Epiphany 1 (2015)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
January 11, 2015
Central Passage
Luke 2:41-52
The Sunday in the Octave of Epiphany

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“The parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up according to custom.” (Luke 2:41)

It was the custom of the Jews to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. It has always been the custom of the people of God to make the pilgrimage to where God is. So even the Wise Men of the East made the pilgrimage to where God was born in Bethlehem. One might even say that it is the custom of all men to make pilgrimage to find God. All religions of the world have pilgrimages. This isn’t coincidence. It began when Adam and Eve were thrown out of the garden and Cain wandered the earth. Then Noah made pilgrimage on a boat, in the ark, until he came to where God rested the ark. There Noah built an altar and worshiped the Lord because that’s where God was with him. Later Abraham made pilgrimage to the land of Canaan where he, too, built an altar and worshiped having arrived where God promised to rest with him and his descendants. (Genesis 12:7)

Then there is Jacob who made pilgrimage into Egypt with his whole family, and Moses who led the people in pilgrimage out of Egypt and Joshua who led the people of God – the pilgrims – into the Promise Land where Abraham had built an altar and worshiped God.  The people of God are always on pilgrimage. They are always moving, never settling even as our Lord Himself says that the Son of Man has no place to rest His head. So it is our custom to call our whole life a pilgrimage, a journey. We begin where Noah left off, having come up out of the water. Then we walk the way of Enoch so that rather than journeying with mere men, we walk with God.

It may seem somewhat trite, but you have made pilgrimage today. You were at home but you prepared yourself and your family and you set out as the Lord has directed you. You set out to come here where God has promised to meet you, to instruct you, to feed you the Bread of Heaven; where He has promised to confirm you in His promises through Jesus our Lord. You have come to the altar to worship God.

So it is your custom to make pilgrimage even as it was the custom of your parents and grandparents, the custom of many of our brothers and sisters, cousins and relatives. But it’s not our earthly families with whom we are making pilgrimage but our heavenly family, the family of whom God is our Father and Christ is our Brother. It is our custom to gather to the Lord on the Lord’s Day, as it was the custom of the holy apostles and all the saints of God since then. And it is a good and godly custom.

For this is where God promises to be for us.

But it’s not the location as it was for our forefathers in the faith, men like Abraham and Moses and David. It’s not the location but the things. We could, as the saints of God have done in years past, gather in cemeteries or in the pastor’s house or some other place (though having a meeting hall such as this is good and a blessing for many reasons). The location is not a physical location so much as it is a heavenly location where the word of God is preached and the mysteries of Christ are given and received according to His instruction and mandate. That’s where God has promised to meet us.

Those Christians who say that they can meet God anywhere, that they don’t have to come to the Divine Service, that it isn’t necessary, they miss the point entirely. And they miss the point entirely because they misunderstand what the Divine Service is. They must else they would make their custom to be here.

This Divine Service is the service of God to His people, just as the temple cult in ancient Israel was the service of God to His people. How many make excuses why they can’t be here. Too tired; too sick; too ashamed; too whatever. Now there are some who can’t be here, we call them shut-ins. But then the Lord does not abandon them but goes to them and take His Service with Him. We call it Shut-in Communion Visits. And I know, people will ask if it’s necessary to be here every Sunday or every time the doors are open. But I refuse to answer that question from now on because it’s a question of the Law. What’s the bottom line? What’s enough? What is necessary? It’s a question of man who always seeks to do only what is absolutely necessary and nothing more. But the ways of the Lord give in abundance, even wastefully as He provides more food than there are people and fills cups to overflowing. Don’t be so concerned about the minimum but more concerned about what is necessary.

It is necessary for us to be among our Father’s things.

It was necessary for Jesus to be among His Father’s things – in His Father’s house, we translate it. So it is necessary for us to be among our Father’s things, too. The things that Jesus was speaking of were the ark of the covenant, the lampstands, the altar of sacrifice, so too the scrolls of the prophets and the teachers of God’s word. And these things are all types of Christ. He is the Ark of the Covenant, containing in Himself the Law of God and judging the people of God from the Mercy Seat. He is the lampstands from where the light of God shines and the Spirit of God flows. He is the Teacher. He is the things of God and it is necessary for us to be among Him.

But there is something more, too. You are the things of God too. You are the Body of Christ, the Church, which means the gathering. It is necessary for you to be around the saints of God. Not just those who happened to still be breathing, but also and especially around the apostles of Christ through whom the Spirit teaches, leads, and instructs.

The Lord Jesus is still among His Father’s things. He is among you: teaching you and asking you questions. Not to learn from you but that you would learn from Him. His questions open you will and your heart and His answers draw you ever closer to the Father. Do not be surprised that it is necessary for Jesus to be among His Father’s things, for He is the thing of the Father. Do not be surprised that it is necessary for you to be among your Father’s things, for you must be where Christ is who is seated at the right hand of the Father.

And it is your faith that hears and obeys God so that you come to hear His word and participate in His mysteries and be called the children of God.

It should not surprise you, this talk about the necessity and glory of the Divine Service. Where else would you expect to find the Christ, the Son of God? Or do you not know that it is necessary that He be among His Father’s things? And the things of the Father are the Bible, Holy Baptism, preaching, the Holy Supper; but you are also the things of the Father. You, too, are part of this gathering, part of the Church, part of the Body of Christ. It is necessary for you to be among your Father’s things; to be blessed by Him and to bless Him. To be loved by Him and to love Him. To be claimed by Him and to claim Him.

+ In Nomine Iesu +