Posted by: mikebackup | January 4, 2013

We’re going on a bear hunt

Luke 2:41-52 – New International Version (NIV)

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[a] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Matthew 2:1-12New International Version (NIV)

2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[
b]

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

I love the way God works. I got going nicely on the Lukan verses. After a while something made me check the lectionary and I was dismayed to see those verses were down for the 30th December, I should have been with the Magi in Matthew!

Rather than bin what I had been doing, It immediately became apparent that there was something in these two searches for Jesus that we needed to explore that I would never have come to if I was just focusing on either reading. I will come to that shortly, but there’s an interesting theological elephant in the room that I can’t ignore and it’s in the Lukan passage.

We gain from this passage that Jesus himself decided to stay behind and sort of forgot to tell his Mum and Dad. Mary and Joseph begin a frantic search for him a day after they thought he was travelling with them. As a parent, this sort of thing is the stuff of real nightmares and you think the worst. Then they find him, relaxed and getting on fine, and you can sense that relief and anger that was felt at that moment.

Now here’s an interesting question – did Jesus do wrong here, or how about a more provocative question – did he sin? In my eyes as a parent yes he did wrong, bad decision, I would have had that extreme of emotion, utter relief and disbelief. Now the sin question is an interesting one because Jesus is presented as the one without sin – 2.Corinthians 5.21 as an example:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This then gets linked to what Jesus did on the cross that ‘he who was without sin’ was offered as the perfect sacrifice. Now here it gets interesting, if Jesus didn’t sin then what we see as sin and what God sees as sin don’t necessarily match. If he did sin then we need a radical reinterpretation of that understanding of the atonement – of what Jesus was doing on the cross. This instance wasn’t a one off either; the horrendous example in Mark 7 always shocks me:

24 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25 In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27 “First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

28 “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

30 She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Sorry, rewind to verse 27, Jesus called this woman a dog. Calling a woman a dog remains one of the most hurtful insults you can say. Jesus lived where it was expected to treat women as third class citizens and it had clearly rubbed off on him. It is the woman that cleanses Jesus own prejudice.

Of course this sort of attitude to women is still rife across the world. This week I signed an AVAAZ petition to the Indian government. This is what the petition said:

‘We call on you to urgently strengthen sexual violence legislation and enforcement, and to launch a massive public education program with hard-hitting and high quality content designed to bring about a profound shift in the shameful attitudes that permit and promote violence against women.’

It comes after 23-year-old physical therapy student who boarded a bus in Delhi last month. Six men locked the door, and savagely raped her for hours, including with a metal rod. They dumped her naked in the street, and after bravely fighting for her life, she died last weekend.

Across India, people are responding in massive protests to say enough is enough. In India a woman is raped every 22 minutes, and few see justice. Globally, a staggering 7 in 10 women will be physically or sexually abused in their lifetime.

Back to Jesus – did he sin here? In my book yes he did, but he was healed from it.

Personally I don’t want a Jesus that didn’t do anything wrong – I don’t relate to or understand that Jesus. He’s a Jesus who was never fully human, a God too scared to be fully part of the creation he came to save.

I do however understand and want to be like a Jesus who saw the error of his ways, was corrected by God’s guidance enabling him to get back on the perfect path. Therefore for me, it’s not that Jesus didn’t do anything wrong but that he was placed back on the right path every time he did make a mistake. So by the time we get to Good Friday, I have enough evidence to believe that as those nails were driven in he was without sin.

That’s a Jesus I want to find and follow.

Well I’ll now leave that elephant well and truly acknowledged!

Back to the journeys now – the Magi and Mary and Joseph. The Magi, set out confident, have to experience a bit of adventure on the way but get to where they are going. Mary and Joseph are frantic, desperate, and use up all their physical and emotional energy. The differences remind me of the two differing journeys you read about in ‘Going on a bear hunt’.


My plan for today was to prepare a vision for our year ahead and it still is but my approach has changed radically after reflecting on these two searches for Jesus. You see when you think about what you’re hopefully going to do/hopefully plan/hopefully inspire others to follow you always do it from that comfortable ‘Magi before they set out perspective’. We critique and reflect and set forth, following words like ‘Jesus will be at our centre’, ‘loving all as we march upon the land’ – all very confident and wise. But those words are as useful as a chocolate fireguard when you’re desperate, when you don’t like the person next to you, when you want to leave, when you think your faith has ruined your life. To write a vision that’s going to be any use you have to write it from the perspective of being desperate to find Jesus, something that will mean something when we hit the difficult times that will come.

And so, here’s the anchor I’ve written for this year, that I pray we can hold onto when we are desperate and will give confidence when we’re not.

2013 at Boulton Lane Baptist church

We beg assistance in 2013, God of our journey
To accept that all of life is only on loan to us
We need to believe beyond this moment and sow seeds in the ground.
We have to get our hands covered in the soil and sow very carefully
To remember that we may be the only Bible someone ever reads.
To risk all for love, justice, peace, respect and tolerance
To patiently nurture and protect the shoots that appear
To accept your courage when ours fails,
To recognise the pilgrim of our hearts,
To hold all of life in open hands
This we beg for in 2013, O God of our journey

Prayer

Lord, we pray for our world with all its troubles.
We pray for people who are displaced from their homes
through war or natural disasters:
for those who struggle to survive
and no longer know where they belong
or where they are going.
We pray that they have the strength to search for you

We pray for our community,
our family, our workmates, our friends.
Those we know well and
those we know a little, or not at all.
We pray that they have the strength to search for you

We pray for those who suffer turmoil of mind or spirit,
who are in physical or mental pain.
We pray that they will be strengthened to
withstand all that life throws at them.
That they might be open to receive your healing.
We pray that they have the strength to search for you

We pray for those who are coming
to the end of their journey on earth,
for those who walk alongside them
and not only share their pain and suffering
but have their own sense of emptiness and loss.
We pray that they have the strength to search for you

We thank you that we do not need to be
wise in the ways of the world to find you you.
It’s not always easy for us to lay aside our grand ideas,
but we thank you for the promise of the new life
that comes when we search and find you.
As the kings brought gifts to you,
so, Lord, we thank you for all you give to us,
especially for the gift of wisdom.
We thank you for the wise people we have known
who have guided us along your way.
Help us in turn to be ready to receive from you
so that we can share ourselves with others.
We pray that we might recognise your presence
as we journey through the life you have given us.

Amen.


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