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The Share the Good News, Be the Good News [11-24-19]

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

Have you ever been to crowded shopping centers or anyplace where there are huge crowds of people and seen parents with their toddler on a leash? It used to be, every now-and-then, you'd hear an announcement, "Will the parents of little Billy please report to mall security." It's been a while since I've heard that. Probably because more parents are leashing their children. It can be scary for a parent to misplace a child or for a child to misplace a parent.

In a moment, we're going to read a story about lostness. But before we do, let's set the scene.

At the time of Jesus, it was customary for Jewish families to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. This was a roughly 65 mile, four day journey. It was part of the regular rhythm of life for faithful believers. Establishing a pattern of worship and devotion was, and is, a good thing.

That's what Jesus' family did. For years, they went down to Jerusalem to worship and to celebrate the Passover.

This was a big deal. They usually traveled in large groups. There's safety and companionship in numbers, right? Finally, when it was time to head home, they again traveled in a large caravan. Now, you're with family and friends and acquaintances, so it makes sense that if you have an older child, you don't have to keep an eye on him or her at all times. Since there were no helicopters 2000 years ago, I doubt there were helicopter parents. So, with older children, you might not see them for hours. Only when setting up camp for the night would the family regroup.

That's the context for today's passage. Let's now look at Luke 2:41-50:

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 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, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 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.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them.

There's so much we could explore in this passage. It speaks to Jesus' parent's slow understanding of who he was. Even after what was revealed to them at his birth, twelve years later they seemed to have lost their grip on understanding those things. That happens to us, too. We forget things or we become lazy in our thinking or both. That's certainly at play here. Also, we could talk about how Jesus understands himself at this very young age. Or we could talk about what the insiders in the temple thought about Jesus as he spent time with them. Lots of possibilities.

We're going to spend time on one point…a point that is especially impactful this time of year. In this story, here are four specific ways Jesus related to the teachers in the temple:

  1. Jesus sought out teachers and sat in their midst.

  2. Jesus listened.

  3. Jesus asked questions.

  4. Jesus gave answers.

{In other words, a caring and engaged presence with others.}

What is November? The month of giving thanks. What also is November? On the cusp of Christmas. We give God thanks for our lives and our Savior. And these are the perfect moments for being present with those we love. It's also the perfect time for being present with those we don't know. These are times when people of all stripes are most open to hearing about God and seeing Jesus Christ reflected in our lives. Amen? That's why we need to be especially mindful of how our lives reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Another amen?

Here's how Jesus put it in verse 49:

Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house {or about his business}?

What an amazing attitude for us to have. At a time of year when there is an increased openness to faithfulness and meaningful customs, we can be about God's business. In other words, to share the good news of Jesus Christ, we must be the good news. More often than not, our lives need to reflect the joy and hope that is in us.

Here's how we can do that. We do that by being present with people. We give them our attention. We listen. We ask questions. We answer questions on things about God and Jesus. We seek to understand before wanting to be understood. Are you with me on that? We serve the cause of Christ by being present with people. Being there.

Why is it important to be present…in kind and gracious ways…in other people's lives?

First, presence amplifies experience. In other words, when you are interacting with someone, when you are focused on the moment, it's going to enhance the positive feelings. Your focused presence with someone who cares about you and whom you care about makes the experience delightful.

Here's what that means. Have you ever been at a restaurant with someone and the place is littered with televisions and they seem more interested in what's on the TV than your company? Not a delightful experience.

Have you ever been in a social setting with other people around, and as you're conversing with someone, their eyes are darting around like they're hoping a more interesting person will wander by? Not a delightful experience.

Have you ever been telling someone about how your day went, and when you're done, they're all, "Interesting. Let me tell you about my day"? Not a delightful experience.

Have you ever had the person you're with check their mobile device every

time is vibrates? Every darn time! Not a delightful experience.

Have you ever been preaching a sermon, and you think you're on a roll, but you notice people drifting off? Not a delightful experience.

In most cases, most of the time, it is a good and Godly thing to be fully present with people. It grows us, it grows relationships, and it positively contributes to feelings and experiences.

Here's what researchers discovered from a chocolate experiment. The idea was that inattentiveness, or distraction, in a relational moment negatively impacts the experience.

So here's what researchers did. They took pieces of chocolate from the same chocolate bar, and told subjects they wanted them rate the quality of the chocolate. They didn't tell them it was the same chocolate. Because it really wasn't about chocolate.

Anyway, when the researcher was present and engaged with the subject, the quality of the chocolate was rated higher. It was on a scale of 1 - 10. When the researcher was off to the side, marking on a clipboard or scrolling through her mobile device or looking beyond the subject, as if hoping to see someone else, the chocolate was rated lower. Consistently and dramatically lower.

Here's something you might want to write down:

Presence with someone who cares about you makes that experience more delightful.

I think this is an imperative for our Christian discipline. What a great way to positively impact our little corner of God's world.

So, without me sounding like an old curmudgeon, what do you think is today's greatest impediment to presence? Right. Cell phones. Mobile devices.

Have a no-cell-phone or mobile device policy at mealtime. Put your device on airplane mode when in church or at social gatherings or in the theater. And for the love of all things holy, when at a restaurant, turn-off your cheesy ringtone. Besides, no one wants to hear you telling Marge that you are having a Quarter Pounder with cheese.

How many of us, when our device buzzes or vibrates, immediately look at it? You know what that is? It's a Pavlovian response. Our dog does the same thing when you open the biscuit jar…she runs to her crate because she knows she's getting a treat. Sometimes we are just like the lower creatures. We let our technology do that to us.

There's even a word for when we are more interested in our device than the flesh-and-blood people right in front of us. It's called "phubbing," or phone snubbing.

Practice the art of being more present. Listen to others. Ask questions. Strive for increased wisdom and understanding of Scripture. That's where we find Christian values like joy and love and kindness and gentleness and self-control and goodness. Let those values guide you in the way of Jesus. Treat people as being valuable. Contribute to the happiness around you. As Jesus said, "Didn't you know I must be about my Father's business?" I think that's something good for us to learn from. Let's engage people in a warm and positive way. That's a great way to communicate "You matter to me."

You matter to me.

In thanksgiving for what God has done for us in Jesus Christ, let's be about our Father's business.

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