Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters, the text for this morning’s sermon comes from the gospel reading. You know, when your baby gets a little bit bigger, you’re going to be coaxing out of it, “Say mama. Say mama.” And he’s going to say, “Say dada. Say dada.” You and I remember the first words out of the babies’ lips of our own children. Those things they say, we do marvel at, indeed.
In this morning’s gospel reading, a very important statement is made. The first ever recorded words of our Lord in all of Scripture are these words to His parents in the hearing of those in the temple. Those are His first ever recorded words. Now a parent can hear mumblings from a child and go, “See, he said dada. She said dad. I know she did.” You understand, though it may be murmurings.
Sadly, in this morning’s gospel reading, Jesus spoke very clearly, succinctly, to the point, and His own flesh-and-blood mother and His foster father did not understand what was said. The text said very clearly, “And they did not understand the saying that He spoke to them.” Which was what saying? Very clearly, He said, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”
Now you and I can read that on this side of that event and say, “Well of course, He is affirming the fact He is the Son of God in the flesh. He’s calling God, the Father of all, to be His Father and He’s calling the temple to be His Father’s house, where He, the Son of the Father, the Son of God, is making Himself known.” Seems obvious to you and to me.
Yet Joseph and Mary, who heard these words, are believers like you and me. They are in heaven, rejoicing with all the saints who have preceded them in the faith and with those who have followed them. They are believers and yet they did not understand the wisdom flowing from the lips of their Lord…just like you and I struggle with the wisdom of God as well. God reveals His wisdom or doesn’t reveal it fully, yet God’s wisdom is being done in us, among us, through us, and to us. Yet we still question and wonder why.
It’s interesting. Whenever anybody encounters godly wisdom, they’re attracted by it. They are very attracted by it. They’re intrigued by it and they want to hear more. Sadly, the more they hear, the more of them fall away. Doesn’t seem like very good wisdom to me if the more people hear about this godly wisdom, the more fall away. Yet look at the Old Testament reading. King Solomon, who was the wisest man in the world … the one thing he could pray for and he prayed for wisdom and he was given it. Much of his wisdom is recorded in the book of Proverbs, in Ecclesiastes, and elsewhere.
This wisdom attracted monarchs from around the world who traveled there to listen. It attracted them and it intrigued them and yet there was a phrase in Solomon’s wisdom that drove them away. That phrase in Solomon’s wisdom was this phrase right here: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” The reason it drove them away is it implied a faith relationship with the God who brings godly wisdom.
Jesus’ wisdom attracted thousands, tens of thousands, for He fed tens of thousands, did He not? They listened to Him preach, intrigued and attracted to such godly wisdom. Yet just as He was misunderstood by His own parents, so was He misunderstood by most of the tens of thousands who heard Him and were fed by Him, for they are a part of the crowd that shouted, “Crucify! Crucify Him!” These teachers of the Law in the temple who heard this twelve-year-old … and the text said they were astonished or amazed at His teaching … were a part of the same cronies who said, “He blasphemes God for He considers Himself to be equal with God. Crucify Him!”
You and I have to scratch our heads at this wisdom of God. We understand wisdom because wisdom, if done properly, results in a very predictable result. That’s why we get all of these whimsical sayings we throw about. “A penny saved is a penny earned,” and so on.
Godly wisdom is markedly different than worldly wisdom. Godly wisdom that Jesus clung to and proclaimed and revealed Himself as Wisdom incarnate, led to His betrayal. Worldly wisdom circumvents such things and prevents such things because it’s worldly wisdom, but godly wisdom is different. Godly wisdom He embraced and promoted brought His own betrayal. Godly wisdom lived out in the life of our Lord Jesus brought upon Himself suffering.
Worldly wisdom will do all it can in order to prevent the obedient one to such wisdom from having that suffering in their life, but godly wisdom brought our Lord suffering. Godly wisdom resulted in His own death. That’s the kind of wisdom that drove away so many who came into contact with Solomon’s wisdom. That’s the kind of wisdom that drove away the doctors of the Law who heard Him speak in the temple at twelve years old. That’s the kind of wisdom that kept the tens of thousands who heard him preach, who were fed by Him, not to embrace it by faith.
It’s like the seed and the sower. The seed fell along the path and was scooped up; fell among the shallow soil, sprang up, died, fell among the thorns and the thistles and were choked and died; and some fell among good soil and produced a crop. That’s godly wisdom and it makes no rational sense to you and to me.
In my 20-plus years of confirming both youth and adults, the hundreds of youth and adults whom I have confirme … I can assure you I would love to admit this, but I cannot … the vast majority of them are not still in the church today. Is that because I am teaching something that’s wrong? Is that because that which you and I cling to is something a scant off? Or is that because godly wisdom does drive away some, but not all?
You are living proof of that right now, sitting in the pew. You are living proof that God drew you into the faith with difficult things He speaks to us and reveals to us. Whether He speaks to us and reveals to us answers to questions or whether He is silent to the questions you and I cry out to Him on a regular basis … “Why, oh Lord?” … you still are drawn back by the same revealed God, wisdom God brings to you. That’s remarkable indeed, is it not?
There is nothing you and I can change in our presentation of the truth of God’s wisdom, but note this: if tens of thousands did not remain with Jesus and the wisdom of God, which is the fear of the Lord, then should you and I be so upset and amazed that many people here can fall away? Really, we ought to be marveling that you and I have been kept in this faith, which so many fall away from, and we should be confident that as we proclaim it, people will believe.
We don’t have to change the message. We don’t have to alter the presentation. It is truth and wisdom. If our Lord had people who heard and were marveling at it and yet turned their back on it, so there will be people in your life who will break your heart, who hear and walk away from it, and mind you, there will be people in your life who hear and embrace it as you have.
Why have you and I embraced it? That is a miracle indeed. When Mary ponders these things in her heart, that’s part of her pondering, to come to grips with the fact that she, who did not understand and yet believes, in spite of her inability to understand. Is that not your and my life in Christ? Many things that occur to us, in us, through us, and unto us we do not understand and yet at the selfsame time of not understanding the why, we believe in and cry out to, “Lord, hear my prayer.” We call Him Father and we cannot prove and understand necessarily all why.
At the front of your bulletin, there is the collect of the week. Pastor prayed that collect of the day, but like always, sometimes with all the things going on in the church, from a baptism to confession and everything, we kind of miss it. Look again at it. Let this be your prayer and my prayer for the week.
There are two parts to every collect. There is a confession of your faith and what you believe and there is a request from God you wish to be done to you. The confession of faith of which you and I believe is the first part of that prayer. “You have poured into our hearts, the true Light of Your incarnate Word.” That’s a statement of faith. You are acknowledging God. “You have done this to me,” just as you did it to your little girl there, lying asleep. “You have poured into our hearts, oh Lord, this faith, trust of the Light of Your incarnate Word.”
Now here’s the request we are praying. It’s a real simple one and yet, very profound. “Grant that this life may shine forth in our lives.” What else could we want? What more could be done by God to impact the world than that we shine forth the light God has poured into our hearts? Does the shining forth depend upon you? No, it’s the Light’s job to shine. The Light is in you. God is an amazing God and His wisdom is beyond understanding for many of us, but we are astonished at what He proclaims to us regularly, people of such feeble understanding as we.
As Paul said so clearly to the Ephesians, “We have been predestined in Him. We have been called to be His children.” Wow, that’s wisdom revealed to us, and we keep coming back here to these verdant, green pastures to feed upon that wisdom and to be succored by such grace.
In the name of Him who has revealed Himself to you as the Light of the World and who shines forth in you and through you, in spite of you. Amen.