The Presentation

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Easter Sunday, Year A April 12, 2020 Easter Sunday, Year A Matthew 28:1-10
Good Friday, 2020 April 10, 2020 Meditation on the Cross, Good Friday, 2020 John 18:1-19:42
Palm Sunday, Year A April 5, 2020 Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday Matthew 26:18
Lent 5, Year A March 29, 2020 Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A 2020 John 11:1-45
Lent 4, Year A March 22, 2020 Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C Psalm 23
Lent 3, Year A at the Cathedral March 15, 2020 Third Sunday in Lent, Year A John 4:5-42
Lent 2, Year A – March 8, 2020 – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors March 8, 2020 Lent 2, Year A John 3:1-17
Lent 1, Year A March 1, 2020 First Sunday in Lent, Year A Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Matthew 4:1-11
Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2020 February 25, 2020 Ash Wednesday, Year A Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 23, 2020 Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A Matthew 17:1-9
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 16, 2020 Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A February 9, 2020 Epiphany 5, Year A Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20
The Presentation February 2, 2020 Presentation of Jesus in the Temple Luke 2:22-40
Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A January 26, 2020 Third Sunday after the Epiphany Matthew 4: 12-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting January 19, 2020 Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42

 

The Presentation

Sermon Date:February 2, 2020

Scripture: Luke 2:22-40

Liturgy Calendar: Presentation of Jesus in the Temple


“Presentation of Jesus in the Temple”– Rembrandt 1631


The future is a mystery. 

Because the future is unknown and unpredictable, the future can overwhelm us, and doubts about God come creeping into our minds.  Sometimes we wonder if God’s promises are true.  Sometimes, we may wonder whether God is just a figment of our imaginations because God’s promises can just take so long to be fulfilled, perhaps not even in our lifetimes.  

When Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present Jesus to the Lord, they meet two people who have been waiting for the Messiah for a long time and who are full of hopeful longing as they wait.  

We have heard nothing about Simeon and Anna before they appear in the temple on that day that Mary and Joseph came to Jerusalem to present their first born son.

What we find out about Simeon is that he knows how to wait with hope for something beyond himself.  The Holy Spirit has revealed to him that he will not see death before he has seen the Lord’s Messiah.

So as the years pass, Simeon waits for the Messiah with faithful openness, and as he waits, he himself becomes full of God’s light.  He becomes light seeking light. 

Anna is an eighty-four year old woman who has been a widow for most of her life and has spent her widowhood in the temple, worshiping God with prayer and fasting. 

Like Simeon, Anna also has a steadfast openness to God.  She has spent her life coming before God with openness to her unseen future and God’s promised redeeming of her people.   

And because of this steadfast openness toward God, she instantly sees God’s light and feels God’s presence when she sees the baby Jesus.  She sees what she has been seeking.

Both Anna and Simeon recognize that the baby in the arms of Mary is the one who will bring redemption and salvation to the world. 

This beautiful light filled story is present with us liturgically in the Daily Office in the form of a canticle, the Nunc Dimittis, one of the songs we say or sing after the scripture readings in Morning and Evening Prayer.  In fact, we used it last week as one of the Morning Prayer canticles. 

Simeon prays this prayer of thanksgiving to God.

“Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised, for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see:  A light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.”

And then at the end of this story,  Simeon and Anna, swept up in the ongoing story of our own salvation through Jesus, Son of God, vanish from the pages of Holy Scripture, their purpose served and their message delivered.

Simeon and Anna have much to teach us about how to live in this moment.

Each moment of our lives catches us up in the intersection between the past and the future.  The future, which we cannot see or imagine, awaits, and we enter the future with every new breath. 

Simeon and Anna show us that faithful waiting and steadfast openness to God can help us enter the future faithfully and without fear, trusting in God’s promise of salvation and redemption for us. 

When we wait faithfully and with a steadfast openness to God for the promises that the future holds rather than with fear and doubt, our waiting can turn us into light seeking light, even in the darkest, most uncertain moments of our lives, when we have every reason to doubt and to fear and to wonder if God even exists. 

Victor Frankl, who survived the Holocaust, tells a story of faithful waiting and steadfast openness to God in the face of the unknown future as he describes his time in Auschwitz in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning

Early each morning,  before dawn, the prisoners had to march through the darkness to their work sites over the frozen snow covered ground, with ill fitting shoes, or even no shoes at all, with the guards shouting and hitting the men with their rifle butts. 

On one such march, a fellow prisoner whispered to Frankl, “If only our wives could see us now.”

And Frankl began to think of his wife.  He describes the experience with these words. 

 “My mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness.  I heard her answering me; saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look.  Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.”

As Frankl stumbled along on this march, with the image of his wife accompanying him, he had what I would call a Simeon and Anna moment.  He came into God’s presence and recognized God with him. 

He describes that moment like this. “A thought transfixed me:  For the first time in my life I saw the truth…that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire.  Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart:  The salvation of man is through love and in love….for the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”

And so Frankl lived through this horrid time of his life with a faithful  and steadfast openness to the future, knowing that the infinite and light filled glory of God’s love would fill all of the unknowns ahead of him, even his own death. 

And Frankl too, became light seeking light, and his teaching and writing continue to bring light into the darkness of our world even in this century.

While Frankl was imprisoned in Auschwitz,  the Reb Azriel David was packed into a cattle car headed toward Trelinka, another concentration camp.   He listened  to the sounds of the people crowded around him, people full of doubt and fear about their futures.

He heard crying, moaning, weeping, and praying.  He heard some taking their last breaths and dying.

As he listened, a tune came to him, and he began singing a song of hope.

As more and more of the prisoners learned and sang this song  it eventually became known, according to Wikipedia, as the Hymn of the Camps.  Many Jews sang this song as they were herded into the concentration camp gas chambers. 

Ani Ma’amin is a song of deep faith.  The words in English are as follows. 

“I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and though he may tarry, nevertheless I await his coming every day.”

We too live in the decisive moment of now, with our own unknown futures ahead of us.  We cannot know the future. 

As Christians, we have seen the Messiah in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. 

But sometimes, in our times of doubt, our worries about the future, and in our fears about what is to come, we forget that we have seen the Lord. 

And yet we know that Jesus has come to us, Jesus is with us now, with every breath we take.  We can see him with our own eyes and know his presence with us if we live with a steadfast openness to his light and love and presence with us. 

 Even when we cannot see God’s light or feel God’s love, we can choose to be light seeking light, and confidently enter the future trusting in God’s promise of salvation, God’s presence with us, filling us with peace when we wait with steadfast faithfulness and trust in God for whatever may come. 

So when the future, with all its unknowns, threatens to overwhelm us, and doubts assail us, then along with our Jewish brothers and sisters, along with Simeon and with Anna, may we hold these words in our hearts and sing them out into the darkness. 

“I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may tarry, nevertheless, I await his coming every day.”

 

Resources: 

Sermon by The Rev. Catherine Hicks, The Presentation, 2015.

 “A liberation day marked by Holocaust laments,” by Michael E. Ruane.   The Washington Post, Wednesday, January 28, 2015  Metro, Section B Page 1. 

Frankl, Victor E.  Man’s Search for Meaning.  Beacon Press, Boston.  2006.