The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:
s152g15   Christmass 1  27/12/2015

‘Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?’  Luke 2:49

It is interesting, that the old versions of scripture linger still.   So the King James Version of this text reads ‘How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?’.    The phrase in Greek is ἐν τοῖς τοῦ πατρός μου - the things of my Father.   Our translation answers the geographical question: Where is Jesus?, the Temple - but misses the existential question: What is Jesus doing?   The word for ‘house’ in Greek is οίκος and does not appear in this text.

If we were to believe the evangelicals, the Father’s business is not in the Temple but in the market-place spreading the good news of Jesus - trying to convert the masses.   However this also jars for high church people, where the business of the Temple is worship, not dialogue about faith.   This is more associated with synagogue and catechetical classes.

Which leads me to think how this is one of Luke’s special gifts to us, for it is in Luke that we are given the detail of the dialogue between Jesus and orthodoxy, to which I will return shortly.

It is also interesting to me that we are told that those amongst whom he sat were impressed with Jesus’ answers when earlier we are told that he was listening to the teachers and asking them questions.   I still remember being told that: ‘the only silly question is the one you don’t ask!’   But there is such a thing as an intelligent question, not just an intelligent answer.   Three good questions are: ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? .. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? .. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you?’  (1)

To return to my statement about Luke’s special gift to us; we know that Matthew views Jesus as fulfilling the law of Moses (2), that Mark has little of Jesus’ teaching at all, and that John’s contribution is to put Jesus into a broader perspective - the light of the world (3) and the word made flesh. (4)

But Luke’s contribution is parables like the prodigal son (5) and the good Samaritan (6) - and these actually are both critiques of religion.  So Luke tells us that right at the earliest opportunity, when Jesus was just a youth, he engaged in this dialogue with orthodoxy.

It is Luke who has the aged Simeon and Anna recognising in the baby Jesus something special (7), yet their testimony is not shared by their younger colleagues.   It is Luke who informs us of the reason those with whom Jesus had worshipped all his life turned on him and wanted him dead.  ‘Elijah was sent to .. a widow at Zarephath in Sidon .. (and) .. the prophet Elisha .. cleansed .. Naaman the Syrian.’  (8)   Suddenly the whole of Luke’s gospel becomes a dialogue about orthodoxy and faith.   And of course this dialogue continued in the early church with the persecution of Paul as the orthodox drive him out of town after town, from Jerusalem to Rome as Luke chronicles in the book of Acts (9).   Paul is driven to conclude: ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.   For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.’  (10)   These are not those who express their intimate affections with someone of the same gender; it is those who condemn and persecute others in the name of the divine.

And Luke is also known as ‘the beloved physician’ (11) and this highlights the truth that if affirmation and inclusion are not at the heart of our faith, any personal healing is inevitably transitory.   So the healing of the nations (12) goes hand in hand with a critique of orthodoxy when this has become exclusive and condemnatory.

The business of the Father is the critique of exclusivism and condemnation in the name of the divine, and this must be at the heart of the message of the church.   If our message is the uncritical expansion of the church at the expense of other people and other expressions of faith, then we need to hear the gospel of Luke and his message of God’s unconditional love for all people.   Indeed it is the message of the unconditional love of God for all people from which healing flows, as I noted in my sermon for Advent 4. (13)

And as I have written previously the dialogue Jesus engages in is not to get the Pharisees to agree with the Sadducees or vice versa, this is a fool’s errand and a wild goose chase if ever there was one. (14)  The dialogue Jesus engages in, as it was for the prophets before him, is to open all who would claim to love God to the existence of others.   If we as a church are not doing this then we can’t claim to be christians, nor are we heralding the kingdom of God.   If we as Church are just another way for people to consider themselves different from others, we remain a force opposed to God and of no earthly use to society.

If we as church who claim to be lead by the spirit of God are of no earthly use to society, then do we not proclaim a god of no earthly use to society either?

1.  Luke 6:32-34
2.  Matthew 5:17
3.  John 8:12
4.  John 6:51
5.  Luke 15:11f
6.  Luke 10:29f
7.  Luke 2:25-38
8.  Luke 4:26-27
9.   Acts 9:23 etc
10.  Romans 1:18-19
11.  Colossians 4:14
12.  Revelation 22:2