Epiphany 1 2001

Epiphany 1
Luke 2:41-52

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

Notice St. Mary’s chiding remark to her Son: “Why have you treated us so?” That question is the stock and trade of mothers everywhere. It is meant to be a guilt-inducing question. Leveled against the hung-over teenager at 6:00 a.m., just an hour after he has returned home far past curfew, it can work wonders. Make no mistake. Mary accused Jesus of sin, of being self-centered and negligent. And for this reason, she receives a rebuking question from Him: “Why did you seek Me?” That is to say, it was not He who was negligent, but they.

It is not hard to imagine that Our Lord as a Child was all too easy to neglect. Being completely selfless, always mindful of His duty, He could be expected to not only do things the first time He was asked, unlike every other person in the world, but even to anticipate the needs of His parents. His was a life of service, not only to mankind in general, but to them in particular. He was the perfect Son. And so it was that they never had to worry about Him. They simply expected Him to be in the train of pilgrims, as He always had been before, on the way back to Nazareth. When He wasn’t they panicked. And then, when they found Him, His Mother, full of guilt and emotionally exhausted, lashes out at Him. She attempts to inflict Him with some of her suffering. “Son, why have you treated me so poorly? Don’t you love your mother?”

Indeed, He does love His mother. And that is why He is in the Temple conducting His Father’s business. It is for her good. He will take her guilt away. He will suffer for her. And He will continue to serve her. But His is the service of the steward, not of the slave. He distributes the Father’s gracious gifts to the Bride according to the Father’s instructions, and not according to the Bride’s temper tantrums.

And what of you? Have you have taken Jesus for granted? Has His presence in the Temple of the Holy Spirit, your own body, been neglected and ignored so that you might selfishly go about your sins? Have you even been so bold as to blame God for your lust, pride, and greed, claiming that you can’t help it, that He made you this way? Repent! You’ve been caught red-handed. He is not your slave. He does not take orders from you. Remember, this is the God of Abraham. He burned Sodom and Gomorrah. He turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt. He opened up the earth and swallowed Korah’s rebels. Do not tempt Him. Repent. But do not despair. These things were written as a warning for you.

The Light pierced the darkness in the courts of the Temple. The teachers of the Law – and all who hear Him – find their hearts burning. His Father’s business is being conducted in His Father’s House, a House of prayer for all people. After His Baptism, His anointing for the Sacrifice of Himself, He will again teach in the Temple and say, “Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” The greatest proof that this is the Messiah, from everlasting, without beginning, through Whom all things that are were made, is not in His miracles, but in His Word! The greatest proof that this is the Messiah is not in His miracles, but in His Word! He does not sin. He does not lie. He speaks the Truth. He opens up the prophets. Through Him comes grace and truth.

His Body is the new Temple. It will be torn down in brutal, human rage, but built up again in Divine Love. The Temple itself will be sacrificed as the final sacrifice, the real sacrifice, the one to which all previous sacrifices pointed. It will end sacrifices. And then that Temple, built without hands, will be rebuilt by the power of the Holy Spirit, taken up again by the authority of the Son, raised through the glory of the Father. It will no longer be limited by time or space. His humiliation is ended. He is exalted. To the Body borne of Mary are communicated all the attributes of God and now exalted, His Father’s business completed, He always and fully uses those attributes – as a Man. In that Body, the new Temple, as a Man, He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. The finite holds the infinite in a mystery beyond our comprehension. The Body sacrificed is delivered now according to His promise every time His Bride gathers to eat and drink in remembrance of Him, to proclaim His death until He comes again.

That Temple is put into you by way of the mouth. Now you are the Temple. Consider these words from St. Paul: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” How is it that God’s Holy Spirit is put in you? By the Holy Communion. For the bread we break is the communion of His holy Body. The cup we bless is the communion of His holy Blood. The price of your redemption, the ransom, is paid not only to the kidnapper, but also to the kidnaped! This is the Father’s business, the purpose of the Temple – then and now: to rescue mankind, to make for Himself a people who were no people, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children. The Ransom paid not only to the kidnapper, but also to the kidnapped!

O Christian, rejoice. There is no one to accuse you. The Light shines in the darkness. Come out of the shadows. Leave behind your murky situation ethics and vain attempts at self-justifying. Abandon your excuses. Surrender to Him, the King of the Jews. Let go of your past. Let go of your future. Fall into His loving arms. There find peace, rest, forgiveness, love. He is your Life, your Light. You cannot lose. The Father’s business has been completed for you.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana

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