Myers Park Baptist Church
Charlotte, North Carolina
January 7, 2007
GREW...AND WORE FRINGES"
Text: Luke 2:41-52
Luke makes it clear over and over again in his infancy and
boyhood stories: Jesus was raised in a deeply observant Jewish home.
Mary and Joseph, as last week's text said, "performed everything
according to the law of the Lord." Jesus was circumcised at eight
days, dedicated to the Lord in the temple at forty days. And Luke
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the
favor of God was upon him.
Queens rapper Ali Vegas sings: "I'm from the land of deep soil,
expect the branches to follow." Jesus came from deep soil.
Now Jesus is twelve and his parents are still doing everything
commanded by God. "Every year" they went to Jerusalem for Passover.
This year "as usual, by custom" they go again. Jesus is with them,
one year away from his bar mitzvah; but as we shall see, he's
already ready for it, more than ready for it.
Today's text ends:
"And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in divine and
human favor." "Jesus grew up...and wore fringes." Today in Jewish
worship the rabbi wears fringes, in the form of a tallit, or
prayer shawl, with fringes on each end. It's where the fringes on
our stoles come from. In Jesus' day the rabbis and all faithful
Israelite men wore fringes on their garments. The fringes reminded
them of the commandments of the Lord, all 613. Jesus wore fringes.
It's what the Gospels describe when they speak about the "hem" of
Jesus' garment. Remember the woman who came to be healed and wanted
to touch just the "hem" of his garment? Those were his fringes
(Matthew 9:20). Mark 6:56 records that everywhere he went people who
wanted healing begged to touch the fringe of his garment. Jesus was
a deeply observant Jewish man. He wore fringes. That's how he was
raised. That's who he was.
Luke gives us the only glimpse we have of Jesus as a boy, and
it's quite a story.
He and his parents have traveled to Jerusalem for Passover, a
sixty-five-mile, two day's journey on foot each way. It was not
unusual for Jerusalem to be packed with a million people on such a
Practically the whole village traveled together in a village
caravan. Now it was time to return. Mary and Joseph thought Jesus
was playing with his friends. That evening, twenty or so miles from
Jerusalem, as they settled down for the evening, they discovered to
their terror that Jesus was not with them. He had stayed back in
It's like the movie Home Alone, where the family and all
the relatives wake up late and rush to the airport for a European
vacation at Christmas - - and leave their son sleeping in his
upstairs bed cove.
It's not hard to understand how it happened. The village traveled
together. As the African proverb says, "It takes a village to raise
a child." It also takes a village to lose one.
Can you imagine the panic of the parents? Jesus alone in a city
of a million people. They had to wait out the night to begin the
day's journey back to Jerusalem. When they got there they searched
into the night without luck. It was the next day, the third day,
when they found him...in the temple, sitting with the teachers, in
good rabbinic fashion listening and asking questions, and astounding
them with his wisdom and answers.
When they saw him they were beside themselves with all the
emotions you'd have been feeling: Joy, relief, anger, guilt. When
Mary rushed to him she said, "Child, why have you treated us like
this? Your father and I have been worried sick!" - - That's my
Southern Revised Translation of the Greek.
Jesus' response shows a young man in full-tilt individuation.
Why were you searching for me?
Did you not know I must be in my Father's house?
That is, his heavenly Father's house. It can also be
translated, "Did you not know I must be about my Father's work?"
Was Jesus saying something like: "When I was forty days old you
brought me here and dedicated me to the Lord. Where else would I
Professor Frank Tupper speaks about what he calls "mediated
memory." We tell our children stories which they were too young to
remember at the time but which now in the telling become part of
their memory bank. It's an important part of the spiritual nurture
of our children:
"When you were two months old we dedicated you in church, just
like your sister is being dedicated today.... You don't remember but
on your first Christmas snow was on the ground and you were baby
Jesus in the Tableau.... One day your dad and I got home from church
in our separate cars. He thought I had brought you home; I
thought he had brought you home. You were back at church in
the nursery, in Mrs. Jennings' arms, she wondering where in the
world we were."
Jesus had been told his life had begun in a miraculous way, and
that he had been dedicated to God in the temple when he was forty
days old. Where else would they find him but here? "Did you not know
I must be about my Father's business? In my Father's house?"
Teenagers out there, let me warn you. If you creep into the house
at 2 a.m., hours after curfew, and your parents meet you at the door
wild with upset and relief, and they say, "Child, why did you do
this to us? We were worried sick!" Jesus' line will not work.
People always ask, "Why do we not hear of Jesus between this
episode at twelve and his baptism at thirty?" Cheryl Patterson has
an answer: Because he was grounded for eighteen years!
The text gives us another important glimpse or two. It says Mary
and Joseph "did not understand" what Jesus was trying to tell
them. How could they? We can never know all that's going on inside
our children, these unique creations of God with their own sacred
And the text says again, "Mary treasured, or kept, all these
things in her heart" (Luke 2:51). She had to go deep to discover
best how to raise this special child. All our children are special
children. We all have to go deep.
And the text says, lest we think Jesus always acted like
this: "And he returned with Mary and Joseph and was obedient to
What we shall see is that he grew up with a deep sense of his
Abba's love for him and delight in him. And he grew up with a
growing sense of a divine "must" - - a divine necessity burning in
his bones to be about God's work in the world. He said once, "My
food is to do the will of the One who sent me." I must be about my
I would pray the same for us here today raised in the tradition
of Jesus: That we have a deep sense of God's delight in us, and a
deep sense of being about God's work, of our calling, our mission.
I got a book at Christmas made up of photographs of church signs
from all over America. You know, the kind with "sayings" put up on
the boards. Some tacky, some corny, some funny, some ominous - -
like the one that said, "Check Up Before You Check Out."
There was one I particularly liked:
If God Had a Refrigerator Your Picture Would Be On It!
I love the thought, Your picture is on God's refrigerator!
Another had what I think was an intentionally misspelled word:
"God Is Not Finised With Us Yet!" The "h" left out of finished! No,
God is not finished with us yet, or with the world.
John Westerhoff says that there are four things we need to do to
raise our children in the faith:
1) To tell and retell the biblical story to them so it becomes
our story. (Walter Brueggemann says: "The Bible is...an open,
artistic, imaginative narrative of God's staggering care for the
world, that will feed and nurture into obedience.")
2) To go to worship together and experience the great liturgy of
the faith together. What if Jesus had never gone to the temple
before he was twelve?
3) To talk with our children about their experiences of God, and
ours. As Robert Coles says: "Our children are soul-full in ways that
they themselves reveal." How beautiful are those moments of
4) To do faithful acts of service and witness together. Like our
Saturday of Service last October when 167 of us, young and old, many
in families, went out on mission together in the community.
It's all part of growing in wisdom and in stature and in favor
with God with those around us.
Anne Lamott's preacher, a tall African-American woman named
Veronica, tells the story of when she was seven.
Her best friend got lost. The little girl ran up and down the
streets of her town but couldn't find any landmarks to give her
directions home. Finally, a policewoman stopped to help and put her
in the front seat of her police car. They drove around looking until
she saw her church. She pointed to it and said to the policewoman:
You could let me out now. There is my church, and I can always
find my way home from here.
Jesus couldn't have said it better.