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Epiphany I, January 8, 2017 - St. Luke 2:41-52

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Posted: Sunday, January 8th, 2017 by Pastor Westgate

One of the most important things to us in life is family. We see them at Christmas, during the summer, maybe all the time. We grew up with them. Sadly families sometimes drift apart for any number of reasons. It’s always amazing when a long-lost family member pops up out of nowhere.

Today’s Gospel got me thinking about family. Jesus goes up to Jerusalem when He’s 12 years old to celebrate the Old Testament Easter, the celebration of Israel being freed from slavery in Egypt, with Mary His Mother and Joseph His Guardian. They didn’t go alone either. With them were all their relatives and friends from up north in Nazareth. And we can’t forget this: wherever Jesus is, God The Father is too!

They went to celebrate the feast. Jesus was now old enough to join them. They went to give God thanks for delivering them from slavery in Egypt and to look ahead for their deliverance from sin, death, and Satan – the very thing Jesus is born to do. They gave themselves over to the worship of God, the very thing they did back home in Nazareth. The most important family was not their own. It was God’s family: the people of Israel, the Old Testament Church.

So it’s quite disappointing that they lost Jesus. It’s a big failure in communication. Perhaps Jesus was trying to teach them a lesson about being with God, that He had to be with His Father’s stuff and they should be too. Whatever the reason, they took off without Him and didn’t realize it for a day. Then they went back to Jerusalem forgetting He’s God’s Son. So they figured He was just exploring town when in reality He was back home at The Temple.

Yes, back home. Who do you think sat enthroned in The Temple all those years on The Ark of The Covenant in the first Temple. Jesus, that’s Who! He was The One answering prayers, accepting sacrifices, and forgiving sins. He had led them from Egypt to Palestine. He had dwelt in the tabernacle, and then in the temple, only to leave when He sent them off to Babylon for 70 years. And He didn’t come back when they rebuilt; the people cried that the glory wasn’t the same. He wouldn’t return until a Baby boy was carried in on February 2, and not again until Easter 13AD.

So when His Mother and Guardian took off for home, Jesus stayed home. And He did what you should do when you’re home: have a conversation. So when you’re here, have a conversation with God. God wants you to have this conversation with Him often. What is it? It’s hearing His Word, learning from it, asking questions of it to be answered by it. A child asks mommy and daddy questions; so also we, dear children of our heavenly Father, are to ask Him and He answers us with His Word.

But that’s not the only thing. A family gathers for a meal. The people of Israel gathered together to eat the Passover lamb. That’s what Jesus and family did up in Jerusalem that week. They ate the Passover meal, just like Jesus did with His disciples that first Maundy Thursday. Our families gather together to eat Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham or turkey or goose, with lots of other stuff, and they probably get together around Easter too. And then there’s the Memorial Day, July 4, and Labor Day cook-outs, perhaps at the lake.

So we, God’s family, have a meal together. We come together, united in the doctrine of The Scriptures, faithfully presented by Luther’s Catechism taught us by His ministers. We approach The Altar to receive into our mouths The Body of The Lamb of God and His holy, precious Blood. The Israelites had celebrated their redemption from Egypt. We celebrate, and receive, our redemption from sin, death, and Satan. There’s nothing more important than this. Don’t miss out on what our heavenly Father gives us through our dear Brother Jesus.

How did we get into the family? St. Paul writes in Galatians that we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for when we were baptized into Christ we were clothed with Christ. You were born outside God’s family. But when you were baptized He adopted you. He put Jesus’ Name on you – that’s why you’re called a Christian. Baptism makes you a very intricate part of God’s family. St. Paul says in Romans that Baptism buried you in Jesus’ Death in the water and brought you to life with Jesus out of the water. You are that closely connected to Him. God sees you, and He sees Jesus’ Blood covering you. He doesn’t see your sins. He sees Jesus’ died to save you. You are that closely united to Jesus. He is your Brother, and that makes God your Father. And that makes all your fellow baptized your family, the most important, and longest-lasting, family you’ll ever have.

That’s right. This is the most important family you can be in. The family whose name you bear is not. Nor is your work family, or even your national family. The family of God is the most important. Why? Because there’s nobody more important than Jesus. There’s nobody else that can bring you to everlasting life, and that, and that alone is THE one thing needful. That makes His family more important than anything else.

What are the implications of this? Jesus told His Mother when she and Joseph finally found Him that they should have known exactly where He was; after all, He had to be about His Father’s business, as some translations say, or in His Father’s house, as others say. The Greek is hard to translate into English – He’s basically saying He has to be with His Father’s stuff. Does that go for us too? Of course it does! He wants us to be gathered together, around His Word and Sacrament. That’s how He feeds us, how He nurtures us, how He defends us from Satan and the world and our wicked flesh. That’s how He brings His Death and Resurrection to us ever anew to relieve our burdens of sin and death. That’s how He begins to teach us how to live together in eternal life. We will be with Him, and with each other. We ought not forget it. We should prepare for it.

How? Word and Sacrament are exactly how it happens. It happens in no other way. But it continues as we go out from here, as we pray in our homes. Your prayer insert is called “Our Redeemer’s Family Prayers” for exactly this reason. I’m encouraging us to remember all of our church family as we pray and study God’s Word every day at home. You aren’t doing this alone. You’re doing it together. It continues too as we go out into the community, as we support our school and the missions of our church both in Pittsburgh and abroad, with our presence, with our money, with our goods. It even goes on as we do things together. But always, always, it must be centered on what happens here, in God’s sanctuary, for that is the source, the beginning and the end, of our life with God.

We are family, my brothers, and my sisters, and me. So says the song. We here at Redeemer are family, not by blood, though many of you are related, but by being brethren of God’s Only-begotten Son. We are Our Redeemer’s family! He has declared Himself our Brother by uniting Himself to us in Holy Baptism. His Father is now our Father, our dear heavenly Father. Here He is preparing us for the great eternal heavenly family reunion in the life of the world to come.

Categories: Pastor Westgate's Sermons

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