February 2, 2014
Light to All, Pastor Fred Kinsey
Simeon was promised by the Holy Spirit, before he died, that he would see God’s Messiah, the anointed one. And so, when he saw Jesus walking into the Temple, well actually, Mary and Joseph carried him in, as he was just 40 days old, Simeon was overjoyed, and so, praising God, he said,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
According to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."
I don’t know, that Jesus really understood what all the fuss was about! He was human after all. The gospels don’t tell us that Jesus was somehow all-knowing… as an infant. There are no Comic Books of Super Baby Jesus having some kind of adult super-consciousness at that age – he didn’t weigh-in, for example, on how tight his swaddling clothes were, or how pleased he was that Simeon was making such a big deal of him, in the Temple!
And so in that sense, this story is no different from the baby stories, we tell each other. It emphasizes what we know to still be true today, that new-born children are special – to their parents, and to their family and friends – and special to us all, in so far as they are little miracles of creation.
Simeon and Anna, we might argue, even in their advanced age, were Jesus’ best friends and family, on this day. Simeon was guided by the Spirit. And Anna was a prophet. And they recognized these very gifts, in Jesus. And so, in a way, they are his closest kin, speaking for this, not quite 6 week-old child, for Jesus, who can’t yet speak for himself. Jesus, this little Jewish baby, in the Temple of the Lord, is proclaimed, a light for revelation to the Gentiles.
How could they see that? Can we see that? I suppose we can, if we know, even a part, of the rest of the story, or if someone, somewhere, along the way, has clued us in. Or, maybe if we’ve asked questions about why this new-born child is destined for the falling and the rising of many – in his own time and place – and also for us today.
Did someone tell you? How do you know the story? Have you ever had the opportunity to give that gift to someone else? Perhaps with a child, or a teenager, or even an 84 year old, like Anna?
So far in Luke’s gospel, the only ones to have recognized Jesus as Messiah, besides his parents, and now Simeon and Anna, are the Shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks in the region of Bethlehem, King David’s birthplace. But the question Luke asks us, today, and will continue to ask us, is: Who else will see the salvation of Jesus, prepared for all peoples?
And so Simeon was like Moses, the one who led the long wilderness journey, 40 years in the desert. The one who longed to come home, who had waited all his life – Moses, who is so deserving of seeing Israel’s glory, finally is able to see the Promised Land, before he dies on Mt Nebo, the precipice overlooking the Jordan River – and later, the place of Jesus’ baptism. Simeon, like Moses, is given his Mt Nebo experience: “Master,” prays Simeon in the Temple, “now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word…”
What a wonderful statement of faith! …that Simeon believed and trusted he had seen, and held, the anointed one of God, who was to be the light who would reach out to the whole world – welcoming everyone! In that, he was so happy, so satisfied, so excited and relieved, his life was so fulfilled, that he was ready to die, right then and there, without regret.
Like Mary and Joseph, who presented their child in the Temple, presented him to God, as if they were willing to give him back – so Simeon was ready to turn his life over to God, and rest in peace.
In baptism, whether as infants, or as adults, we too turn our lives over to God. At the font, we rejoice God has called us, and named us, as God’s own -- we are, the children of God.
And yet, in the midst of all this amazement, Jesus, held so proudly, was oblivious! On the 40th day of his life, he was still a vulnerable ‘infant lowly.’ He was not yet able to speak for himself, and had some growing to do. And so, Anna and Simeon spoke for him, and declared exactly what God had in mind for him.
Luke concluded, “When Mary and Joseph had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”
And, the very next story, in this gospel of Luke, is about the 12 year old Jesus, the suddenly learned pre-teen, who sits with the rabbi’s and scholars in the Temple, discussing, with surprising wisdom, his own interpretation of God’s Word. And somehow his parents never think to look there, before leaving Jerusalem for Nazareth. ‘What did you think, mom and dad, of course I’d be in my father’s house!’ is how that one goes. Jesus, we find, soon speaks for himself!
We, all of us, have great potential. Parents and friends, even strangers, see things in their children, when they are but babes in arms. On this day, the Presentation of Our Lord – Jesus didn’t know what was being said about him. There’s a lot of teenage years missing from his story, perhaps things that weren’t worth printing! And of course, that too, would be like us. The story continues, if we read on, many years later, when Jesus reaches age 30, or so. Then Jesus is baptized, and begins to fulfill everything that was said of him in the Temple, at his Presentation. He is, a light for revelation to the Gentiles; the bringer of salvation. And we are proof of that! He was, and still is, the measure by which many rise and fall.
Today, here at Unity, after the next hymn, we will welcome new members with the Affirmation of Baptism service. These friends come to us from various places and church traditions, with unique, yet overlapping faith stories. They have experienced the falling and rising that churches and congregations can put all of us through, helping or hurting. And they probably never thought they would end up here, in this place.
And yet, to the extent they are able to call this place home, a respite on a life’s journey, a safe and welcome place, even as we don’t know what tomorrow holds for them, or us, a promise has been fulfilled. Unity Lutheran Church, 109 years old this year, has seen God’s salvation. We didn’t know that God would send these new friends to us. But here they are, and today, they are lights to us – reminding us, encouraging us, renewing us by faith – that we exist to be a light to all people. "Master, now you are dismissing your servant/s in peace.” Send us forth as your lights, rejoicing, and living in the world to which we are called, that we may burn brightly, with your grace and love.