Dec26SunThe Last Radio Sermon December 26, 2021 by Sebastian Meadows-Helmer
[Ironically, the Sunday Dec. 26th, 2021 service, which was supposed to be the final service broadcast on radio via FaithFM, due to technical problems at FaithFM, never made it to air.]
Many of you may know the popular children’s puzzle book series “Where’s Waldo?” “The books consist of a series of detailed illustrations depicting dozens or more people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. Readers are challenged to find a character named Waldo hidden in the group.” He has glasses, a hat and a red and white striped sweater.
Todays’ Gospel text could easily be illustrated in a “Where’s Waldo” style, set in post-Passover ancient Jerusalem with busy market stalls,
Roman soldiers parading up and down,
crowds milling about, and people celebrating, and meeting up with relatives they hadn’t seen in a long time.
You could call this illustration “where’s Jesus?”
Can you find Jesus in the crowd?
Our story describes Jesus, a 12 year-old boy, a child who had grown and become strong, was filled with wisdom, and the favour of God.
Jesus grew up in a typical Jewish - Israelite home.
His parents were devout and followed the applicable laws.
His parents, as was mandatory, did the pilgrimage every year to Jerusalem for the great feast of the Passover,
which commemorated the rescue from Egyptian slavery.
Jesus was 12 years old, so he would have finally gotten instruction in the law and was old enough to come along for the trip for the first time.
The festival ended, but Jesus stayed behind and in perhaps
a little teenage rebelliousness, didn’t tell his parents.
He asserted his independence for the first time,
and this is what he would do later in his ministry,
namely to claim that one’s first allegiance is to God, and to God’s family, and one’s earthly family comes second.
His parents assume he is with the large group of travellers, relatives and friends that had become close over the holidays,
and so they don’t worry too much, but at the end of the day,
they start looking in earnest and then realize.
Oh my God. Jesus is lost.
Every parent’s nightmare.
I got lost once when I was a child.
I was about 4 years old and I believe it was in the Christmas rush season,
at the Cavendish Mall in Cote St Luc in Montreal.
A lot of people were at the mall and it was super busy…as it probably was a December weekend.
I had stopped by a store window to look in and lost my mother’s hand for a second.
I continued walking and saw another woman with a skirt and boots that looked familiar and walked a few paces and then reached up for her hand, and then realized…hey, that’s not my mother!
I panicked and started running, screaming and yelling to a quieter part of the mall, where I sat down on a bench beside an older man, sobbing.
The man asked my name and asked if I was lost, and I said yes.
I’m not quite sure what happened next,
but I guess he told me to stay put as he got security, and an announcement came over the speakers, and eventually,
what seemed like an eternity, I was reunited with my parents.
Definitely a somewhat frightening experience, that I remember to this day.
To be surrounded by crowds of people but to be completely lost.
I knew where I was, but I didn’t know where my parents were,
and they didn’t know where I was.
Jesus too was lost, well at least his parents had lost him,
although he himself apparently did not feel lost himself.
When his parents found him after 3 days searching in Jerusalem,
they discovered him in the temple sitting among teachers, listening, and asking questions.
I have a reporduction of a painting of the event leaning against the lectern. It is a popular painting often found in Sunday school Classrooms.
That is, just as young Jesus was to be seen learning and engaging his faith in the House of God, so young people of the church were to learn and engage their faith in the House of God too.
One thing I wonder is why this scene was not painted up on the ceiling as a follow-up to the presentation in the temple in the 4th panel. Instead they depicted a non-Biblical scene of Jesus rejecting his parents and taking up his cross. In that spot one would have expected the scene of the 12 year-old in the temple. Strange.
So Jesus was lost, but now he is found!
Demonstrating some Positive parenting, Mary didn’t scold Jesus.
But the parents were astonished,
and reminded him how worried they were.
“We looked for you everywhere”…but not in the first place you should have looked for him right?
Isn’t this the child who when born was announced by angels,
worshipped by shepherds and magi from the East?
Shouldn’t you have looked first in the temple?
Be that as it may, we hear Jesus’ first words:
Why were you searching for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s House?
