Where the Heart Is

Where do you feel at home? I mean the place you really want to be? I’m not talking about a city or country. Perhaps I should call it your ‘happy place’. For some people, it is the football stadium with other fans of their home team. They will spend half their income – or more – just following their favourite team from game to game. The football stadium is where they are happy, where they feel at home.

And I don’t know how many performing artists I have heard in an interview say, ‘The moment I cannot step onto the stage, I will cease to exist.’ – or something close to those words. The stage is where they are happy, where they feel at home.

My grandfather loved golf. He played 18 holes of golf almost every day of his life for most of the last 40 years of his life. He even wanted his ashes spread around the 18th hole of his local course. It didn’t happen, of course. The Pro in charge of the course would have nothing of it. But that is where my grandfather’s heart was. The golf course is where he was happy, where he felt at home.

In our scripture reading today, we meet the precocious pre-teen Jesus doing what most teens do, causing their parents a great deal of anxiety. It used to incense me that it took a whole day for Mary and Joseph to notice that Jesus was not with them. Now I take comfort in the fact that even the mother of God’s only son had trouble keeping track of him! But Mary had many children. We often forget that. Jesus was not an only child. He had lots of younger siblings. Going up to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival was a huge community event. The Holy Family would not have been traveling as a threesome. They would have been in a great big extended family and friends caravan. It was probably not unusual for Jesus to knick off and hang out with his cousin, John. So it would have taken awhile for the parents to realise that Jesus wasn’t there. But I can’t imagine the horror they felt. They had been traveling a whole day, so it took probably another day to get back to Jerusalem. Then they searched for 3 days in Jerusalem. Jesus was missing for 5 days!

Have you ever lost a child in a crowd? We lost one for a couple of hours on a crowded beach. It was terrifying. I couldn’t stop moving until that child was found. I can’t imagine not knowing for any longer than that. So I totally get Mary’s chiding Jesus for not telling them that he was staying behind. His response reminds me of something our son said once.

When our older son was 4, he left a LEGO toy under his dad’s pillow. The next morning when he came bounding into our room, his dad pulled out the toy and said, ‘Hey look what I found!’ Our son stood there with his hand on his hip and his brows furrowed. He declared, ‘Daddy, don’t find what isn’t lost!’ Jesus wasn’t lost, but more than that. Mary and Joseph KNEW who he was, and where his heart was. Jesus sort of gives Mary a virtual Gibbs -style head slap, ‘Think Woman!’ You KNOW who I am!’

If my grandfather in his old-age senility had wandered out the door, I would have instinctively known to check the path between his home and the golf course because that is where he would be headed. Mary and Joseph knew better than anyone who Jesus’s father was – they had angel visitations, dreams, wise men from the East… Why didn’t they look in the Temple first?

And really, who wouldn’t want to be in the Temple? By all accounts, it was beautiful. When I read Psalm 84, I am reminded of Durham Cathedral. Every time I visit I marvel at its beauty; I feel the presence of God there; the presence of daily worship. When I see the ushers – volunteers all – I am envious of them! And I hear in my head,

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.

It is peaceful in the Cathedral. It evokes awe and wonder. In the presence of God, you can be yourself. There is no deceiving Him.

I am going to re-read this morning’s scripture. Don’t try to follow in your program, it will confuse you. Just lay the program aside and listen. Let the words wash over you. The Holy Spirit will choose which of these will sink into your soul:

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.

When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travellers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends.

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for her herself, where she may lay her young at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise.

When his parents saw him they were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’

Happy are those whose strength is in you; in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

Jesus said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.

and Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour.
In 2015, where will your heart be? Will your heart long for the courts of the Lord? Why would you not? Why would you not want to stand in the pure Love of the Lord and let His Glory burn away your fears and anxieties? Why would you not want to feel the comfort of His Love? There are many blessings in the Courts of the Lord. May you have a blessed 2015. AMEN


Scripture verses taken from the New Revised Standard Version:  Luke 2:41-52 ; Psalm 84


About Lois Loban Stuckenbruck

Trained as a Ballerina, then completed a BA in Business Adm and English Literature at Milligan College. More recently trained to be a lay pastor (Reader) in the Church of England. Wife of a Biblical Scholar, Mother of three. I'm an American who has also lived many years in England and Germany (currently Munich). I have worked as an Editorial Assistant, Systems Manager (Xerox Stars on Ethernet Network), and several positions in higher education fundraising (Alumni and Development).
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