where else would He be?
Here is another little clue from St. Luke that this is about more than a lost child: they find Him on the third day. That is not accidental. Luke isn’t merely foreshadowing the Resurrection, though He is doing that, but He is also telling us where to find Jesus. We live in the third day, post-Resurrection, when every day is Easter and the old counting is done. So where is Jesus? He is among His Father’s things. But the Temple is gone. No, it isn’t. They tore it down and He built it again on the third day. That is the Temple of the Lord, that is where God dwells and abides with men, where men have safe access to the Father – in Jesus Christ – the new and greater Temple – risen from the dead. So where is He? He is present in His Body and Blood, in His Holy Word, in His gathered people, in the preaching of His Gospel, and the Holy Absolution. Here is where you find Jesus, where He remains for you.
So it is that Our Lord welcomes St. Mary back. He even submits to her. He welcomes you as well. He didn’t die in vain. Your sins, even your fits of angry blame, do not stop His love. He is faithful to the end, patient and long-suffering. His mercy endures forever. Treasure these things up in your heart, bend the knee and submit to the grace of God in Christ Jesus, be fed, be forgiven, be here.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.