PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you, as a living sacrifice
Jesus, I belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Luke 2:43–48 (NIV)
After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
I don’t mean to make light of this, but it feels to me like the modern-day equivalent of losing a child at a theme park at Disney World. It’s the emotional roller coaster of anxiety you never want to ride. Once when I was a youth pastor on a caravan trip across the country with a bunch of teenagers, I somehow left a kid behind at a rest stop. We went for miles before it hit us. Said kid will remain nameless to protect the identity of the parents and the former youth pastor. ;0)
What got into Jesus? I suspect what was already in him—the untainted image of God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit after all. The Son of God, the one greater than the temple of God, was visiting the temple for what looks to be the second time in his short life (twelve years later). This was the Bar Mitzvah tour. After his last decade of learning the things of God at home and synagogue, it was time to enter into phase two.
Let’s call phase one the learning phase. Let’s call phase two the liminal phase. The liminal phase is a long lingering in the great threshold of life—not between childhood and adulthood—but between learning and launching, bridging from play to purpose. Unfortunately, our culture has bought into the myth of adolescence—an ever lengthening period of relatively purposeless (and increasingly perilous) time given largely to TikTok, video games, endless streaming entertainment.
I want us to behold something really special in this closing scene with Jesus as I believe it holds enormous wisdom for our time; not only for our teenagers but for us all. I believe it is a glimpse of a kingdom solution to a truly wicked problem. The ever-lengthening period between childhood and adulthood is the problem and it is becoming increasingly wicked—evidenced by the highest rate of teen suicide in recorded history. The solution is spiritual parenting. I like to call it kingdom parenting.
After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
Like most twelve year olds, Jesus was looking for people beyond parents; not instead of his parents but in addition to his parents. He was looking for those people who were neither parents nor friends but wore the hat of elder—call them spiritual parents or even kingdom parents.1
This scene of Jesus in the temple courts is a powerful picture of this kind of parenting—engaging in adult conversation, listening and asking questions, testing insights, and pondering mysteries. Kingdom parenting is non-biological parents building relationships with young people for the purpose of helping raise them up into their real life; walking with them through the long, liminal phase of being birthed into God’s purposes for their life.
Every parent (and grandparent) needs to be investing in this way in other peoples’ children walking through this long, liminal phase of life. And for those married with no children as well as singles, (young and old, widowed or otherwise) you are in a prime place to make such investments. And let’s be clear, this is not something that happens primarily at church.2
We need to teach, train, and equip on spiritual parenting at church as it is a lost art, but this work largely happens in the warp and woof of everyday life. As a parent of four (22, 20, 18, 17), I can’t possibly express to you how much I need and treasure this kind of help with my wonderful sons and daughters and so appreciate those coming alongside us in this fashion. I certainly enjoyed it in spades in my own growing up.
Our children are growing up more and more influenced by the social media culture and less and less influenced by the deep wisdom of mature adults surrounding them. They are becoming ensnared in the “influencer” culture which aspires to make them into its image. In other words, the core value of the emerging adults of our time is to become “well-known” (i.e., famous). The core value of Jesus and his kingdom is for our children to be “known-well.”
It is a fascinating sight to behold as Jesus responds to his frantic parents,
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
It’s right there hiding in plain sight. Jesus longs to be “known-well.” “Didn’t you know,” he asks, which is another way of saying, “You know me.” Now note their response:
But they did not understand what he was saying to them (Luke 2:50).
Any parent knows when their children enter into this liminal phase, they begin to rapidly lose influence. I’ve heard it described as, “the alien abduction phase,” as in, “where did my child go?” It’s why it takes a kingdom to raise one. This means a host of kingdom parents must arise.
It’s why we keep saying, “Wake up sleepers, and rise from the dead! And Christ will shine on you!”
Our Father, we keep praying that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know you better, that I might become truly humble; which is to awaken to the person you imagined when you fashioned my inmost being and that I might rise up into the real life for which you created me. Forgetting what is past, I press on toward this high calling. But for today, let me find myself next to these spiritual parent types in the temple, these rabbis who invested in the boy Jesus (and he them). Show me in this scene an inspiring glimpse of how I might invest my life in a younger person. I want to live a consecrated life of simple obedience and extravagant love. Show me the next small thing. Come Holy Spirit, I am ready to move with you. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.
Can you recall adults who invested their lives into you in a kingdom of God kind of way when you were young? Can you recall times or seasons in your life where you have made this kind of investment in younger people/emerging adults? How about right now? Would love to hear some stories we might share on a Saturday here.
The hymn today is an old and simple one you probably know but if not you will pick it up quickly. It is “Lord Prepare me to be a Sanctuary.” We will sing it through a few times.
P.S. Prayer and Fasting for Life and Awakening Course
Let me hear from you of your interest in a possible course with me—Prayer and Fasting for Life and Awakening. Details and One Minute Survey Here.
AND ONE MORE THING . . .
This whole notion of kingdom/spiritual parenting is another field Seedbed is beginning to survey for major investment in the years ahead. We are fishing the deep waters for awakening patrons and partners. Of course that doesn’t necessarily translate to “deep pockets” (though I know that million dollar man or woman is out there). It is the deep-hearted faith we are in search of. There is a very bold season of awakening work ahead of us. Start praying with us for the way ahead.
NOTES FOR ADDITIONAL REFLECTION AND STUDY
1. This is becoming a place of deep exploration in our work with Seedbed. We are discerning a kingdom assignment to call forth and equip a generation of mature adults to come alongside emerging youth and adults. Because this has largely been lost in our culture and in our churches, it means we are back at a first generation challenge. Once it becomes normed again, it will naturally pass onward. This is part of a growing body of awakening work focusing on the emerging adults of our time. It includes publishing teaching and training resources, coming alongside local churches who sense and share the same calling, and in as many ways as possible raising a banner of awakening over generation Z, Alpha, and as noted last week, Beta, and when the time comes, Charlie.
2. Over the past fifty years or so the primary expression of this has been for adults to become volunteers in the youth ministry at church. While this is a good thing, we must get well beyond it in the fifty years to come. Much more to say on this front for a later time.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt