The Gospels are not meant to be read, memorized, or even understood. They are meant to be experienced. Allow me to share with you how I experienced one Gospel story--the story of the boy Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)--on a morning commute.
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.
Whenever I take the train in the morning, I follow a particular routine: I wake up, take a shower, make my lunch, pack my bag, and check that I have my 10-ride ticket, Ventra card, and cell phone. My wife Cathy will then drop me off at the train station, I'll buy my coffee and a doughnut and then wait on the platform for the train to come.
When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.
But this past Monday, my routine went to hell. I overslept and lingered too long in the shower (which is always a temptation on a cold morning). I rushed frantically around the house, trying to make up the time I had wasted. The possibility that I would miss the train had become a real possibility, and I felt myself starting to panic.
Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends.
I got in the car and realized that I had forgotten my wallet. I dashed back into the house, grabbed my wallet, and bolted back to the car. I quickly checked to make sure that I had my train ticket.
When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
By now I had lost my shit. Any cushion built into my morning routine had been wasted. Traffic sucked. We hit every red light along the way. Cathy asked me a question. "I don't have time to think about that now!" I snapped. "Just get me to the goddamned train!"
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.
She dropped me off at the station. As I got out of the car, I spilled the change I was going to use to buy my coffee into the gutter. I picked it up, and as I grabbed my bag from the back seat, I dropped my hat in a puddle. "You have got to be fucking kidding me," I grumbled. "Relax," Cathy said. "The train isn't here yet, you still have plenty of time." I dismissed her reassurance. I sprinted into the train station. It was crowded--nobody wanted to wait in the cold.
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.”
I pushed my way to the coffee stand. The barista greeted me cheerfully. I slammed my money on the counter, she poured me a cup of coffee, I grabbed it and marched out onto the platform. I began to pray:
"Seriously, God. I don't need this shit today. I'm stressed out enough as it is. All I want is to get to the train and enjoy my coffee on the quiet car. It's not like I'm asking for a miracle. I'm just asking that you give me a fucking break."
He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
I remembered Jesus' words to his parents. They must have freaked out, not unlike me. And just as he reassured them, Jesus reassured me: he is indeed in his Father's house; my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19)--Jesus resides in me! But in my frustration of the morning, I lost sight of Jesus' presence in my heart. I had no sense of his joy, peace, or love.
I closed my eyes and sipped my coffee. I cradled the warmth of the cup. I savored its aroma. I smiled in gratitude. As the train approached, I noticed that my frustration and anger had drifted away, and I noticed the joy, peace, and love that had always been there.
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.
I remembered this experience for the rest of the day. I kept in mind that no matter how busy I might be, no matter how frustrated I might get when things don't go my way, I must always remember that the peace of Christ always dwells in my heart.
All I need to do is stop and remember his presence.