41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”[g] 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:41-52)
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Both Jesus and his parents are amazed, astounded. Mary and Joseph are dumbfounded that Jesus is in the temple discussing theology with the elders. And Jesus is a bit dumbfounded that they looked for him anywhere else. Did you now know that I must be in my Father’s house? He says it with the faith and enthusiasm only a child could have.
Children, I find, love church. To be sure little infants can be a bit fussy at times. And the kids aren’t as self-conscious as the parents which can lead to some unwarranted embarrassment for the parents at times too. The kids are at home. Really, they are. This is their home. This is where they belong. And they know it. This is their Father’s house. And the Father’s house is a much more joyous place with the cries of a baby and the off key singing of a toddler than it is without. This is their Father’s house, and their Father rejoices to have them here crying Abba, Father, as he gives us all the right to do.
Yes, this is their Father’s house because it is your Father’s house. He is your Father too. He is your Father because you have been baptized and clothed yourself with Christ, who is his Son. You have been through baptism grafted in to the body of Christ, the temple of God destroyed and rebuilt in three days. So it is here that the name of your Father dwells, the glory of God that comes to you in the forgiveness of sins, amidst water and word, bread and wine. Yes, this is your Father’s house, where he feeds and clothes you with the forgiveness of sins.
What Jesus says here expresses the attitude we should all have about church. It is the child like faith that he so often speaks of. The faith of a child you have to be an adult not to see. The child like faith we would pray for if we were smart. It comes with such joy. A joy I think we adults tend to forget and lose sight of. They say faith is invisible. You can’t see it. You can’t tell if a person has it or not from looking at them. I’m not always so sure that is true. The church is invisible, but it is found where the gospel is preached, where sins are forgiven, where water is poured in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It is found where the body and blood of Christ are given for the forgiveness of sins. So faith, it is a hard thing to define. A gift of the Holy Spirit. If you can’t always see it, you can at least hear it as the heart that believes bursts forth with confession from the lips. Joy, is it visible? The joy of salvation we pray for in the offertory Sunday after Sunday, the joy that comes when a clean heart is restored? I see it.
I see it in people who return Sunday after Sunday to their Father’s house. I see it in people washed clean of all their sins and clothed with Christ. I see it in a congregation here, that despite all odds keeps the doors to a building open so that they can have a place to come together and hear God’s word, and share the peace that surpasses all understanding communing with one another as they commune with Christ eating together the Passover lamb as a family. But then I see it in the children at home in the house of their father, growing up in the faith he has given them. And you have to be blinder than a bat not to see it in their smiles, and right there you know the parents share with these children the greatest gift they can, the security of being God’s child, the comfort of being Christ’s brother and sister, the joy of a clean heart and a good conscience that issues forth love unknown. Yes, there are times when you might wonder if it is all worth it, not these kids, they don’t wonder, and if you take a look at them, you won’t wonder either. Then you understand the joy, and the bewilderment of a twelve year old boy who asks his parents, did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Yes indeed, that is where he must be, and this is where he is.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.