How can you be so dumb, mom? Punctuated with an eye-roll, perhaps.
Oh, teenaged Jesus.
I find it very fitting that we have this theme of “Where’s Jesus?” on the last Sunday broadcast by radio here at St. Matthews after almost 92 years.
The very first Radio broadcast of the Golden Hour occurred on the 23rd of February, 1930.
The sermon on that Sunday, by Pastor John Schmieder (who had been already pastor at St. Matthews for almost12 years) was on the parable of the sower and the seed.
In the introduction to the sermon,
Schmieder mentioned that now the seed of God’s word would not only be sown to the gathered assembly in the pews,
but far beyond the quote “fenced-in field” of the congregation.
He expressed the hope that this Word, transmitted by the airwaves,
would bear fruit wherever a lonely, sick, and hurting human heart was ready to receive it.”
In one way, the question the people of St. Matthews and Pastor Schmieder wrestled with
when deciding to embark on the journey of radio ministry over 90 years ago was this:
where can Jesus be found?
Can Jesus only be found on Sunday mornings in a church building?
Or can Jesus be found in the most astounding places?
Pastor Schmieder was originally a little afraid that the sacred service would be profaned by being listened to in bars or other unsavoury establishments, but he soon changed his mind and realized the possibilities of preaching to a large and broad audience,
far beyond the pews.
Jesus could be found anywhere, was the realization of radio ministry…
He could be found miles away, from Hamilton to Ayton,
or as far as those early radio signals could travel.
These days, via the internet, one could listen to the Golden Hour and find Jesus on a beach in Florida, or in Germany, or theoretically on the International Space Station.
You see while the story of teenage Jesus reminds us that a primary place to find Jesus was in the temple, in God’s house,
which makes total sense because he was the Son of God,
it doesn’t mean that Jesus only spent his time in the temple, 24/7, his whole life.
No, Jesus went to parties, went on walks, climbed mountains,
went on boat rides, and visited people.
Jesus could be found anywhere.
And this applies as much to Jesus then, as Jesus now.
As we reflect on the end of radio ministry here at St. Matthews,
a few thoughts stand out.
Much has changed for radio technology in the last 90 years.
In 1930, radio was a relatively new technology, with only about 40% of households owning one radio.
It wasn’t until 1950 that there was basically at least one radio in every household.
Many larger churches began radio ministry in the 30s through the 50s,
but by now most have switched to internet ministry.
Benton Street Baptist, which was an inspiration for St. Matthews to begin radio ministry (they started a half-year earlier than us),
ceased their broadcasting years ago.
We were fortunate at the beginning of the pandemic to have had an existing radio ministry and so we didn’t miss a single Sunday service.
We also realized that although our building was closed, Jesus could still be found where we were gathered by 2 or 3, virtually.
The Radio Golden Hour played an important role in remembering out loud our loved ones’s names, as well as reaching an audience many times larger than could ever fit in our building,
and even reaching those people who would never darken the door of a Lutheran Church.
The Radio Golden Hour, or Kirche Daheim (Church at Home as it was originally called in its first nine years of broadcasting in German) of course had as its main role the bringing of church to the shut-ins and the elderly who could no longer attend.
We must lament that for a number of our elderly members who are not online, that their connection to our worshipping congregation is now cut off.
We need to reach out to them and assist where possible.
We also must give thanks for all those who contributed to radio ministry at St. Matthews over the past 91 1/2 years: the Radio Committees, sponsors, sponsorship coordinators and radio operators,
as well as our radio broadcast partners.
But as we go into this new year without our radio ministry,
it’s a good time to take stock of our situation, of our priorities,
and realize that we did things the way we did them, for as long as they worked, but now, there is room for something new.
The mission of the St. Matthews brotherhood,
which began the radio ministry,
remains as relevant as ever for our congregation:
“to bear witness to Christ in every way, to all whom we can reach.”
Let us remember that while Jesus can be found in church and temple,
He can be found in many unsuspecting places as well,
kind of like Where’s Waldo.
If our ears, eyes and hearts are open, we too might be able to exclaim like Jesus’ parents: Jesus, there you are!
We’ve been searching for you and now we have found you!