“Sharing our Hearts” Colchester Federated Church, February 28, 2021, Second Sunday in Lent (Luke 2:41-52), Reflections on the Heart Sermon Series

Christians can think of Jesus as a familiar stranger.  Because as much as we know about Jesus of Nazareth from a historical perspective—the Jewish man who lived in the First Century, embarked upon a public ministry focused on the small towns and humble people of Galilee, was crucified as a political insurrectionist by the Roman Empire, and his followers took up his message of the kingdom of God after his death—there are always going to be aspects of Jesus’ life that remain mysterious.  Both because Christians have beliefs about Jesus that are matters of faith and because Jesus left no writings of his own.  Additionally, there’s periods of his life where we don’t even have second-hand accounts of what Jesus was up to.  The Gospels of Luke and Matthew have accounts of Jesus’ birth.  But the Gospels of Mark and John are silent on the topic.  There is just one story of Jesus’ childhood in the Gospels—the story we heard today from Luke’s second chapter. 

Let’s really think about this.  We go from Jesus as an infant to age 30 being baptized by John in the Jordan River with the exception of this one time that Jesus was 12 years old and he hung out with the teachers in the Temple after Passover.  That’s just the truth, we don’t know details about decades of his life leading up to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in about 28 C.E.  This one story of our familiar stranger—Jesus the Christ—may give hope to any parent who struggles with willful children who have a mind of their own at times.  This one story of Jesus’ childhood may shed some light on the person he grew up to be.

Every year Jesus’ family went to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover.  Jews were encouraged to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem in the book of Deuteronomy.  Mary and Joseph were good citizens and practiced their Jewish faith, it was important to make this yearly pilgrimage.  Because they traveled from a distance, Mary and Joseph made the journey from Nazareth with a band of travelers.  Now when Jesus was 12 years old, he went up to Jerusalem with his family as was their custom.  But after the festival was over, Jesus stayed behind.  Except he didn’t tell his parents.  They assumed that he was among their group of travelers only to find out after a full day of traveling that their son was nowhere to be found among their family and friends. 

Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem to look for Jesus and searched for three long days.  We can imagine that panic began to set in.  Finally, they found Jesus in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and questioning them.  Understandably, Mary said, “Child, why have you treated us like this?  Listen!  Your father and I have been worried.  We’ve been looking for you!”  Jesus’ response to his panicked mother was simple and direct, “Why were you looking for me?   Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?”[1]

Put yourself in Mary or Joseph’s sandals for a moment.  Ask yourself how you would respond.  Your child has been missing for multiple days in the big city.  You took a family trip as you do every year, and this time he disappeared from your group heading back home.  When you find your child and question him, his response is a nonchalant—where else did you think I would be?  It seems that Mary and Joseph had a lot more patience than probably many of us would have had.  Though the next few verses in Luke are telling (Luke doesn’t want us to think that Jesus was a total rebel, well, at least not yet anyway).  Luke writes, “Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them.  His mother cherished every word in her heart.  Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people”[2]  Translation—don’t worry, he was a good kid!

What do we make of this unique story?  Well, for one thing, it shows that Mary and Joseph still had a lot to learn about Jesus.  About who he was and what he cared about.  About the person he was called to be.  Keep in mind that when the shepherds showed up and announced that angels had appeared in those fields at night in Bethlehem to proclaim the birth of the Messiah—Jesus—“Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”[3]  That’s what Luke wrote in Chapter 2 verse 19 (as translated in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.)  Today Mary listens to the explanation of her young son saying that he had to be in his Father’s house a little longer and she “treasured all these things in her heart.”[4]  That’s Luke Chapter 2 verse 51.  Do we see how similar the language is here?  When Mary learns something new about her child, she treasures these things in her heart. 

Mary is also on a faith journey where she’s learning more and more about her child and about what God intends for his life.  Parents are constantly learning more about their children as they grow up.  Parents begin to see glimpses of the people that their children are becoming.  And aren’t we all on a journey of learning and becoming the people that God created us to be?

Perhaps another takeaway from our Gospel story of Jesus in the Temple as a boy is to contemplate what people we love treasure.  Last Sunday we talked about where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.  This Sunday we can contemplate what it means to share our hearts with one another, to learn what those we treasure happen to treasure. Quaker teacher Parker Palmer often says that if the going gets rough, turn to wonder.  That if we find ourselves uncomfortable with the perspective that another person is sharing, we can try to not let judgment set in.  Instead, we can become intrigued.  We can ask for more information.  We can be open to the experiences of others.  Differences can offer us opportunities to learn from one another.  We can turn to wonder all the time, not just when the going gets rough.  We can become intrigued when we sense that we don’t fully understand the experiences of another, even a person we know and love and treasure. 

Valarie Kaur in See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love writes, “If we are safe and nurtured enough to develop our capacity to wonder, we start to wonder about the people in our lives, too—their thoughts and experiences, their pain and joy, their wants and needs.  We begin to sense that they are to themselves as vast and complex as we are to ourselves, their inner world as infinite as our own.  In other words, we are seeing them as our equal.  We are gaining information about how to love them.  Wonder is the wellspring for love.”[5]

If the going gets rough, turn to wonder.  Turn to wonder even if the going isn’t rough.  Wonder is the wellspring for love.  We can gather information about how to love one another.  Mary treasured all these things in her heart. 

We can share our hearts with one another.  Because we can begin to sense that everyone has an infinite inner world.  Mary and Joseph saw that their son had inner depths and a future ahead of him that they didn’t fully understand.  The truth is that each and every one of us has complexities and inner worlds and treasures in our own hearts.  So let us share our hearts with one another and cherish those moments of wonder in our lives.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

[1] Luke 2:48 and 49, Common English Bible.
[2] Luke 2:51-52, CEB.
[3] Luke 2:19, New Revised Standard Version.
[4] Luke 2:51, NRSV.
[5] Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, 10.

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash