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Quinquagesima 2020 - Luke 18:31-34

Quinquagesima 2020

Luke 18:31-43

February 23, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Three times Jesus had told His disciples that He must suffer and died and be raised on the third day. Three times and the disciples still did not understand.  It is almost hard to believe that these 12 who walked and talked with Jesus, who saw Him perform miracles and bring the Kingdom of God, still didn’t fully get it.  Jesus said that He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.” This of course, is a direct reference to the involvement of Pontius Pilate and the Romans at the crucifixion How could Jesus be any more clear than He is here in our Gospel reading that He must suffer and died and be raised again? 

Thankfully, St. Luke records the reasoning of this, “This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”  It was hidden to them. That’s a pretty important thing.  God hid from Jesus’ disciples the understanding of what all of this meant. All three passions predictions include the idea of God concealing and the disciple’s inability to comprehend the plan of salvation. In their misunderstanding, the disciples end up abandoning and even rejecting Jesus at His passion. Why would God do such a thing?  Seeing Jesus right in front of them, they could not see who He was.  But the blind man could for he saw by faith, not by sight. 

How often have we felt as if we could not see, if God was hidden to us, that we just don’t understand?  We all want to know where we’re going, how we’ll get there, and what our purpose is, and that plaguing question, “why.”  It’s a hard place to be in. And it is so easy to think that if we could only have a sign, if we could only “see” Jesus and experience His works, if we could only have been with the disciples, our faith would be stronger, life would be easier, and we would “get it.”  For as St. Paul says in 2 Cor 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Beware trying to explore the hiddenness of God.  There is so much about God and His plans that we are not privy too.  God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. It does no good to try to figure out God by yourself, to assume you know who He is or why He acts as He does.  When it comes to God, speculation is extremely dangerous, and presumptuous.  

So what are we left with?  If the disciples couldn’t see who Jesus was even as He was stood right in front of them, if they couldn’t believe what Jesus was clearly telling them, what hope do we have? The issue is not so much that God cannot be seen, but that God actually and actively hides. God hides in order not to be found where humans want to find God. But God also hides in order to be found where God wills to be found. 

The understanding of Christ for the disciples was not hidden for much longer.  The Passion of Jesus is the stumbling block to the faith of the disciples that will only be reversed by the resurrection of Jesus. This revelation comes from Christ Himself as He opens up Scripture to them and opens their hearts to believe.  Jesus said, “Everything written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.” (18:31). His passion and resurrection are in fulfillment of the Scriptures. After His resurrection, as Jesus chastises the disciples on the road to Emmaus for not believing the Scriptures (24:25), He opens up for them all the Scriptures concerning how the Christ must suffer and then enter into glory. He opens up the minds as to how the Scriptures have been fulfilled in Him. He opens up their hearts to faith in Him. From then on, the passion and resurrection is the main article of faith in Jesus and the central focus of the Resurrection and proclamation of the Gospel.

This is incredibly important. A person comes to believe in Jesus through the power of the word and the work of the Holy Spirit. What is hidden has to be revealed, and it is revealed in Christ. When someone finally understands, knows, recognizes the passion of Christ, their eyes are opened and they know Jesus. That is a miracle much more important than making a blind man see. He makes the blind heart see Jesus as the Christ.

Faith in Christ does not come by understanding Jesus, but faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ.  Remember how after Jesus’ resurrection, when He showed Himself to His disciples Thomas refused to believe until He had seen Jesus. And when He saw the nail holes, he fell down and proclaimed “My Lord and My God.” And Jesus responds, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:28ff). And then St. Peter says in his second letter, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…”  

For you, Christ has been revealed.  With our eyes opened to faith in Christ, we see the Savior on His ways of sorrows but also in His resurrection glory. Lent, Holy Week, and Easter stand before our eyes. These things are not hidden anymore, but proclaimed throughout our lives. As we travel throughout Lent, the shame and embarrassment of the crucifixion and our own misbeliefs are heightened.  There is no glory without the cross.  Jesus retains His scars as signs of His love for you. 

To follow Jesus means to share His cross, to be crucified with Him. St Paul says in 2 Cor 5:15 “Christ died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” We must carry our own cross after Him. this too will entail suffering and shame before world, so do not be surprised when it comes. But it is also means the glory of Easter. Join us this year on our Lenten journey to the cross and the empty grave, wherein Christ reveals Himself to us that we might be raised  

Funeral Sermon for Mason Clingan

Funeral for Mason Clingan

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Isaiah 61:1-11; Revelation 21:1-7; John 14:1-6

February 21, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Sexagesima 2020 - Isaiah 55:10-13

Sexagesima 2020

Isaiah 55:10-13

February 16, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Our Old Testament reading for today comes from Isaiah 55 and is one of the most clear and striking passages concerning the power and the effectiveness of the Word of God. Combine it with the Parable of the Sower from our Gospel reading, we hear of an important characteristic of God that has incredible significance to our everyday lives as God’s people. This is how the kingdom of God comes into the world, comes to you, by means of His Word.

We read in Isaiah how the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and it has a purpose.  It waters the earth, making things bud and flourish, and providing what we need to survive.  This rain is lifegiving water, it’s what brings new life to what exists in the world. And after it has watered and nourished the earth, it evaporates back up into the sky, back to where it has come from. 

This reminds me of a TV commercial in Oregon from about 20 years ago.  I don’t even remember what it was for, just how it began.  It was college graduation and people where all lined up outside to receive their diplomas outside in a stadium.  And it’s raining.  It doesn’t seem to bother anyone though, but then one girl walks up to get her diploma and she is using an umbrella.  Everything stops.  The music, the announcer, people just stand there and stare at her.  She realizes what has happened, so she puts the umbrella away and then everything starts again and she gets her diploma.

That commercial reflects our life sometimes. We worry about getting wet, and ruining our “special day,” so we pull out an umbrella and hold it over our heads. We want the blessings of God, but we’re afraid to let go of our illusionary sense of control in our life.  We’re afraid of what the rain might do to us.  We might melt!!! We might shrivel up and die!  That’s a real fear because that’s exactly what happens.  We have the water of baptism poured on us and we die, connected to Christ’s death.  But then we are brought back to life from that lifegiving water through Christ’s resurrection. 

Just as the rain has the purpose of watering the earth, so does God’s Word have a purpose of watering souls.  Of bringing forth life, growth, new life. Isaiah describes it as the wicked and evil man turning from their thoughts and ways to God’s thoughts and ways. God is above man, and as He rains, as He pours His grace on us, He freely pardons that wickedness and evil that exists in our heart.  It declares you forgiven, and as it is done on earth, so it is in heaven. It declares you to be a child of God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, loved, wanted, righteous, justified for the sake of Jesus.

Can this Word be trusted? For the Israelites of Isaiah time, they were faced with the Babylonian captivity.  Seventy years in exile in a foreign land because of Israel’s unfaithfulness. During that time, the Babylonian propaganda would sound persuasive to the captives. Didn’t Babylon’s gods defeat the God of Israel? Isn’t the God of Israel inferior to the gods of Babylon? And all this future promise of a new exodus, of deliverance from captivity, and a coming Messiah to deliver, the waiting has been so long, it won’t actually happen, right?

For us living 2500 years after the Babylonian captivity, we are still faced with the same sorts of questions and the same doubts. Can God’s Word be trusted? We live in a culture that increasingly presents persuasive propaganda. We look around at the spreading of the seed of the Word and all too often we see it fall on ill prepared soil, among thorns and thistles, and snatched away by the devil. And we hear, or even think, “What’s the use? It does no good. You might as well give up and give in.” 

And if it were only left up to us, this would be true.  We cannot make the Word work, nor make the seed grow.  Tampering with God’s word to get it to work the way we want it to work distorts it, alters it, and replaces it with our own words.  Our words have no power to fight the devil, to destroy the evil that rises against us, or to forgive the sin that rises within us.  Our words are powerless to prevent the bitter fruit of harm against our neighbor.  Our words are just words.  God’s word is God’s power to destroy, and throw down, to build and to plant.

