Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Homily for the Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout,waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said..." (Luke 2:22-40)

(a sermon preached February 2, 2015)

Today is 40 days after Christmas and Mary and Joseph are doing what the Scriptures commanded of them by bringing the child Jesus to the temple, to present the Child to the Lord and for ritual purification after Child-birth. 

The Lord is coming to His temple and what a glorious scene but much like his birth, it’s not exactly cinematic.  When the Lord comes to His temple the Savior of the world is greeted by just a couple of older folks. They are waiting for him. Simeon has been waiting to see the Lord’s Christ and had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had taken the Lord Jesus into His arms. 

And when he beholds the child he takes him into his arms and sings the glorious hymn which we ourselves sing after receiving the life-giving body and blood of Christ. “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace. Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” A glorious light. 

The Bible does not say it but church tradition holds that Simeon fell asleep moments after singing this song and was ushered into the kingdom of heaven.

Besides Simeon, there was a woman named Anna. She was 84 years old, and was a woman not unlike some of the women we have here at St. Paul. She just wouldn’t leave the church - worshipping, fasting, and praying, much like some women here who will not miss a Divine Service or Bible study if they can help it. 

When Jesus entered the temple, Simeon was holding Jesus then dying. Anna begins worshipping, thanking God by singing, and the scriptures say that she was speaking to everyone who was waiting for deliverance and help – speaking about the child and the forgiveness of sins. Which is to say, this elderly woman was talking to all of her friends and even people she didn’t know about Jesus. 

Like our Lord’s birth there is not a whole lot to see here. At Christmas there was a stable, some blood soaked hay, animals nearby and awkward rugged shepherds peering through the barn door. Tonight when the Lord comes to his temple there’s really just a few old folks standing around who are interested. If you wanted to be accurate you could say it’s not entirely different from the demographic of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.

But the simple truth is this. The church, at least historically, is composed of people like old Simeon and Anna. People who are not totally content with their lives and long for another. People, like you, who know, due to sin, devastating loss, and the brokenness of this world, that they need to be delivered. The church is composed of people who know that their individual stories are incomplete were it not for this child, born of Mary - people who know that with all their wealth, all their accomplishments or success, that in the end it means nothing, if it all just ends with a casket, dirt, and flowers at the grave. But no, we hope for something much better. 

With the one holy Christian and Apostolic church we are waiting, hoping, singing and praying like Simeon and Anna. Loving God more than we love our own lives, wanting to depart this life in peace. 

More than anything else, the Lord’s Supper teaches us to be dissatisfied with this life and long for another. Like Simeon and Anna, even if we’re not old, we certainly feel like it and we’re tired, but like them, we take Jesus into our arms, and press him unto our hearts and say “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.” I’ve had quite enough.  Let me fall asleep in you. This was Simeon’s song, Anna’s prayer, and it remains our great hope. In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

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