God of All Learning – Luke 2:41-52
Mary, Joseph, and the pre-teen Jesus make a trip they have made numerous times before, every year as scripture reads, a religious pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the festival of Passover. And Mary and Jospeh leave, as they likely had every year before alongside the hundreds of other pilgrims, assuming their young son was with them, as he had been every year before. But this year was different and after a day Mary and Joseph discover that Jesus is not with them. They search and search, looking and looking for their son without finding him. Then, after three days of searching in Jerusalem they find him where he had been the whole time, in the temple listening, asking questions, and learning. They go up to him astonished at what they see and filled with a mix of relief and frustration. Mary asks, ““Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” And Jesus, their pre-teen son replies with what I picture as slightly sassy words, ““Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”” Mm, did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house. If we look at the original greek, there is actually another way to translate those words. Another way to read Jesus’ last question is, “did you not know that I must be among the things of my Father?” Or even, “did you not know that I must be going about the business of my Father?” And it is that last translation that sticks with me on this back to school Sunday. The image of Jesus sitting, listening, asking questions, and learning for at least four days and Jesus calling what he did going about the business of his Father. And with those words, Christ himself places learning and education squarely in the realm of God’s business.
When we think of God’s business, we might commonly think of grace, love, salvation, faith-y or religious words. Those words are not wrong but God’s business cannot be confined to any one set of human words and expressions. In this scripture, we encounter God’s business is also listening and learning. God’s business is asking questions. God’s business is understanding and wisdom. The house of God is a house of learning and that learning is a part of God’s business and work here on earth. And we, as the body of Christ, as God’s hands and feet, are called to participate in that business too. Learning and education are a part of our calling as Christians and when I close my eyes to imagine what society could look like if it embraced that calling… What our city and state could look like if it embraced that calling… when I imagine the impact on peoples lives, the possibilities are endless.
Imagine a world when we are freed from the burden we place on ourselves to know everything, to always have the answers. Embracing learning and education as a part of life frees us to say I don’t know followed by can you show me or let’s find out together. Embracing lifelong learning frees us from stagnation, opens us to new ideas, and sets a powerful example for our children and grandchildren.
Imagine a world where books are not banned, where all of society empowers, encourages, supports, funds, and uplifts our public school system.
Embracing learning and education is even a part of our DNA as United Methodists. The spread of Methodism throughout the United States is seen not only though the construction of church buildings but of countless Methodist sponsored hospitals and schools. Methodism began in a college when Charles Wesley, wanting to grow spiritually, reached out to his brother John Wesley and they began Holy Clubs at oxford where students would get together daily to read classic literature, read scripture, and support one another in a disciplined and methodical life of study, learning, growth, and action.
God’s business is love, grace, transformation, and also education and learning. In fact, I would go so far as to say that education and learning are love in action and an avenue of grace here on earth.
So this week, may we embrace our holy calling to life-long learning and may we support learning and education in our church and town. This week, may we go about God’s business by encouraging students of all ages to seize learning opportunities as Jesus did so they may grow in wisdom and stature. This week, may we go about God’s business by supporting teachers, staff, admin, and all those that guide our children and youth.
Like Jesus, place yourself amongst God’s business of learning here on earth, and, as a new school year begins, may we not only commit to support the learning of the young people in our lives but may we also commit to learn and grow alongside them. Amen,
Rev. Stefanie Hayes