Posts Tagged Searching
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him 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. [NRSA]
For starters, it’s still Christmas season and its not too late to find Jesus.
My guess is that we have covered in the last 50 years of Peanuts,(TM) Linus rendition of the first part of Luke’s Gospel about the decree from Ceasar Agustus, the baby born in the manger, the shepherds and the heavenly multitude, but have we found Jesus?
One of my favorite lines from the Forrest Gump movie is when Sergeant Dan asks Forrest if he had found Jesus, to which Forrest replies, “I didn’t know he was lost.”
While the passage for today gives us a rare glimpse into the childhood of Jesus, it also gives an opportunity to identify with losing Jesus. And the how quickly we lose what we think we have. Rather than asking have you found Jesus, we need to ask more often: Have you lost him?
The story of the parents, Mary and Joseph, who found favor and blessing to be the parents of Jesus as good and faithful folks, they too lose connection for a variety of reasons in one passage:
The parents were busy doing what moms and dads do and in those responsibilities and distractions a door is opened to focus on themselves than on Jesus.
Can we turn off the TV, stop talking about work, stop worrying about the grown-up things to play-teach-listen-and-be present without children and grandchildren? (Not entertaining, distracting or pacifying them, rather being present with them, doing nothing else.)
As important as Parental/Adult/Grownup responsibilities demand, they are not more important than time present with Jesus.
We certainly know what ‘you’ and ‘I’ are when we ASSume. What does one day assuming we have Jesus securely in our lives look like. What’s one day?
The classic Christmas movie, Home Alone, points to the room for evil and fear to take hold when we leave Jesus behind. And it happens most likely unintentionally.
But in the real world, what could be so bad about one day without praying? Without reading? Missing one Sunday? Missing one time of service? Not only are we missed by God and others we never expected, but ‘we’ also make ourselves vulnerable.
It starts the downward spiral if “I can do it by myself.” which we started at age two and somehow favor over “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Don’t assume Jesus is with you, check in daily, hourly, with every breath.
Mary and Joseph were at the point of fear and anxiousness in dealing with the absence of Jesus. Rather than being in communication in the first place, there is the moment when we see the fear of what life looks like without Jesus leading us.
How devastating our perspective becomes when we are grieving. It is a natural process of dealing with loss. It might be the loss of a relationship, a job, a dream, or any other confrontation with separation.
Frantically, Mary and Joseph begin to search. The look, they ask, the retrace where they had been. Jesus is right where they left him. Mary and Joseph were distracted, preoccupied, assuming someone else had their relationship for them; they begin to recognize the separation and are each torn by fear, anxiety and grief. From their place separation, they begin to search.
The search until they find Jesus. Our journey toward Jesus is the remedy for sin and separation: “We search until we find.”
Some folks are searching for “God’s love in the flesh” and mistaking that for physical things and physical feelings and physical relationships. These physical things are all part of our human experience, but the ‘things’ that gets lost is our spiritual self, our spiritual relationship, our spiritual nature.
As we conclude the Christmas season, let us make sure, for all the gifts given, received, exchanged and returned, that we are certain we start the new year having found Jesus, fresh and new.
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” [NRSV]
Our communities are generally more concerned about Halloween than celebrating all the Saints who have died and found the promises of eternal life and love fulfilled during this weekend of celebrations. Even fewer are trying to hold the memory of the saints in a high place of honor while addressing lessons of stewardship for the upcoming Stewardship Sunday next week. But here we are faced with the reality of context in the face of the power of the lectionary text: Zacchaeus the Wee, Little man.
As we listen carefully to this passage we can learn a good deal about Zack and ourselves. First this man was a notorious cheat and swindler of the community. His reputation and status was made through taking advantage of his position to profit from some of the poorest of neighbors. Taxes, user fees, registrations, licenses, and mandated participations in medical plans are all forms of taxes. They are always up for debate for everyone except for those who collect them and those who profit from them. Everyone else would like to avoid paying any more than they must pay. Zach not only had the unpopular task of collecting these funds, he also used the occasion to collect an acquisition fee on top of the tax has his income. He had the opportunity to define the amount of profit he would make from collecting unpopular taxes. Together this made him to be the least likely to befriend in the neighborhood.
It is no wonder that folks did not cut him any slack in finding his way to see Jesus who was visiting their town. Secondly we learn that Zach was not only not respected and excluded from popularity contests, he was none the less, curious about Jesus. This is actually a refreshing picture of those that we least favor in our communities. Even the least respected and most avoided can be curious about Jesus. And this is the chink in the armor that opens the door of grace for us all.
Zach, actually is more than curious; he takes extra steps to make a way to Jesus. He sets up the occasion to have a better perspective and even a chance meeting with Jesus. When the community of faith had given up on him, Zach remains interested enough to do some homework and recon work himself to create an opportunity to meet Jesus. If you have never taken the opportunity to participate in the Walk to Emmaus retreat ministry, you should attend. It is a concentrated effort to create opportunities for someone to meet Christ and to grow closer in her or his relationship with Christ. (Visit the Upperroom.org and check it out.) Zach has made his own little retreat in the top of a tree, hoping to gain a new perspective and understanding of Jesus.
Rather than simply being a spectator, Jesus calls Zach into a relationship of participation. Jesus does what the community has refused to do because of Zach’s behavior and destruction of the community. Jesus includes the stranger. Jesus opens the heart and home of the one who has no relationship. Jesus makes a way through honesty, confession and accountability when others are blocking access, even when it might seem justified. Jesus opens the heart.
When Zach’s heart is touched, he moves to confession and repentance. Without any prescription for restitution he begins to make things whole. Why, because when Jesus reaches out to this searching soul, Jesus is making him whole and out of wholeness responds by making things right or complete.
As a Stewardship message: it is out of wholeness that we learn to give what is holy. We might start with a Rx of 10% but finally mature to see that it might take more than a percent. It might take out whole lives.
As a Transformation message: it is the shift from Zaccheus making the plan and ruling the community, into Jesus making the plans and Jesus shaping the hearts of the WHOLE community.
As a practical message for us all: This example is not just about the rich, not about the oppressors, those to blame. It is also for the crowd that judged Zach as unreachable, unloveable, and beyond trust.. Jesus sees what is hiding in all of us and invites himself into the hearts and homes of those who are seeking.
Our task is to help each other seek Christ. In the streets or in our homes, in business or in church, back then and right now. Jesus desires to be at home with you and me. Let us go with him and all be make whole.