This sermon was written for Kerr Presbyterian Church August 23, 2020 as students head back to school. Based on Luke 2:39-52.
Return to the At Home Worship Service for August 23, 2020.
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
Kids, have you ever gotten separated from your parents or the adults who were with you when you were in a store? Maybe you were looking at a new game or some shoes or focusing hard on reading the words on a box and all of a sudden you looked up and couldn’t find the person you were with! Was it pretty scarey?
Or parents and guardians, has that ever happened to you? You are taking a young person out, maybe on a field trip or to a park or store and you look away for just a minute and then they are gone. And you become frantic, wondering what on earth could have happened.
I think most of us know that feeling. It’s really frightening when you can’t find the person you love. Many families have plans for reconnecting just incase something like that does happen. Kids know to go to the cash register or find an adult who is wearing a uniform so that they can call over the loud speaker for the adult. We put plans in place just in case because we know that sometimes these things do happen.
And kids getting separated from their families is nothing new. In fact, there is only one story in the whole Bible about Jesus when he was just a boy. Just one. And guess what it is about? Jesus getting separated from his family.
Now, parents, when you heard this story, you probably thought it was your very worst nightmare. Jesus wasn’t just lost for a few seconds. Or even for the 10 minutes or so it might take for a store clerk to find a parent. Instead, Jesus is separated from his family for an entire day.
How could this happen!?!
Well, okay, before we start to judge, let’s remember that God specially chose Mary and Joseph to be Jesus’ parents, to be parents to God’s own son on earth. Trust me, they were very good parents. So parents, if this has ever happened to you, take a deep breathe. It’s okay. It happens. We who take care of kids put really high standards on ourselves, but we have to let ourselves off the hook. If Jesus’ parents, arguably the best parents in the world, could lose the perfect child, literally, the child without sin, we are doing just fine.
But, yes, Jesus got lost.
So our Scripture tells us that every year Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem from Nazareth where they lived for the Passover Festival. And it wouldn’t just be Jesus’ parents who would go. Instead all whole lot of people from Jesus’ town would all make this trip. It was about a 100 miles and most would walk so it would take a couple of days. A whole group of people would travel together and caravan down.
Jesus was 12 by this time so his parents expected him to act responsibly. He could go with his friends and cousins and then there would be check-in times. The evening meal, for instance.
So, it’s not until the check-in that Joseph and Mary realize there is something very wrong. Jesus doesn’t show up on time. They frantically begin to search for him and realize only one thing can be true—he must be back in the city. He never left with the caravan when he should have done so!
Because we all know the story turns out okay, I want to just pause here and marvel at the system. Okay, yes, in this case, it looks a little bad, because Jesus got lost. But in general, this is really something we want to emulate.
You see, in Jesus’ day, they truly understood the old adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.” Everyone understood that it wasn’t just Mary & Joseph’s responsibility to watch out for Jesus. Instead, the whole community embraced Jesus, watched over him, taught him, supported him. The parents knew that while they were at the festival they could take a break because lots of other people were watching over Jesus—and I’m sure they needed a break, like all parents and guardians do sometimes. They trusted the community around them so much so that Joseph and Mary just assumed he was with them when they left the city.
When we baptize children, we as a congregation all stand in body or in spirit and we pledge to help the person grow in faith and understanding. We promise to support one another. To support families and kids in particular as they grow. How are we as a congregation keeping that promise?
In the fall, we had put together some new things that were really growing and going well. We were having monthly community dinners for kids and adults. And then kids had a Junior Journey’s Program with crafts and Bible stories and games to get to know one another and to grow in faith. Coronavirus has caused us to change how we do things, but we have put some online resources up for kids like Bible story readings. And one of our volunteers did a special craft time with all the kids over the summer.
But what more could we do? What might God be calling you to do? How could you reach out and support a kid or a family during this time? Are you healthy enough to take a kid to the park so a parent or guardian could have a date? Could you come up with a craft you could teach through zoom? Do you have an idea for setting up some one-on-one mentoring so that all of our kids have a church buddy to turn to if they have questions about life and faith?
The Biblical model is one of shared responsibility. We the church are called to raise not just the kids who we birth, but all the kids who we come in contact with—the kids in our church, the kids in our neighborhood, kids who may know the deep love of Jesus and kids who have never been told they are loved. How can we do better to be the village?
Well, Jesus, as you know, gets distracted and misses the time to head home.
Kids, did you hear what distracted Jesus?
Yeah, we might think that he had started playing a really fun game of soccer with some city kids and just lost track of time or find some kind of cool toy—I don’t know if their were scooters in Jesus’ day but I would totally understand if Jesus had gotten distracted by a friend’s scooter.
But no, that’s not where Jesus is. He isn’t on the playground.
Jesus is in the Temple. He’s in what would be like a really big church today.
And in the Temple, a group of people get together every day and they study the Scriptures.
And Jesus plops right down along with the grownups and starts doing something. Did you catch what it is? It’s in verse 46. (Read verse 46).
He was there for 3 whole days! Asking questions!
I think Jesus must have been the best student of all time. He was curious and wanted to learn. He committed himself to his own learning and asked questions.
Kids, I know this school year is going to be different.
Some of you are going to be having school at home, taught by your parents. Some of you are going to be having school at home taught by teachers over the computer. Some of you are going to be having school in the building, but it will still feel pretty different—you might have to sit farther away from your friends or wear masks. The teachers might have told you all year last year to share your crayons and now this year they will say you can’t share things and shouldn’t give hugs even to your friends. You might have to wash your hands lots of times every day.
It’s going to be a different kind of year as we all love each other in new ways. As we work to keep each other healthy the best we can.
And you know what? That’s okay. Schools have looked very different in different times. In Jesus’s day school was really different than it is today. But you know what is always the same? Kids have always been called to ask good questions. Jesus knew that as a kid, this was his job. His job was to be curious. To learn everything he could learn. To listen really careful and to think deeply about things. To seek out people he could learn interesting things from. Jesus found mentors who could teach him what he was interested in knowing more about and he studied hard. And my prayer for you all this year is that you will too.
No matter how you are returning to school this year, be curious. Yes, it is going to be different, but you will still have a great year. You will learn and grow and find out about things you never even knew existed.
And parents, I know this has been rough. I know making the decisions: should we home school or do virtual school or in person school—what is best for our kids this year? I know it has been so difficult.
And I couldn’t be more amazed by you all. I think each of our families has made a different decision. And you know what? You all made the right decision. Every single one of you. Each of you made it thoughtfully and prayerfully. And that’s the right way to decide.
There is no wrong answer here. In fact, if you look at education in Jesus’ day, there were Rabbi schools, sort of more like going to school the way we think of it. But many kids learned a trade—in other words, they were home schooled by their parents to learn whatever skill their parents had. And that worked really well for a lot of kids and parents.
Now Jesus wasn’t called to be a carpenter. So, that didn’t really work for their family, and Jesus sought out some other mentors who could teach him what he needed to know.
The point is, it takes a village to raise a child! And especially this year, we all need to be supporting our parents more than ever. Even the best parents in the world, Mary and Joseph, the very adoptive parents God chose for God’s own son couldn’t raise their child alone. No one should.
So, parents know that you are not alone. Not ever. But in particular, not now. God is with you. And we stand with you. We are praying for you. Thinking of you. And please don’t hesitate to reach out and tell us how we can best support you this year. We are all in uncharted waters but we are in them together.
Our Scripture ends by telling us: “Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.” I believe that for our kids as well. May God bless this school year.
Return to the At Home Worship Service for August 23, 2020.