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January 23, 2004
Each Friday's eMo is a meditation on the lectionary texts for the upcoming Sunday's worship. As with all the eMos, preachers and teachers are welcome to borrow, with the usual attribution.


"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

Jesus as a teenager, we don't know: we see him at twelve years of age, teaching his elders in the temple. The gospel writer who reports this incident tells us that the elders were impressed and very moved. Maybe. It is also possible they found his precocity a little hard to take. We don't know.

But this place, Nazareth, is the place where Jesus was a teenager. He grew up here and they know His folks. This is His synagogue. They knew Him when he was fourteen, and fifteen, and seventeen. Of course, those ages meant something different in those days: to us, seventeen is still a kid, but to them, it was a grown man. Still, whenever the awkward years of adolescence were in those days, those people saw them in Jesus.

I hope your teenaged years were the best time of your life, like people always say they are. But maybe they weren't. Maybe they were just awful: times when you didn't ever know what to do, when everything you did seemed to make you look stupid, when you were embarrassed almost all the time.

When everyone but you seemed poised and self-confident, when everyone but you seemed to have love in life, to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, to be popular.

When you were too tall or too short, too fat, too skinny, flat on top when all the other girls were curvaceous, still a treble when all the other guys were manly baritones, not mature-looking, when everyone else looked like a movie star. Everyone.

When you fought with your parents, and really believed sometimes that they didn't love you, that all they wanted was to keep you from having any fun.

When you wanted desperately to be free, but didn't have any money of your own, or a job or a car or any choice but to live where people didn't understand you or value you. Trapped. Your parents had to take you places because you couldn't take yourself. You were a prisoner.

Jesus comes to preach deliverance in the place where He was a teenager. Maybe He knew something about needing deliverance. I know we think He was unnaturally good as a child and didn't cry when He was a baby, but another scenario is possible: perhaps His life was a struggle, like ours. Perhaps it was hard, coming to terms with who He was. Perhaps His parents didn't understand Him -- there is a glimmer of that in the scolding His mother gives Him when He is twelve. Perhaps His contemporaries didn't, either. We certainly don't. Perhaps growing up was hard for Jesus.

To think that might be true brings tears to my eyes, even after all these years. It was hard for me. I wouldn't be young again for a million dollars. Not for a billion. It is hard now, for some of the young people I love. Hard. Scary. Angry-making. Is it possible that Christ knows all about this pain? Is it possible that He has experienced it? That the crosses teenagers carry are known in the cross Jesus carries? If that were true, I would kneel at the foot of the cross and bathe it with my tears.

And it is. It is true. He does know. I can kneel there and weep, if I need to. Anybody can.

Sometimes just about the only good thing you can say about being young is that it goes away. You grow up. You do find the power you need, and the freedom you crave, and you do figure out how to have it safely. You do figure out who you are. You do come to understand that people love you, and have always loved you, that they have limitations as you do, and that most of them do the best they can within them.

What a storm it can be. We are lucky, some of us, to emerge alive. Liberty. Release. Acceptable. At last.

A Prayer for Young Persons

God our Father, you see your children growing up in an unsteady and confusing world; Show them that your ways give more life than the ways of the world, and that following you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you, and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
Book of Common Prayer, p. 829
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