As a result of the fall into sin, the Lord tells Adam that thorns and thistles will inhabit the land. Now, because of the Lord’s salvation, the plants of Eden will spring up again, and the Lord’s people will be invited back into the lush garden. Just as creation became corrupt in Adam’s fall, in Christ it is restored. You are a displaced people who have tasted of the things of the coming age, but you also yearn for the full redemption of our bodies at the resurrection when Christ returns. Hold on to the promise of your deliverance, do not settle for a permanent existence in this world. Whether or not you understand the ways of the Lord, you can trust His Word is true and will do what it says. And whether or not you trust it, God still sends out His Word. God’s Word will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. It will never return empty. God said it. That settles it. Faith believes it. Unbelief cannot thwart it.

As you hear it, God plants His Word in your hearts and upon your lips. You can tell the sinner he’s a sinner and show him from God’s law what he’s done wrong.  God convicts sinners’ conscience with His law.  You can tell the sinner that Jesus is his Savior.  Tell him how Jesus died for him to wash away all his sin by His blood and rains down His righteousness freely.  God absolves sinners by His gospel.  Speak.  Speak the word of God.  God’s word does not return to Him void.  It is never empty sounds, or useless words.  It is the almighty power of God to forgive us sinners, raise us up from the death, and give eternal life.  

This is true of the written and proclaimed Word of God, and it is true of the incarnate Word of God. For the Word of God proclaimed does what it is sent to do. And what it is sent to do is deliver Christ, the word of God in the flesh. The Word incarnate accomplishes what He was sent to do.  He goes to the cross to take the sin of the world upon Himself. He returns to His Father at the Ascension with the success of the atonement and defeating death itself. And now He rains down His righteousness to drench you with His love and grace.  Maybe instead of hiding under your umbrella, you ought to be like a child, who not only plays in the rain, but splashes in every puddle that he can find until he is completely soaked from head to toe and loving every minute of it. Let us bask in the rain/reign of Christ.

Septuagesima 2020 - Exodus 17:1-7

Septuagesima 2020

Exodus 17:1-7

February 9, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

It had been just a short time since the beginning of the Exodus.  God had led His people out of slavery in Egypt, through the parted waters of the Red Sea, and into the desert. It didn’t take long, however, for the grumbling the start. According to God’s command, they come to Rephidim and camp there. This was their last stop before going to Mt. Sinai, where God would deliver to them the 10 Commandments and reaffirm His covenant with them. Like siblings in the back seat of a car during a 40 year road trip, they start to bicker and complain as soon as they leave their driveway, “Are we there yet?! She touched me. He smells. I’m hungry.” And so God answers. He didn’t start the trip unprepared, and so He gives His children a snack along the way, manna from heaven each morning, quail each evening. 

But it wasn’t enough for them that they never had to bake a loaf of bread nor hunt for their food the next 40 years.  This time, they are thirsty. Once more God provides for His people, this time through the physical need of water.  Once more, when need arise, the Israelites don’t wait for it to be met and don’t even assume it can be. Rather, they attack God and put Him on trial by attacking Moses, to put him on trial.. Israel is dissatisfied with Moses’ leadership and demands that he provides water to drink. They go after the messenger, Moses, because they don’t like where God is leading them. The protest is really against God Himself. And so God Himself must provide the solution, and it is God who does so provide. Moses is instructed to move in front of the people, not away from them, but out where they can see him. He is to take some of the elders of Israel, the wise and trustworthy leaders, as well as the staff with which he struck the Nile, and go. He should strike the Rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people shall drink.

They test the Lord, not by their thirst, but by questioning the Lord’s presence. God had shown them plainly and consistently that He is present with them. But they had not yet learned to live by faith, trusting in His promises that He would care for them and deliver them. The scandal of this question is their release and freedom, their rescue at the sea, the guidance through and sustenance in the wilderness, and the very presence at Rephidim.  And so Moses names the place “Testing” and “Dissatisfaction.” Since the dissatisfied people put God to the test by their complaining, and complaining which posed the most unbelievable, “Is the Lord among us or not?” 

