Michael Rader is a lay minister at St. Hilda St. Patrick with an extensive background in outreach on behalf of the church and connected with unhoused neighbors throughout King and Snohomish Counties. The sermon for January 2, 2022 was preached as a response to Luke 2.41-52 based on the manuscript below.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be ever pleasing to you, O Lord, our rock and our salvation.
So, you know I have to start with a story. It’s my personal rule.
I am the oldest of five kids, born and raised in small-town Ohio.
When I was not quite twelve, our parents took us to a State Park for a family outing and picnic. At some point the four older of us decided to wander down a broad pathway into the woods.
Fairly soon David wisely decided to turn back, but my sister and the second brother stayed with me. It didn’t take me too long to figure that maybe my plan wasn’t going to work out all that well. But being a good Boy Scout I knew our best recourse was to flag down a trusty Park Ranger.
Meanwhile, when David returned to the picnic area alone, our Mom and Dad decided it was probably a good time to panic. They struggled with what steps to take. How do you find your three “lost” kids in an unfamiliar forest?
It wasn’t all that long before I and my siblings rode up in the fancy green Ranger’s truck, all safe and sound. Oddly, I didn’t receive quite the reception I felt I deserved from my grateful mom and dad. I thought I had saved the day! But… maybe not! My Mom and I didn’t come anywhere close to seeing eye-to-eye on my view of the situation.
Who of us didn’t at some point wander off when we were kids – and cause our moms and dads undeserved grief and distress? We knew we were okay. We were fine! No problem! But they didn’t know. And the repercussions were usually not the most pleasant. Especially when we decided to argue defiantly in our defense – instead of apologizing.
“Yes, ma’am! Sorry, Mom! No, it won’t happen again…” Fingers crossed behind our backs.
Being a kid does have its rough spots, doesn’t it? Didn’t it? Being obedient when we didn’t want to was hard to swallow at times. Our parents aren’t prepared for us to begin growing up, especially when we are the first child.
In this morning’s Gospel from Luke, we gain the sole glimpse of the young boy Jesus that has been recorded in the Gospels. No longer the swaddled infant, and not yet the itinerant rabbi.
Jesus had wandered off from his family – and remained behind when they left to return to Nazareth. But it certainly hadn’t been with his parents’ permission or knowledge. Jesus knew what he was doing – to a point. To Him it was important to sit amongst the rabbis in the temple, discussing the sacred scriptures and their meanings; to be safely in God’s Holy place.
Precisely what God wanted him to do…or so young Jesus felt.
When Jesus’ frantic mother finally finds him in deep conversation with the amazed teachers, she is relieved, weeping tears of love and joy – and struggling against the urge to lose her temper. Luke tells us that Mary asked, “Child, why have you treated us like this?”
I think this might be an over-simplified version of what she actually said. “Do you know how worried I was? I thought we had lost you!”
And then when Mary began to scold him, like most any pre-teen Jesus began to argue with her, even to lecture her.
I do wonder what was going thru Mary’s mind and heart that day…
We don’t hear what transpired next except that the boy Jesus likely realized that he had overstepped his boundaries, and that his behavior had resulted in unintended consequences.
He had caused his mother great worry, distress and sadness. He had pained her heart. It was a day his mother would never forget.
It was not yet his time, and Jesus still had many things to learn.
Jesus returned to Nazareth for nearly two more decades. He had to learn obedience to his parents, to his mother. And to his earthly father, Joseph. To honor them even as he was growing older. To learn a trade just like us. To learn what Obedience means, to honor and respect his loving parents, and his forebears.
He had to learn what God was asking of him. To learn Obedience to God, both as a man – and as the Son of the Almighty Father…
So, how easy is it for us to say yes to God? To trust in God implicitly.
Being obedient to God isn’t easy because we often question why. What is God’s plan? What is God’s purpose for us in all this? What does He know that we don’t?
How easy is it for us to say yes to God?
It hasn’t been all that easy these past few years. It feels to me like God has been asking an awful lot of us. An awful lot…
Perhaps we want to ask God, “Why have you treated us like this? Did we really need Omicron on top of all this?”
We have had to give up so many of the things we cherish and have always taken for granted: seeing our aging or dying parents; hugging our newborn grandkids if we are so lucky; the contact we crave and miss with dear friends and family.
We have had to wear these darn masks for almost two years. And there doesn’t appear to be any light at the end of the tunnel!
But we do wear them out of love for our better halves, for our kids, our grandkids if we are so fortunate, and maybe even for our great grandkids! To keep them all safe – but also to keep ourselves safe and around for many years to come. And so we can gather to celebrate together and hold each other in love. We obey the rules because we love God and we love others.
There have recently been a darn lot of new rules and guidelines to learn, and unlearn – and then relearn. And it seems a lot of people have simply grown weary of obeying any Rules.
Rules of grace and etiquette. The Rules we all learned in kindergarten – like no cuts – take turns. Rules of the road we had to memorize when we wanted to start driving. The Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It feels like all of this forgetting the rules is causing our society, our world to become unraveled at the edges. Refusing to honor and respect God and others.
So, how easy is it for us to say “yes” to God?
How easy was it for Jesus to say “yes” to his Father? How easy was it for Jesus to accept what his Father was asking of him in his final weeks and days?
It would cause Jesus immense agony to accept and bow down to his Father’s wish for him. Jesus had free will to accept or reject.
He chose to accept. To obey. To obey his loving Father’s will.
Seems to me that what God asks of us is a far sight easier to say “yes” to.