June 14, 2017- An Unlikely Teacher- Luke 2:47-52

Jesus at the Temple

And all who heard him (Jesus) were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.  Luke 2:47-52 (NRSV)

Our children are not really our own. In reality, God entrusts us with His children. We have a responsibility to our (God’s…) children to keep them safe, to provide for their bodily health and shelter, to see that they receive a quality education, and to provide a good moral and spiritual example.  Most parents would be terrified beyond belief should their twelve year old be missing for three days, and justifiably so.

Even though our children are not divine, (they might like us to think so at times) they are also not their parents.  Our children will do things that scare us, disappoint us, and even amaze us- but in the end they are the people God created them to be.  We may not understand God’s purpose for our children any better than we understand His purpose for us at times, but God always has a purpose for every one of His children, whether we agree with Him or not.

It is a balancing act for parents, knowing when to assert authority and set strong boundaries, and when to stand back and listen and let our children go. Since we are responsible for keeping our children safe and from harm’s way sometimes we err on the side of being too closed minded and overprotective.  Sometimes we fail to give their thoughts and ambitions the respect they deserve- and in doing so we may hold them back from being the people God created them to be.

Jesus was God when He was on this earth and was only twelve years old, teaching in the temple. Jesus knew His purpose and followed His Father’s desire for Him to be in the temple teaching, which shows remarkable wisdom for a twelve year old boy.   Even though we know Jesus displayed such wisdom even at such a young age, how many of us would be willing to take instructions from a preteen boy?

Do we overlook wisdom because we can’t see past the source?

It’s easy to forget that God doesn’t place the same parameters on wisdom and heroism that our society does. God’s wisdom can come from the very young, the very old, the developmentally disabled, or those who society looks down upon- anyone.  God’s choices aren’t always the obvious ones.

If we were to see with God’s eyes, how would He open our hearts to listen to and follow His wisdom?

If we were to love with God’s heart, how would our view of others and the world around us change?

March 22, 2017- Bring the Children- Luke 18:16-17

 

jesus_w_children_600But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16-17 (NRSV)

Children are bold and trusting by nature, until they spend some time out in the real world where hurts and betrayals happen. Parents and caregivers constantly give cautions to trusting young children because young children haven’t learned the difference between when it’s OK to trust, and when it’s dangerous to trust.

As part of the process of living and growing up most children end up with a healthy dose of cynicism and reticence toward the world before reaching adulthood. We become too distrustful and jaded for our own good.  In many ways that distrust and cynicism is warranted, as the world isn’t always a very safe place and life can be hard at times.  Friends and family fall short of their promises.  Disappointments and hurts happen.  There are many instances in which it is downright dangerous to trust others.

As we come of age we lose that childlike innocence and we pick up all kinds of inhibitions and doubts- even if they come from legitimate efforts to stay safe- that make it harder for us to simply trust.

Jesus says that we need to come to Him with that childlike innocence and hard-wired trust that only children have. He welcomes us to Him in perfect love and safety.

That’s not easy to do. Especially for adults with jaded and cynical minds and the emotional and spiritual scars that come along with living life.

This is why the Holy Spirit intervenes on our behalf to help us surrender the things that would keep us away from God and bring us to Jesus- the Way, the Truth and the Life. He wants us to surrender our burdens, our fears, our pain, our sins- everything.

(Jesus said): “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (NRSV)

We can trust Jesus with everything we are- without reservations, without fear, and without limits. And we have the Holy Spirit always available to help us do that.

December 28, 2016- The Holy Innocents, Rachel Crying for Her Children, Because They Are No More- Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18

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When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.  Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.” – Matthew 2:16-18, (Jeremiah 31:15)

The Sunday after Christmas many Christian churches recognize the Holy Innocents- the children who were killed by Herod’s men two years after the birth of Jesus.

The reference to Rachel is meaning all of the descendants of Jacob- the people of Israel, God’s people.

Ironically Herod never would have to worry about anyone of Jesus’ age  being a challenge to his throne.  He died not much later than the slaughter of the Innocents.

It seems senseless that Herod would have such an issue with someone who would not have been able to assume any kind of power until long after Herod’s death, but his malice and insecurity- or perhaps even denial of his own inevitable mortality- reached that far.

It seems heartless and barbaric to modern society that such a tragedy would have been permitted to happen, and even sanctioned by the authorities, but senseless slaughter of the young persists even today.

Who is weeping for the loss of their children today?  How many young lives in our own community are cut short or badly broken by the evils of chemical dependence, random promiscuity, poverty and violence?

We can look back at the slaughter of the Innocents as a historical event perpetrated by an evil leader, but we can also see how we have our own version of this senseless waste of talent and life going on here and now.

The question in this is, what can we do to protect and empower youth?  Not just parents, but the community in general.  We may not live to see them thrive and bring about God’s Kingdom on earth, but we can do what we can to protect them and build them up.

December 16, 2016- Mary, Did You Know? Luke 2:15-18, Luke 9:46-49

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When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.  When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Luke 2:15-18 (NRSV)

I know that sometimes Protestant Christians- even Lutherans- sometimes shy away from talking too much about Mary, the young woman who God chose to be Jesus’ earthly mother.  We get uncomfortable talking about her because we don’t believe that she is equal to Jesus or that she is a deity in and of herself.  Yet we should most certainly look at Mary as a woman who was blessed by God.  We should certainly look at Mary as a role model and an example of a person who was open to God’s will and purpose for her life.

God had an infinitely important and special plan for Mary’s life even though she was not wealthy, influential, well educated or any of those things that the world puts value upon.

Is it too hard to believe that God has unique and important plans for all of us in His grand scheme of things?

One of the most interesting themes in Scripture is that we see that the only real “hero” in the Bible is God.  God has a deep sense of humor in who he chooses to do His greatest things.  David was a youngest son- a scrawny shepherd boy- but God made him the greatest King of Israel and Jesus’ greatest earthly ancestor.  Ruth stepped into the Scriptural story as a destitute widow and an outsider in her community, yet she is also in Jesus’ lineage.  Paul was a misguided Pharisee who had been behind persecuting the church and killing Christians, yet God used him for a powerful Christian witness who speaks to God’s people even today.

God uses the least likely people to accomplish His biggest purposes- the meek, the weak, and the flawed.  And that is good news.  God is in control in spite of our failings, weaknesses and missing pieces.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you. – “Mary, Did You Know”- Mark Lowry

I wonder if Mary knew as she watched Jesus grow up and as she did all those things that mothers do for their children for Him, just how important this tiny child would prove to be.

Sometimes we lose sight of our own importance in God’s eyes.  Do our lives matter?  Do all the mundane and repetitive and dirty chores make a difference?  What about the people around us?  If we truly believe that God is Who He says He is, can we look at ourselves and others knowing that God is always at work in and through His people?

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side,  and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” Luke 9:46-49 (NRSV)