People of God, how little you have changed. You beg and complain that you don’t have all that you want. Like whiney little children, you are prone to backbite and bicker over little things on your journey through life.  Despite evidence to the contrary, all too often you act as if God were not real, as if you could rely on gods of your own creation or even upon yourselves to keep you safe and provide for you. You are the Lord’s people, you are not your own. This is the Lord’s Church, not yours. It is the Lord’s school and daycare, not yours.  It’s the Lord’s checking account, car, house, not yours. This is the same problem as with the laborers in the vineyard who had been working all day. They thought that God owed them something more. They thought they deserved greater. But is God not allowed to do what He chooses with what belongs to Him? Repent over your quarrelling, your dissatisfaction, and from the times you have put the Lord your God to the test.

Israel doubted what should have been undoubtable, despite all the evidence to the contrary. They grumbled instead of turning to God, their Rock, for help. God in His graciousness does not deal with them according to their complaints, but He miraculous provides for His people by supplying water where there was none, and from the most unlikely of spots, a rock. Their thirst was real, but even more real was the presence of God in their midst.  St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10, from our Epistle, about this very passage, “they all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” He doesn’t say that Christ is signified by, but that Christ Himself actually is, the Spiritual Rock. They were served by Jesus as He delivered them out of their slavery.

Moses struck the rock with His staff, and out came water to quench their thirst.  Christ, the Rock of our salvation was stricken for you. This is how Jesus can say in John 4:13ff, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” “From them water flowed from the rock, for you Blood flowed from Christ; water satisfied them for a time, the Blood satisfies you for eternity” (Ambrose NPNF2 10:323). Take heed lest you fall into disbelief like so many of the Israelites of old. And drink deeply of Christ. Be filled with His grace. 

Jesus has promised that where His name is, there He is present.  The Lord is present today, His name has been placed upon you in the water of baptism. His blood is shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins and delivered to you in His holy Supper. The Lord, your Rock, your Fortress, your Deliverer comes to you in His Word and Sacraments to forgive your sins and create a Church faithful to Him, by grace inviting you to be workers in His vineyard and granting you a reward. It is the denarius of eternal life, the crown of victory, won by Jesus Himself and given to you freely by grace alone. 


National Lutheran Schools Week Sermon 2020

National Lutheran Schools Week 2019

Epiphany 3 2019

John 1:14-18

January 26, 2019

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

We prefer a “full” reading on the gauges of our life. It’s a good feeling to drive away with a full tank of gas, and we are thankful for the full feeling after a delicious meal. The desire for fullness follows us to church. We rejoice in a full sanctuary of worshippers; we are relieved when a project has a full list of volunteers. We rejoice in full classrooms, fully-funded budgets, fully- and professionally- staffed classrooms. 

The reality of our lives is that things are often less than full. Fuel tanks need to be refilled, shortly after one meal we start wondering about then next, and not every classroom is full or every budget fully funded. 

More challenging than the discomforts or inconve­niences of physical “tanks” left unfilled is the reality of emotional emptiness. “I feel so empty” is the lament of the one grieving the loss of a family member, the aban­doned spouse and the child rejected by a friend. 

Most devastating is our spiritual emptiness. Matthew’s Gospel tells of Jesus’ encounter with a rich young man (Matt.19:16–22). The man is described as one with “great possessions.” In his own eyes, he was full of righteous deeds. In many respects, his life was full of possessions and power. When Jesus asked this young man to take what he had and give it to the poor, the man could not walk away from his earthly fullness. In reality, his life was empty. 

Our schedules may be full; our homes may be full of goods and conveniences; our garages may be full of vehicles and toys; we may be filling our retirement coffers; and yet the lives of so many are empty. 

Without Jesus, emptiness prevails. The Apostle Paul had authority in the church, significance in his heri­tage, and a well-rounded education, and yet his life was empty. It was only by grace through faith, he received the “riches of his grace” (Eph. 2:7). Peter, Andrew, James and John may have had nets full of fish, but it was only when Jesus came and called them, that they were filled with His presence and grace. God emp­tied Himself so that we might receive the fullness of His grace. 

Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus’ journey in the flesh is described briefly in the Gospel of John. The God who rightfully could have chosen to be full of anger and judgment over the sin, the evil, the abuse suffered throughout His creation, is described as “full of grace and truth.”  The first sign of Jesus’ power and authority as the Son of God occurred at a wedding in Cana. Jesus took jars full of water and miraculously turned it into “good wine” for the wedding guests. He would go on to fill diseased bodies with health. He would fill hearts emptied by grief with the joy of seeing family members raised from the dead. He would fill panicked disciples with the peace of His presence and Word.  Every action of Jesus was part of His journey to the cross. His spirit was emptied in prayer in the garden, and His body was emptied of all life as He announced, “It is finished.” Every part of Jesus’ being was fully emptied to pay for the sins of the world. The sacrifice was full and complete. 

Receiving by faith the fullness of Jesus’ sacrifice and the full assurance of His resurrection, we receive John’s Gospel promise: “And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” By faith, you have fully received God’s grace. The infant is held above the baptismal font. Physically small and mentally not yet developed, the child receives the fullness of God’s grace with sins fully forgiven. The communicant comes to the altar. The meal is small — a wafer and a sip of wine — but the feast is plentiful, for it is the fullness of Christ’s body and blood.  Worshippers gather with guilty consciences, compli­cated lives, strained relationships, fearful hearts and every other problem imaginable. The Word is spoken: “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins.” There is no sin that the blood of Jesus does not fully cover.  In the gift of His Son, the Father grants full forgiveness of all sins. 

Throughout this last week, the children at our school have been focusing on the theme and celebration of the fullness of God’s grace in Christ. Along with the thousands of other Christian schools around the country, we may not always meet the quantitative measures we desire. However, as the Word is taught, these schools are always full of grace for Christ is present. The grace-filled school teaches the truth of grace from the Scripture, celebrates grace in worship, and lives grace in relationships, all the while celebrating a rich heritage – almost 60 years in our community; academic excellence recognized by National Lutheran School Accreditation and Consortium of Classical and Lutheran Education; servant-hearted staff who love the Lord.

By God’s grace, the greatest strength of our school is that we are a “grace place.” The grace of God, which became ours through Christ, is shared in Word and Sacrament and received by every student, parent, and other person blessed by our ministry. We may not always be “graceful” as we go about our hectic daily routines, but we are always “grace-full” as we hear Christ proclaimed. We are grace-full because Jesus is God’s grace. We are full of Gods’ grace ot be shared joyfully, thankfully, faithfully, peacefully, and hopefully with all. 

* This sermon was modified from one provided by the LCMS for National Lutheran Schools Week.

Epiphany 2 2020 - John 2:1-11

Epiphany 2 2020

John 2.1-11

January 19, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


Several years ago now there was big deal made out the possibility of a 13th astrological zodiac sign.  For some people, this was big news.  This is what sets the tone for the day, or week, or year. Now some people take these signs and their related horoscopes more seriously than others.  For some it is good for a laugh, but for others it will determine the moves they make throughout the day.  If your sign says that another person from another sign will bring you luck, good or bad, then you will be on the look out.  If your sign says that it is your day to find someone you love, then you will have your senses on the lookout for that love.  On the other hand, if your sign says that you will face heartbreak today, then you had better stay in bed. While not as popular today as they used to be, the same mentality exists within the “spiritual but not religious” crowd looking for signs in all the wrong places.

The first commandment tells us that all of this is nonsense. You shall have no other gods, which means, We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  Our future will not be determined by astrological signs or horoscope renderings; the thoughts and plans of the Lord are not always for us to know.  If good things happen or if bad; if it is your day to find love or heartache; simply trust in the Lord that His ways are not always our ways and our thoughts are not always His thoughts. 

We often ask Jesus, through our prayers, for what we need and what we want. But we end up twisting things around, wanting the signs to be about us, rather than about God for us.  Lord, give me a sign if I should take this job. Give me a sign that I am on the right track in life.  Give me a sign if I should marry this person.  A sign, the first of His signs, is what Jesus gives in our Gospel reading today.

Jesus changes water into wine. We see this in our Gospel reading today even, as Jesus is invited to a wedding feast.  His mother comes to Him with a problem.  The wedding feast typically lasted seven days, and in quite the social blunder, the groom runs out of wine for his guests. Jesus changes water into wine so the party could go on.  In this the first of His signs, He saves the best for last.

