A Blue Boat Home...

  ... Past the Cross

Week of Sunday December 30 - Chrristmas 1
Gospel: Luke 2:40-52

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

41 Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’49He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour. 

We treasure our children. They amaze us, often exceeding the gentle standards set by indulgent parental pride. Sometimes we are humbled by their insights, or by their commitment to goodness. And we treasure these things in our hearts, even as we carry that worry of being a mother or father, which will never quite leave us. For we know we are like Mary, seeing her son grow “in wisdom and in years,” but fearing what will come, unable to keep them safe.

With an intimation of the Passion, Luke intends us to look forward, remembering what will come: “46After three days they found him...”

It is made clear, again, that a sword will pierce her heart. (2:35)

Luke does not specifically say she is near the cross when Jesus is killed, but that additional detail by The Gospel of John is fitting. It mirrors the fear of every parent who nonetheless, will cry “How could you do this to us?” 

She has watched this child grow, idealistic, insightful, called by God, and she will see him die. I am perhaps most afraid for my children when they follow their ideals. I can only hope for the reality of the lesson of resurrection, which is that even death does not destroy, in the end.

The story is meant to instruct us. It fits into the genre of the growing hero, already precocious as a child, and showing the promise of what is to come. It is another retelling and reinforcement of who Jesus is, and will be. 

To modern readers it may seem the Luke is ‘laying it on a bit thick;’ Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Angels and Shepherds, Simeon, Anna, all telling the message. How many portents does a Messiah need?

Yet this iteration also has its own message. It is notably free of the marvellous, and the spiteful. He is simply one of us. There is no bringing clay birds to life, or killing of recalcitrant children, like the Gospel of Thomas. His family are good Israelites, going each year to the Passover. He is “filled with wisdom.” He is “in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” It is his Father’s house.

He is twelve, an auspicious number for Israel, and this age also places him at the beginning of manhood. He is almost ready to fulfil his calling, and already astonishing those who will listen.

Perhaps there is a rhetorical message for us in the end of the story.

 ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ 

Where is ‘the Father’s house’ now?

This Sunday I had expected to be conducting a Thanksgiving Service for Liliana who is only a few months old, but I am not yet well enough to lead worship.

I had thought to begin with the wonderful hymn by Peter Mayer, Blue Boat Home, which remembers that in all the vastness of the universe, we are on the way home. This is our place.  And we would have stood Liliana’s feet in the bowl of earth, sprinkled her with water to recall her baptism, and held her to the sky.

She is God’s child, in God’s world, full of beauty and potential, called to be fully human like the Christ, and just as vulnerable. This is her place With Daniel and Gabriela we would let her set sail, treasuring and fearing, hopeful of resurrection.

Though below me I feel no motion
Standing on these mountains and plains
Far away from the rolling ocean
Still my dry land heart can say
I've been sailing all my life now
Never harbor nor port have I known
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the Earth is my blue boat home

Sun, my sail and moon, my rudder
As I ply the starry sea
Leaning over the edge in wonder
Casting questions into the deep
Drifting here with my ship's companions
All we kindred pilgrim souls
Making our way by the lights of the heavens
In our beautiful blue boat home

I give thanks to the waves upholding me
Hail the great winds urging me on
Greet the infinite sea before me
Sing the sky my sailor's song
I was born upon the fathoms
Never harbor or port have I known
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the Earth is my blue boat home
The wide universe is the ocean I travel
And the Earth is my blue boat home.

 © Peter Mayer. Set to the hymn Hyfrydol by Rowland Huw Prichard.

Andrew Prior

Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!




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