The reading from Luke at first glance seems like a story of little consequence. Not much happens and yet there is something about the interaction between Mary and Jesus that is intriguing. In this short story we catch a glimpse of Jesus’s childhood. He is 12 years old and he travels with his family to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. Many people did this so it wasn’t unusual for a large group of extended family and friends to be traveling together and it wasn’t that surprising that Joseph and Mary didn’t notice that Jesus wasn’t with them right away. They’d travelled for a day when they started asking around. “Have you seen Jesus?” I’m guessing that that Mary’s fear increased every time someone said “No.”
Mary and Joseph go back to Jerusalem. They spend three exhausting and stressful days searching for their child. Weary and anxious they finally find him in the temple. Not being able to find your child is big deal. I’m guessing many of us can identify with Mary and Joseph in their frantic search for Jesus. I remember clearly the day Will wandered away from in the jam packed grocery store two days before Christmas. I rushed up and down the aisles searching for him. When I finally found him I was simultaneously relieved and angry. Angry that he didn’t listen. Angry at myself for turning my back on him to get something off the shelf. And he was only lost for 5 minutes.
As parents, God entrusts us with the care of our children. But it is not always an easy calling. There are joyful days like today as we welcome new members of the body of Christ through baptism or concerts or watching them succeed at their newest endeavour. There are the crazy days of making sure that meals are ready and that they get to their activities. There are days spent caring and worrying when they are sick. There are parents who struggle with strained relationships with their children.
For Mary it was much the same. There were times of joy but also terrible days. Think of Mary during Holy Week as Mary watches from the sidelines as terrible things happen to her son and how her heartbreak that day. Did she pray the words of our psalm, “I lift my eyes to the hills, from where will come my help?” (Psalm 121). Maybe she needed someone to reminder her, “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121)
This week many around the world have watched in horror as details about the abduction of over 200 hundred Nigerian girls from their school unfolds. They are being held captive with the threat that they will be sold. The refrain “bring back our girls” is a haunting prayer and cry for help. A senseless crime that has devastated so many families and it seems as though we are helpless to change the situation. It seems especially hard on a day that celebrates mothers to know that there are so many who are anxiously waiting for news about their daughters.
Prayers for our children aren’t new. Mary and Joseph must have said so many as they searched for Jesus. Perhaps a prayer with every step as they looked for him. Finally they find him. Mary says, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you with great anxiety.” (Luke 2:49) Fear, frustration, anger all balled up into two short sentences. And what does Jesus say? Today I imagine he would say, “Well duh Ma. Where did you think I’d be? This is my Father’s house.”
The story comes to no easy resolution – other than to say that Jesus grows in wisdom and years and Mary treasures all these things in her heart. But then that is often the case between parents and children. It is a journey over a lifetime filled with ups and downs.
That journey includes praying for children here and round the world – today especially remember especially our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. But we also need to pray for a world where children are safe every day. Mother’s day has its roots in the hope of better lives for women and families. Voices calling for change inspired the first Mother’s days. Ann Reeves Jarvis began planning “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to improve women’s lives though education in the areas of health and sanitation. Around the same time Julia Ward Howe, the poet who wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic wrote “A Mother’s Day Proclamation” as plea for peace in the world. She writes,
“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears! … We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." http://www.peace.ca/mothersdayproclamation.htm http://www.peace.ca/mothersdayproclamation.htm
The cry for peace and for the safety of all our children is one that continues to echo today. We know Mary’s heartache did not end when she found Jesus in the temple. There were many ups and downs until that last and most terrible day with Jesus on the cross. But we also know Mary witnessed the resurrection – that she knew the promise of new life that is for us all. It is our job as a community faith to live into that promise of new life and to hold high the candle of hope. For those whose heartache is still with them, it is our prayer that they will find that new life. Until the day where we can all dwell in safety and peace, let us as God’s people pray and work for a world made new. Amen.