But it is so much more than this!  Jesus is revealed through His signs. These are more than miracles. These are signs that Jesus does to reveal to us the glory of God.  It is the perfect picture of God's grace; reckless and indiscriminate gift giving. Our Lord pours out His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation upon us who neither deserve them, nor are capable of appreciating them. This is the Gospel and it is music to the ears of those who feel lost and despondent and too evil to be favorably regarded by God. Looking at this sign at Cana, looking at his calling not the righteous but sinners, and even eating with them, looking at him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is left with one escapable conclusion. Jesus who gives good gifts to sinners. For the Lord delights in you!

Though He changes water in wine, declaring who He is and bringing people to faith in Him, this sign, all the signs of Jesus, all the works of God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament point to this one, greatest sign of all: the sign of the cross. For it is on the cross that a true miracle happened as the Son of God was crucified bearing the sins of the world.  It is on the cross when the hour of Christ comes as He saves the best for last. It is on the cross where He is filled to the brim with our sin and then He pours out His righteousness to those who don’t deserve it.  It is on the cross where we find God’s answer to suffering, to pain, to evil.  It is on the cross we find direction for our lives, direction that leads us to follow Christ into death and to the resurrection. 

What is so often lacking when one looks at their zodiac sign, or looking for the lightening bolt from heaven, the booming voice, or the still silent voice is the sign that truly matters: the sign of the cross that is made upon your forehead and upon your heart when we are baptized.  We are marked with the sign of the cross; marked as children for God, claimed by Him, redeemed by Him, given a new name from the mouth of the Lord Himself! 

The cross will not always be appealing; it will not always come in attractive packaging; it will not always some piece of fashion in jewelry or clothes; but the cross stands before our eyes, pointing us away from the things of this world and to the things of Jesus. The sign of the cross may not always bring good days, it may not bring worldly love, it may not even bring an answer to every question; but it does bring the forgiveness of sins that was won on it for our sake by Jesus our Savior.  And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation.

 You do not need to look in the paper or search the internet to find your sign and what your fortune will be for the day; just make the sign of the cross in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Look to the miraculous signs of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, where the Lord is present and working for you. “To us in the New Testament, baptism and the eucharist have been given as the visible signs of grace, so that we might firmly believe that sins have been forgiven through Christ's suffering and that we have been redeemed by his death. Thus the church has never been deprived to such an extent of outward signs that it became impossible to know where God could surely be found” (LW 1:248 on Gen. 4:3). Look to the Word, the Word of God who became flesh, the Word combined with water, bread, and wine, the Word written for you. Jesus is ever present with you through the dark and difficult days of your life; ever present with you on the bright and joyous days, ever present with you through the sign of the Word become flesh dwelling among you in His Word. So next time someone asks you, “What’s your sign?” You may respond: It is the sign of the cross, marking me as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.

Epiphany 1 2020 - Luke 2:41-52

Epiphany 1 2020

Luke 2:41-52

January 12, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID


The holidays are finally over and for most people they are back into the normal daily routine.  Memories and pictures of family trips.  One of my favorite childhood memories center around these sorts of trips. Time to celebrate the holiday, practically a family reunion, lots to eat and do, and worship together.

Jesus and His family were no different. Time had come to celebrate the Passover and a family trip was planned to head to Jerusalem to celebrate the holiday.  This wasn’t just a trip with Joseph, Mary, and Jesus though.  A caravan from Nazareth, cousins, aunts and uncles, animals, all along for the about a 5 day trip covering approximately 65-70 miles. There could have been dozens of people travelling together, singing, playing, picnicking along the way. And so it really isn’t that strange that Jesus’ parents wander off without Him while He stayed in Jerusalem and don’t even notice.   

Frantic parents looking for a lost child. The panic they must have felt. You can the imagine the conversation between Mary and Joseph when the realize that Jesus isn’t with them.  You can practically imagine Mary’s motherly and stern’s wife voice, “Joseph, where’s Jesus? Why weren’t you watching him? You only had one thing do and now we can’t find our boy. Sorry honey, I thought he was with you.” 

