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Lost and Found

Luke 2: 41-52;  1 Corinthians 1:16-31

A few days ago, I watched Sound of Freedom, a disturbing movie based on real events. This movie tells the tragic story of children literally snatched from their homes in Latin American countries to be sold to pedophile consumers here in our own country and all over the world — a big business that knows no borders and generates 150 billion dollars a year.

Let me tell you –it was hard to watch — to see all that those kids as little as 5 or 6 must go through. Hard to watch and comprehend their parents’ nightmares when they suddenly realize that their children have been stolen — and in 99.9% of the cases, stolen for good. “Where are my children?” a heartbroken dad cries out when he discovers the empty beds of his two little ones.

As we return to this well-known “incident” in the Gospel of Luke, I believe that’s how Mary and Joseph may have felt the moment they realized that their own boy had vanished — “Where is Jesus? Where is our son? The weight of the whole world collapsing upon them, and in a matter of seconds everyone around them becoming equally suspicious of a high crime.


Imagine Mary’s and Joseph’s nightmare – the palpitating heart, the feeling of fear, dread, even guilt and shame – all together, snowballing down their souls. Perhaps even a major marital crisis in the making — “Joseph, how come you didn’t watch the boy?” Or “Mary, what kind of mum are you?” It took them three days — three days– to find their boy. But they finally found him — in the temple, of all places! There he was their middle-schooler amazing with his wisdom a bunch of highly respected spiritual teachers – yet so oblivious to his parents’ frantic search.


Friends, I love Luke’s writing for many reasons – the way he brings heavens and earth together, for instance. Here mom and dad are in shock, hoping against hope for their lost child in the multitude. A few moments later, so heavenly happy when they find him in the temple.

And yet, a few moments later, Mary can’t contain her repressed motherly anger and reprimands the boy harshly. But Jesus calmly responded, “Come on, mom! Didn’t you know that I must spend time in my Father’s house and take care of my Father’s business?”


Since Christmas we have been talking about epiphanies, manifestations, revelations, the unveiling of “secrets.” Here Luke tells us another remarkably “secret” about Jesus, but this time he does so to reveal what Jesus might have discovered about himself during his first formal Passover.

Let me spell it out for you — at his very first formal Passover, with manhood around the corner, the sudden awareness that he –just an ordinary pre-teen from Nazareth — is in a unique sense not only Mary and Joseph’s son, but also God’s unique son.

Can you grasp all that this boy is going through as he comes to terms with who he is, and what he is meant to be? No less than an extraordinary “aha” moment – one of those moments or situations in our lives when we experience a sudden insight or discovery with significant implications.

I have experienced a few “aha” moments myself, like the day, for instance, when I told my parents that I wanted to be a pastor, like my dad. Poor man, he went catatonic! And my mom? She immediately recovered — “Are you serious, son? Another minister in my house? Isn’t dad already more than I can deal with?” She went on — “why”.

I vaguely remember telling them that I enjoyed learning and teaching the Bible and being with people — did I add “fellowship time with delicious snacks every Sunday? A different answer from Jesus’s, for he said –“Mom, dad, why did you search for me and made such a fuss? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house and take care of my Father’s business?”

How different? — maybe not that different, for who can deny that taking care of our Father’s business, on the one hand, and, on the other, enjoying people and trying to discern the Word of God and loving a good fellowship time with our brothers and sisters, is not the same thing?

Once again, my friends, this “incident” in Jesus’s life tells us about that “aha” moment in his life when he realizes, perhaps for the very first time, who he is, and who he may become as he keeps growing “in stature, in wisdom, and in favor with God and humankind,” as the writer of the Gospel says. Yet Jesus’s self-discovery does not make him look down on his humble parents — the gentle handmaiden Mary and the hard-working carpenter Joseph. And he will never look down on anyone who he meets along the road, not even around the cross — let alone anyone who is willing to become a disciple today.


I often ask myself, what was that transformed the apostle Paul into such a humble and passionate disciple the moment he was found by the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus? Several answers come to mind, yet there is one I’d like to highlight as we reflect on what it means to be disciples.

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, some 50 miles from Athens, Paul celebrates God’s “wisdom,” an expression that in this context refers to God’s welcoming heart. His own unique call to be an apostle – Paul tells the Corinthians — has nothing to do with his social status, superior education, birthrights, or any other kind of privilege. And the same should be truth of them.

“Consider your own call, brothers and sisters” – the Apostle tells them — “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth, and yet God has chosen you. What most people may describe as foolish and weak, and low and despised, so no one might boast in the presence of God.”

Paul has no problem connecting the dots — the Heavenly Father who chose a stinky manger in an insignificant Palestinian village so that a rustic carpenter and a very humble handmaid, surrounded by a bunch of stinky and illiterate shepherds, would bring an ordinary child into this world . . . well, the same Heavenly Father who has found him is the same who is finding and calling us to take care of his business.

See? No matter how weak, how unwise, how insignificant, how unimportant, how politically incorrect we may be – how “lost” or irrelevant to the world we may look like — we are always “found” in Christ, and found with a big purpose — to take care of Christ’s business, to be his disciples, and together, Christ’s church!


Back to boy Jesus – was he grounded? Luke doesn’t tell us — what he tells us, and with a wink in an eye, is that that day mom and dad and boy Jesus “returned home together, and the boy was obedient to them.”

A story with a happy ending, for sure — and for that reason, a vivid illustration to help us realize the joy of the Father as well as the joy of his unique Son the moment they find each other. The same explosive, grateful joy both the dad in the movie, and his two kids experience when they find each other, and their ordeal is finally over.

Friends, today if you want to take home something spiritual to chew on during the next few days of Epiphany, just try to imagine such a mutual joy the moment they find each other.

Also, try to imagine God’s joy the moment he’s found by us! It may be no less intense and inspiring than the joy we experience whenever we are found by God and welcomed into his manger.