The Presentation, Year A

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Third Sunday in Lent March 23, 2014 Third Sunday in Lent, Year A Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, John 4:5-42
First Sunday in Lent March 9, 2014 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Matthew 4:1-11
Ash Wednesday, Year A March 5, 2014 Ash Wednesday, Year A 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A March 2, 2014 Last Sunday after Epiphany Exodus 24:12-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21. Matthew 17:1-9
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, Year A February 23, 2014 Seventh Sunday after Epiphany Leviticus 19:1-2. 9-18; Matthew 5:38-48
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A February 16, 2014 Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Matthew 5:21-37
John Hines sermon February 11, 2014 Daily Office I Kings 8:22-23, 27-30, Ps 84, Mark 7:1-13
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 9, 2014 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 58:1-12, 1 Corinthians 2:1-16, Matthew 5:13-20
The Presentation, Year A February 2, 2014 Presentation in the Temple, Year A Luke 2:22-40
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 26, 2014 Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 4:12-23
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 19, 2014 Second Sunday after the Epiphany Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, John 1:29-42
First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 12, 2014 First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Matthew 3:13-17
The Epiphany, Year A January 6, 2014 Epiphany, Year A Matthew 2:1-12
Second Sunday After Christmas, Year A January 5, 2014 Second Sunday after Christmas, Year A Psalm 84, Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Christmas Eve December 24, 2013 Christmas Eve, 2013 Luke 2:1-20

 

The Presentation, Year A

Sermon Date:February 2, 2014

Scripture: Luke 2:22-40

Liturgy Calendar: Presentation in the Temple, Year A


Rembrandt "The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple" (1631)

PDF version 

Before I begin, I’d like to tell you that the scientific information in this sermon comes from Linda Gibler’s book, From the Beginning to Baptism.

Earth is the only place we know of in the universe that has enough oxygen to make combustion possible. 

And so the miraculous action of striking this match and lighting this candle with this flame can happen only here on earth. 

When I strike the match, I create a spark.  The wick of the candle provides the fuel at first, and the air all around us is supplying the oxygen. 

Now the wax at the bottom of the wick is beginning to melt, and a little pool of melted wax forms.

And now, particles of wax are absorbed up the wick and become fuel for this flame.

Look at this flame.  The bottom part of the flame is a bluish color. 

This is the area in which the wax particles are turning into vapor because of the heat of the flame. 

And up higher, the orange part of the flame is the combustion zone, and this is where the hot vapor mixes with the oxygen in the air. 

The bright area where these two areas meet is where the wax vapor is superheated into plasma, the fourth state of matter—plasma is not solid, liquid or gas.  It’s found here on earth in flames, in lightening, even in static electricity.  And plasma is also found in the stars. 

The  hydrocarbons in the plasma split into hydrogen and carbon, and the oxygen in the air mixes with the hydrogen to form the water vapor and with the carbon to form carbon dioxide. 

Some of the particles are not burned completely, and these particles glow in the flame and release electromagnetic radiation, which creates the luminosity in the flame.

Now as they release light, these particles get carried out of the flame by air currents and leave as soot. 

So as this candle burns, it is being transformed into water, carbon dioxide, a little bit of soot, and light. 

To know about electromagnetism helps us to undersstand how light is radiated, and how matter is held together.

To put it as simply as I can, in this candle flame the heat is exciting the atoms in the wax, and some of them jump to higher energy levels and the bonds that hold the atoms of wax together break. 

When these bonds break, photons, which are particles of light, are released, and the flame glows. 

The force of electromagnetism also holds the atomic structure of the wax together when the candle is cool. 

Energy is trapped in atoms and molecules held together by electromagnetism and when the bonds break, photons, or particles of light, are released. 

Now electromagnetic bonds are always shifting, and photons are constantly being released—and every time a photon is released, another is absorbed. 

Gibler says that “this dance of release and absorption continues in all matter.”  This process is constant. 

Now, Tucker, come up here for a minute and stand next to this candle.

Tucker’s body and all of our bodies work a lot like this candle.

Trillions of light particles are being released around us and by us all the time, only some of which we can see as light and color.

Tucker, take a deep breath.

Now Tucker is drawing oxygen down into his lungs, and his lungs are mixing this oxygen with the fuel of dissolved nutrients .  

And then the oxygen and the hydrocarbons mix and produce carbon dioxide, water, and heat, just like a candle. In our bodies, the process occurs more slowly, but the process is the same as the one that takes place in the flame of this candle.

Now inside Tucker’s body, his lungs take the oxygen he’s breathed in and send it to the rest of the cells in his body, and into the tiny lungs of each cell, called mitochondria.  Now in every cell in our body there are ten to twenty thousand mitochondria, and these tiny lungs carry out the process of respiration, and release carbon dioxide, water, and yes!  Light!

This candle, and Tucker, and all of us, and all living beings, including plants—we all share in this same luminous process of respiration.

Now Tucker, don’t go away quite yet.  Remember I just talked about electromagnetism?  Well, Tucker’s body is being held together by electromagnetism.  And electromagnetism is also responsible for light. 

Remember how I said that electromagnetic bonds are always shifting and photons are being released and absorbed? 

Every atom of every thing, including the trillions of atoms in our skin, constantly interacts with these photons and emits light.  Tucker is emitting light right now, and so am I, and so are you!

Our skin and our clothes are constantly emitting light, and we are also constantly absorbing light, although we can see very little of this light. 

So as I stand here next to Tucker, he and I are exchanging light!  And you!  You are constantly exchanging light with everything and everyone around you!

Thank you, Tucker. 

I guess you could say that all of this information provides the scientific explanation for what happened in the temple that day when Mary and Joseph arrived with their young son Jesus, to present him in the temple.

In the crowds of people who were milling around in the outer courts of the temple, and we know that’s where they were because Mary, a woman, would not have been allowed into the inner court, Simeon finds this family.

He comes up to them, takes Jesus in his arms, and basically says,

“I see light!  Light and glory!”

Simeon gazed into the very well of life, and in the light of Jesus, Simeon could see light, light everywhere, light for all the nations. 

And at this very moment, as he looks down into the face of Jesus, and Jesus gazes up at him, they are exchanging  light.  They are absorbing one another’s light. 

And then Anna, an old and faithful prophet, joins the group, and adds her light to theirs. 

I can imagine this—for those with eyes to see, five people, on fire with God’s light and glory, blazing torches of intermingling light and love there in the outer courts of the temple.

In 638, the Bishop of Jerusalem, Sophranius, wrote the following words.  He didn’t know about plasma, and electromagnetism and photons, but he knew the truth of the light in this beautiful story of Simeon and Anna and the Holy Family. 

“The true light has come, the light that enlightens every person who is born into this world. Let all of us, beloved, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged  Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor.”

Today, in the blessing of these candles, we have also been blessed, because we too are light, and we too shine with God’s very glory and share in his splendor. 

So go be light!

Bless the world around you with your light–the light that God has given you. 

Amen.

Resource:  Gibler, Linda.  From Beginning to Baptism:  Scientific and Sacred Stories of Water, Oil and Fire.  Liturgical Press:  Collegeville, MN.  2010.

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