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Faith is Breakthrough

by Detlev Schuchardt Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 at 3:44 PM

Soren Kierkegaard spoke of faith as a "leap across seventy-thousand fathoms of water." He sought to introduce Christianity into comfortable Danish Christendom. The language of proclamation runs crosswsays to the language of time. The me-society, the majority society, is lost.


By Detlev Schuchardt, Bad Lippspringe

[This sermon on Luke 2,41-52 presented on January 4, 2009 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

“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 company they went a day’s journey, and they sought him among their kinfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking 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 they 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 looking for you anxiously.” And he said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying, which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them, and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”

Peace be with you and the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Perhaps it is good this is the only story of the boy Jesus handed down in our Bible. There are other stories in the childhood gospel of Thomas not included in the Bible showing a nasty Jesus.

With this incident, Luke completes the birth story of the Savior. Jesus is 12 years old. At 13, one was come-of-age in religion. Before one has to follow one’s parents in questions of faith. But Jesus is not submissive. The boy was simply away amid tens of thousands of pilgrims in the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Mary and Joseph seem to know their son as one who does what he wants without telling them. Perhaps he left with friends. In a day’s journey, the parents marched off to an agreed meeting place as people do today. When we get lost, we meet at such a place. That was necessary at that time since there were no cell phones.

But Jesus was not at the agreed meeting place back at Jerusalem. This was alarming. The boy was among strangers in an unfamiliar city with all the tourists running about. Each of us can sense how the parents felt. The mother was sick with worry and the father furious in a bad mood. Then they find him. He was sitting calmly in the temple and discussing with the adults. Mother Mary excoriates him verbally. Joseph always the extra or bit player stands there silent. Then this son asks in a refractory way: “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” Mary and Joseph could not believe their ears. Luke’s ending that Jesus went down with them to Nazareth and was “obedient” to them. Mary pondered all these words he said to her in her heart. All this could not really be grasped with reason.

To me, this story is beautiful. It shows that God became a person in Jesus. In the little sweet baby in the manger, Jesus was born on Christmas Eve. We also baptized a little sweet baby in a church service born on Christmas Eve. In the adult man Jesus, we understood his message and are “assimilated” in the Lord’s Supper. This 12-year old in the temple practiced rebellion against the authority of his parents (“as long as you sit at my table,” “tell us, we always want to know where you are”). Jesus rebels against this and discovers his own values. What the elders say is only caustic and uncool. Sitting in the temple and discussing with the learned men was totally unusual.

Puberty is the time of upheaval, the time of learning to let go. For parents, this is not easy. They must give away their children who now become adult. Letting go means allowing freedom even when it hurts and causes sleepless nights. Jesus in the temple was a freedom-loving, rebellious boy. Later he will return to the temple and drive out the moneychangers with a whip. He remained a rebellious young man – even as an adult. He also worried his parents as an adult. He could not spare them worry because he had to follow his heavenly Father. All this was already manifest in the 12-year old: his independence from human customs and from that very middle class cowardliness and his unconditional trust in his heavenly Father from whom he never received enough.

I hope we will have more of this spirit of the boy in the Christian community. We often ask what should we do or not do and what was heard or not heard. If someone has a strange idea or if someone is simply passionate about something as can only happen to a young heart, we look disgruntled and are like spoilsports who seek to nip the enthusiasm in its bud.

Faith always involves freedom, letting go bad temper, disgruntlement and imprisonment by one’s feelings. Faith is rebellious and opposes mere conventions. We believe God revealed himself once and for all in a person, this special person Jesus of Nazareth. God comes so near to us that nothing can separate us from him any more. God comes to reconcile. God comes out of overwhelming love. Every person is unconditionally God’s favorite child. This is inconceivable but many things are inconceivable. God breaks all limits. God loves us as we are – although we often love one another very little and have a hard time loving ourselves.

Faith is breakthrough. That is what is special about this story of the 12-year old Jesus, that all this happens in the temple, where anything rebellious is least expected.

Jesus ends boredom in the temple. Jesus makes it exciting. Breaking up trenches leads to tensions and tears and is not simple for everyone. But it is the beginning of something new, something healing and something reconciling.

We should all allow more of this child Jesus in us, show understanding where life is exciting and ideas of parents are not followed. That makes our community and our life exciting and open for the working of God’s spirit!

May the peace of God that is higher than all reason keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


Lord of my hours and my years,

you have given me time in abundance.

Time is behind me

and ahead of me.

Time was mine and will be mine.

I have it from you.

I thank you for every stroke of the clock

and for every morning that I see.

I beseech you

that I may keep a little of this time

clear from commands and duties,

a little for stillness,

a little for play,

a little for people

at the edge of my life

who need me.

I ask you for care

that I do not kill,

drive away or

spoil my time.

Every hour is a land to explore.

I would tear it up with the plough.

I would throw my love,

thoughts and conversations

so fruit grows.

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