And so they go back to Jerusalem to look for Him. After three days they finally found Him, in the temple, sitting among the teachers, the doctors of the law, listening to them and asking them questions. Our Gospel reading presents a striking epiphany to show us that the Youth, listening to the teachers of the faith and asking questions for three days, clearly realized who He was and willing assumed His duty as the Savior from sin.  It’s not that Jesus was asking all the right questions and seemed wise beyond His years. The people were amazed at His understanding and His answers. These Doctors of the Law, regardless of their scholarship and wisdom, can only marvel at the young Jesus. He is incomprehensible because He is God. 

The boy teaching the teachers in the temple is the one true Son. Christ reveals Himself through His teaching.  In a reversal of what we expect from a normal preteen adolescent, Jesus doesn’t seek autonomy.  His home is with His Father. Jesus knows Himself to be the Father’s Son.  And so when Mary and Joseph ask Him why He has treated them in this way, Jesus answers in a seemingly perplexed way, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house,” or maybe, “about My Father’s business?”  Where else would He be but in His Father’s house and going about His Father’s business?

Where do you go to look for Jesus?  Some try to find Him out in the wilderness, in nature, or even worse, within themselves. So many are looking for Jesus in all the wrong places.  To summarize something Martin Luther once said, “A God who is everywhere is as good as a God who is nowhere unless He is a God who is somewhere for me.” 

But you can only find Jesus in one place, and that is where He has promised to be found.  Where else would Jesus be?  The Psalmist says, “Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” (Psalm 26:8). There is a reason we call our churches a house of the Lord.  Where else would Jesus be but going about the Father’s business in His house. It is here that Jesus teaches us according to His Word and He feeds us with His body and blood. The most learned to the most ignorant, the proud and the humble alike, He schools us in His ways, in His will. The Spirit of the holy and righteous Son of God calls, gathers, and enlightens people by the Word, and only by the Word of Christ. And it is only the Word of Christ that sanctifies a home, a building, a family, a life to be the place of His abode as He does the work of His Father. It is only where the Word is God is taught and the Sacraments are administered that God builds His house.  Where the Word is proclaimed and there are ears to hear, God builds His church out of sinners and dwells with them.

Even though Mary and Joseph didn’t understand what Jesus was saying, He still responded to them as an obedient child. Although He was a know it all goodie goodie as the omniscient and perfectly righteous Son of God, He didn’t treat them with disrespect or look down upon them. He obeyed the divine Law and was submissive to them, honoring them perfectly according to the Commandment.  As He did so, and as He grew up, He increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Until upon the cross, where we see Jesus being the perfectly submissive Son to the will of His Father, of doing the work His Father had laid out for Him to do. It was on the cross that Christ’s humanity and humility is shown most clearly, and it was upon the cross that His divinity and His glory is revealed. Always the human Christ’s deity is epiphanied. 

The mystery of this salvation lies in the perfect Son of God who comes down to earth that we might become sons of God through faith in Him, and that we too might increase in wisdom and stature in favor with God and man as we are conformed into the image of Christ.  This growth and increase doesn’t come by going our way or with wandering away from Jesus. Rather, it comes from sitting at the feet of the Lord in amazement and awe at His Word, as He teaches.

We need to remember that our Lord expects of all His disciples this same devotion to the Father’s work and His house. As He gave His life, so we are to dedicate our time and strength and abilities, and even our life, to the advancement of God’s causes. We are so prone to forget the real purpose of our existence, to consider the making of a living and the accumulation of wealth and stuff instead or merely a means to the end of serving the Lord and our neighbors.

We have some important things to discuss today after church in our Voters’ Assembly Meeting. We are going to consider some direction and leadership at our school. We are going to discuss the stewardship of our church property and building and the use of its space for the glory of God and to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him. For as Christians, our guidance, and direction and goal and motivation all lie in Jesus. We prayed today in the Collect of the Day for an epiphany of knowledge and power. We need the knowledge that we may perceive what we ought to do with regard to our spiritual interests, our responsibilities in everyday life, and the life of this congregation. But we also need power in order to do this, willingly, thoroughly, correctly, and faithfully. The source of this power is grace. For God is not only our teacher in regard to His will done among us, but also our helper as He works through us to accomplish His will.

Stay close to Jesus. Don’t go wandering off from Him, and seek Him where He wishes to be found: in His Father’s house going about His Father’s business, the business of your salvation and eternal life.