The Sunday in the Octave of Epiphany
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
January 8, 2017
Central Passage
Luke 2:41-52

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

Where does one find Jesus? Where does one look for Him? In His Father's house.

Here you a perfect picture of salvation and the kingdom of heaven.

Mary and Joseph have lost the Holy Child. But He is not lost. They are. Didn’t you know, He asks them, that I would be in my Father’s house? I am where I am supposed to be. Why are you not with me?

It’s the same with you and me. We often lose Jesus. I’m not talking about losing faith or going to hell, such talk is rarely on spot. I’m talking about losing Jesus from sight; not the sight of our eyes but of our hearts. For we walk by faith not by sight. We get in a panic. Where is He? Why is not with us? Where did He go?

Such questions are usually in the midst of some great trouble or distress, some catastrophe that has come upon us. And we are at a loss of what to do or where to go to find the Lord. It seems as though His face no longer shines upon us and that His blessing and benediction are far removed from us.

Of course, that is never the case. The Lord does not leave us – unless our faith has in fact grown cold, but even then it is not the Lord who has left us but we who have left Him. He never leaves. He is always in His Father’s house. Which means even if we have left Him or even if He appears to be missing from our journey as we travel through this barren wasteland of sin and death, even then we know where to find Him and how to be with Him.

But like Mary and Joseph, we get into a frenzy about where He could be. He doesn’t seem to be in our prayers – which are often shallow and self-serving anyway, which is why they are not answered, as St. James says. We need to stop praying merely for our wellbeing and start praying for more faith and for the wellbeing of others. Imagine, if you prayed for more faith and for the wellbeing of others, and we all did that, then our Lord would pour out His Spirit on us – for a prayer for faith is a prayer to be in the Holy Spirit – and as we prayed for others they would pray for us. Then we would have an army praying for each of us as we all prayed for one another, which is our duty and our privilege. Of course, no one can pray for you if you do not share your burdens with them. Which is what St. Paul says, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

But we can’t see past our own noses most of the time. So we can’t find the Lord Jesus in our lives. He doesn’t seem to be in our daily life as trial upon trial is heaped on us so that we are nearly crushed under the weight of heartache and fear and worry. Of course, St. Peter tells us not to be surprised at these things as the come upon us for they are there to strengthen our faith, not destroy it. But usually the first thing to go is our faith; faith that our Father – made our Father by our union with the Holy Child of God in baptism –  has left us to our own devises. Fear is the opposite of faith. So, too is anxiety and worry. Which is why our Lord says “Do not be afraid” and “Do not worry about tomorrow.” Fear causes us to test the Lord in forbidden ways, asking Him to turn stones into bread rather than fasting from this earthly life to feast on His word and promises.

Like Mary and Joseph, we are in a frenzy to find Him. And we do look for Him. We search our relatives. Maybe they know where Jesus is. We search our houses. Maybe I left Him in the Bible on the coffee table. Or maybe He’s in the sincerity of my fear as I cry myself to sleep. We search high and low for the Christ but cannot find Him.

Take heart! He is in His Father’s house! A house that you may enter freely. A house you are invited to remain in as a son. For a slave does not remain forever, but a son remains forever. And His Father’s house is His Church, His Body, where His Spirit dwells and He dwells with man.

Don’t be so Protestant that you are fooled into thinking that you are His Father’s house. That somehow your heart is the house of God where He lives and stays. It’s a foolish notion. If that were the case, then why the fear? Why the anxiety in your heart? Why the loneliness and darkness? But isn’t it written that He will come and make His home with us? That the Spirit of God dwells in us so that we are His temple? Yes, it is written. But it is also written that whoever does not gather to Him scatters and that He is where His Body is. In other words, the Spirit has not made a person His temple if that person is never found in the Church of God. The Father and the Son don’t come to make their home with the person who is not first part of the Body of Christ.

The more inward you look for Christ, the less you will find Him until you are worse off than Mary and Joseph. Instead of searching and finally finding the Holy Child, your search will have grown cold and either you will be left with absolute despair or else you will have fashioned a god after your own heart. Would that the Lord be merciful and leave us merely in despair so that we would continue to search.

But as I said in the beginning, this is a perfect picture of salvation.

For the Lord makes Himself known to those who search for Him. True, we often search and search and search after He has made Himself known because we want something more fantastic, more moving, more energizing. But the fact is, He has made Himself known in the breaking of the bread and the prayers of the Church. He has made Himself known to you and to the whole world in His holy Christian and Apostolic Church, which is His Father’s house.

And once we have found Him where He has promised to be, where He said He would be and where we should expect to find Him, then, and only then, does He do as He did with Mary and Joseph, and go down with us and is even submissive to us.

That is the great miracle and mystery of the Christian faith. God becomes submissive to men. Not that He is the slave of man but that He came to serve rather than to be served. He came to show us the way and carry us on the way rather than have us carve out a way for ourselves, which cannot be done. He goes down with us and answers our prayers – prayers that are now for more faith and for the wellbeing of others. He goes down with us and tends to our needs as a dutiful son tends to the needs of his aging parents.

He goes down with us, even into the hell, so that He might also bring us up into the heavenly places where He and His Father dwell, in His Father’s house where there are many rooms being prepared for you and for all His children.

+ In Nomine Iesu +