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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Feast of the Presentation, February 2, 2017

This year this major feast falls on Sunday. So these are the lessons that should be used.

Quotes That Make Me Think

"Luke reflects the honouring of wise elderly people. Probably frail and able to achieve little that counts on the scale of the economic rationalists, they are rich sources of wisdom. Congregations often have Simeons and Annas; are they heard?"

"First Thoughts on Passages from Mark in the Lectionary: Christmas 1," William Loader, Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia.

"And rise we shall, out of the wilderness, every last one of us, even as out of the wilderness Christ rose before us. That is the promise, and the greatest of all promises."

Love," "Simeon," sermon discussion from Frederick Buechner, Frederick Buechner Blog.

General Resources for Sunday's Lessons from


Lord, set your servant free, let us go in peace as you have promised;
open our eyes to see the Savior, the one you have prepared for all the world to see: A Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel. In the darkness inspire us to bring light to your people who still sit in darkness and to proclaim release for those who are not free to go.  In the name of the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Some Thoughts on Luke 2:22-40
Oremus Online NRSV Gospel Text

Resources for Sunday's Gospel

Jesus was brought to the temple for his naming and circumcision ceremony.  He was in that ceremony forever marked as God's chosen and a member of God's chosen family - Israel.  Little did they know that he was going to increase that family to a fulfill the promise to Abraham that his descendants would number the stars in the heaven.  

Christ Haslam, of Montreal does an excellent job explaining the tradition:

"After childbirth, it was 40 days before a mother could be purified before a priest in the Temple, so it is at least that long since Jesus’ birth. She was expected to offer a lamb, along with a turtledove or a pigeon; if she were poor (as Mary is), two turtledoves or pigeons sufficed. Exodus 13:1-2 required that every firstborn boy be consecrated to God. Jesus’ presentation in the Temple is like Samuel’s. Jesus and his family fulfill the requirements of Mosaic law."

The whole people of Israel have been waiting for the coming of the messiah.  Simeon gives voice to this longing and has been waiting especially for the Messiah having been promised in a vision that God would restore Israel in his lifetime; and that in fact Simeon would see the Messiah. 

In the daily prayer service many episcopalians pray, Simeon’s words in vv. 29-32 are known as the Nunc Dimittis.  from the first words in Latin. He says out loud, he prophesies, he makes known that God has fulfilled his promise.  He is free.  He is free in the restoration of Israel and he is freed to die now and make his journey to rest in the arms of Abraham.  

Simeon, along with Ana, become some of the first evangelists sharing the revelation of Jesus' identity as the Christ and the Messiah.  The images of freedom, light, and new life are potent.  Israel if free as well... and Luke makes it clear that this message is for all people.  God is miraculously doing something in this moment of incarnation but God is also about to gather in all of humanity. 

Simeon also prophesies that life will be hard for Jesus.  He prophetically offers the vision of a God whose mercy will defy death on the cross.  This will be a mighty work and it will completely change the nature of God's family.  It will in fact bring Jews and Gentiles together as mutual beneficiaries of God's special choosing and love.  And, imaged in the fact that Ana and Simeon stand together and both prophesy, Luke offers a vision of a family where men and women are all involved - each has a part to play.

The Gospel lesson at the presentation challenges us to see all people as God's people. It challenges us to be bearers of light and life and freedom to those who do not have such blessings. It challenges us to see that God is increasing our number and sometimes they are not who we think...sometimes in fact (like the Gentiles) they are people wholly unlike ourselves (like the Jews).  We are given a vision of the kingdom which turns over our preconceived ideas about who is a member of our family...young and old, churched or unchurched, black or white, male or female, you name the difference it is a wall God is already on the other side of working his Gospel out.  All that is left is for us to take our place with Simeon and Ana in the midst of the faithful company and to reveal God's glory and mighty acts,
Some Thoughts on Hebrews 2:10-18

Resources for Sunday's Epistle

"This passage offers four ways of looking at Jesus and ourselves. When preaching, ask who you are preaching to: people in need of a future, people in need of belonging, people held captive by powers beyond themselves or sinners in need of atonement?"

Commentary, Hebrews 2:10-18, Craig R. Koester, Preaching This Week,, 2007.

This passage normally comes up in our reading schedule on the first Sunday of Christmas which is always associated with the sacrifice of the innocent children by king Herod's search for Jesus.  That always puts it into a different context. At the presentation it offers still another view.

To the people of the first century, not unlike today, the world was manipulated by invisible hands of gods, demons, and angels.  They also believed that in the future the world would be different.  It is different in part because of God's work of living and moving among us, of dying like us, and of his defeat of death.  This means that life is forever changed because of his incarnation and God's coming among us.
14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.17
It is difficult to understand this I think because we cannot get a good view of where we actually are. Most of the time we think we are the center of the world - certainly our world. Only in certain moments do we see ourselves as one among many who is making their way along with a great host through space and time.  And that it is God who comes and stands with us, next to us, as one of Tori Amos proclaims.

God does this because God is reaching out to us and desires that we are reconciled and that we might not simply live in the flesh that we inhabit but that we see the great spiritual reality deep within us which was at our beginning (like Christ) and is at our end (like Christ in the resurrection).  The life of God in Christ Jesus helps us to see where we are, whose we are, and where we are headed. We are forever linked to this Christ because of his walk on earth.
For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
We see also that Christ is our great mediator. It is his work that mediates, that reconciles us...not unlike a priest or high priest in the temple. Though they are limited to simply making offerings, Christ as high priest actually offers himself and in so doing bridges the gap between earth and heaven.  It is not so much that our testing or our life of endurance saves us or makes us holy.  Instead it is that God experiences this life and takes with him its very essence.

In the tradition in which this scripture was written they believed that God did not intend for the world to be like it is.  We still say this.  We believe as they did that God intended to walk in the garden in the eve of the day with his people, to talk with them, and to be with them.  This is in part why the image of being "friends with God" is so powerful.  So, we are God's friends and in a never ending line of friends, holding hands, we make our glorious procession into the heavens with Christ.

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