Search and Rescue

Colossians 3: 12-17      Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III

Luke 2: 41-52   December 27, 2015

Why were you searching for me?  Did you now know that I must be in my Father’s house?

Prayer:  O God, born to us and awakening in us your Spirit, please let us discern how you call to us, and let us grow more deeply in faith.  Amen.

Most of you know I was born in Honolulu, Haiwaii andlived there about 10 years. As a five or six year old, one day my family and I were going into the Ala Moana shopping center in Honolulu, Hawaii.  I got to the door of the mall first, and politely held the door open for my Mom and Dad and my siblings.  Well, there was another family following them, so I held the door open for them.  Next another group of people came after them.  When all folks were in, I walked in… and Mom and Dad were no where to be found!  I don’t remember how many minutes went by, but I do remember getting concerned fairly soon.  Who do I get for help?  Who will rescue me from this predicament?  Thankfully, I spotted a police officer, and he took me to the mall office.  Those folks got on the PA system, and soon I was with my very relieved parents.

I was lucky.  There are some bad people out there, and the end results could have been much worse, right?

Of course, there were bad folks in Jesus’ day, too, and understandably, Jesus’ parents were anxious and upset when they couldn’t find him after going at least one day out of Jerusalem.  It was the classic, “Where’s Jesus?”  “I thought he was with you.”  “What?  I thought you had him!”

I love this story, in part, because it shows Jesus as a typical twelve year old.  “The boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem…” perhaps because he was distracted by politely holding the Temple door for some folks, or because he was talking to some street vendors, or talking shop with some Jewish priests..  And, the next thing he knows, his parents are nowhere to be found.

But, Jesus is a smart kid.  Maybe he thinks to himself, “Where am I, and where will Mom and Dad think to look for me first?  Of course!  The temple!  After all, they’re faithful people.  A part of them is in me, so, surely they’ll search for me in the house of God first.”

Sometimes, in our predicaments, in life, we may feel God is nowhere to be found, and we often wonder where God is as we struggle… but I am curious if we ever ask, “Where am I in my struggle, and where will God search for me first? Where in my life will God find God’s own spirit living in me?”

But, you might be saying, “But, Galen, God is God, and God knows where we are at all times.”  Yes, that might be true, but what I mean is that I believe God is mostly searching for God’s living spirit born in us. Where is that spiritaffirmed in faith by us? The same spirit weaffirmedthat was born in us and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?

We might say, So, where am I? And where will god find God’s living spirit in my life?” Well, God may think to look for me in church.”  All well and good, but if we’re in church because we have to be, or if we here because it’s our normal routine, but, we’re really bored to tears, or we’re really thinking about where we’re going for lunch after the service, then perhaps God may not find God’s living spirit in us when we’re here.

Or, we may think, “God may search and find me when I’m helping someone out.”  All well and good, but if you’re helping someone out mostly because it makes you feel good, or look good, or gains you some advantage, or you think earns points in heaven, then perhaps God won’t find you there, either.

As we read Colossians, we have all kinds of instructions that give us sort of a template of where we can be, what we can do, and what kind of attitude we can have that makes us readily visible to God.  We are to clothe ourselves with love.  We are to forgive each other, let the peace of Christ rule, and be thankful, doing everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And in being this way, and doing these kinds of things, God sees God’s Spirit living in us.

Like last August, Darryl Jackson, Jr., a 24 year old African American, was arrested in Valparaiso, Indiana. He foolishly failed to identify himself and resisted arrest, and charges were filed. Mr. Jackson was approached by a white police officer while parked by a curb waiting for a friend.  Now the criminal charges were subsequently dropped, but the mayor of Valparaiso objected to the police officer’s action, and activists at Valparaiso University came to Jackson’s defense.  And here’s the best part… through mediation by citizens, the mayor, the sheriff, and Jackson had a collaborative discussion, resulting in a joint statement of apology and reconciliation.  In my opinion, in acts of reconciliation like that, in acts of responding in healthy ways to the toxicity of our culture when it comes to police and minorities, I think God sees the living Holy Spirit of Christ being born.  God’s redeeming grace is uncovered, and everyone involved is rescued from such debasing forms of our human nature.

And, perhaps that’s the underlying message for today—that in searching for Jesus, Mary and Joseph were just starting to see, though they didn’t understand it then, that Jesus didn’t need to be rescued from his predicament; instead, he was at the beginning of finding out that he was the One to rescue humanity from its predicament of making sinful,  debased forms of human nature our standard of living and not letting the living Holy Spirit of Christ be born in us,  change us to to be alive in us and be seen in us, be seen in us, and letting Christ’s nature change us to be his standard of living.

And that call of Jesus to rescue humanity has its roots because he was listening, learning in the temple, growing in divine and human favor.  May it be so for us.  Amen.