December 26, 2021
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! Ours was marred a bit by Mary Ann’s not feeling well, but we think she is on the mend. It was so encouraging to see so many of you at the Christmas Eve Service Friday night. It took quite a number of people to pull it all off and everyone worked together. Today is the first Sunday bulletin for our TWO office managers: Earl and Joyce.
Many thanks to both of them for volunteering to help us out of a bind. We still need office help!
The Lectionary readings for the day include two stories about children: 1) Samuel at the temple with the High Priest Eli, and 2) Jesus at the temple. The story of Jesus is a great story! It begins to answer the question — What was Jesus really like? The answer may surprise you.
Passover is celebrated once a year. Mary and Joseph took Jesus and traveled the 64 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate as a family. Most likely they traveled with others in their extended family and village. After the festival, the large group of relatives and neighbors began the long trip back home.
I imagine it wasn’t unusual for Jesus, a 12 year old boy, to spend more time with his cousins and friends than his parents. So his parents made the normal assumption that their child was hanging out with his buddies when they left Jerusalem. After 24 hours of traveling, Jesus hadn’t come back to his parents at any time — not to eat and not to sleep. Joseph and Mary began getting worried and searched for him. Can you imagine the fear and worry mom and dad must have felt when they realized they’d left their son behind in a big city?
They turned around immediately and began the walk back to the city. Three days later, they finally find him. And guess what? They find him in the temple talking to the teachers. He was listening and asking questions. Mary and Joseph had to be upset with Jesus for putting them through all that worry. In fact, Mary’s question to Jesus seems like a fair question and expresses some of her exasperation: Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I had great anxiety! But Jesus answers his mother calmly in a rather strange manner: Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house? I’m sure Mary and Joseph must have wondered what that must mean? What kind of relationship does this 12 year old have with God or the people of God?
Of all of the interesting avenues one might explore in this vignette, the one that intrigues me the most is what Jesus was doing in the Temple: “listening and asking questions.” That sure does square with my impression of the way Jesus was as a teaching, ministering adult. He taught by listening. He taught by asking questions. It is an exciting teaching technique – and it says so much about who he was as a person! There is a gentleness about his way that allows everyone to see for themselves the truth in his words and change as their own hearts are changed! Jesus’ way was questions and parables – not demands or lectures.
I’ve mentioned Peter Wehner to you before. He is a relatively conservative writer for the New York Times in their religion dept. He says in an article written this past Wednesday: Jesus was 40 times as likely to ask a question as he was to answer one directly. Like when they asked him: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he answered: “What is written in the law?” and “How do you read it?” He wanted us to think for ourselves. That’s the kind of disciple he wanted to nurture and develop. Wehner quotes Emily Dickinson: “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.”
I wish I were better at it. Why do I think this way of Jesus is worth imitating?
- Because it puts relationships above being right
- Because transformation doesn’t happen because the other has been beat into a corner and silenced. The only lasting transformation comes from our heart – not from the debate skills of another
- Because this style allows the other to be seen as worthy and valuable in themselves
- Because when I use that style, the Truth is what convinces, not the speaker.
Wehner’s pastor – William Fullilove at McClean Presbyterian Church said it so well: “Jesus was after our hearts, not just our minds. He was after lives changed, not just intellects grown.”
I am so glad to be a follower of someone like Jesus.
If you call what he did evangelism, it is the kind I approve of and admire.
That is the kind of truth-telling that wins for a parent. It is the kind that wins for a believer (of Christianity or any other religion). It is the kind of politician that builds a constituency that could transform the world. It is the kind of teacher who changes lives.
I want to be like that. How about you?