“Roots and Promise”

Luke 2:21-40

31 December 2017

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Luke 2:21-40

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “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.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they 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.

 

Prayer.

 

This Gospel narrative of Simeon and Anna

Always brings to mind

A childhood memory.

My parents gave me a book titled “Simeon’s Secret”.

I looked it up on Amazon;

It was written by Janice Kramer and published in 1969.

 

 

We’d read it during the Christmas season.

I thought it was really cool that God will tell someone a secret.

It seemed like insider baseball to me.

Maybe God had a secret, or two, to share with me?

What could be more exciting than a private revelation from God?

 

What I don’t remember is Anna in the book,

Which is really a shame.

Anna is described as one of 6 female prophets in the Bible;

Her 5 predecessors all coming from Hebrew scripture,

(Our Old Testament).

They were

Miriam (Exodus 15:20),

Deborah (Judges 4:4),

Huldah (2 Kings 22:14),

Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14),

And the unnamed “prophetess” from Isaiah (Isaiah 8:3).

 

Women, do not ever feel inferior to men,

For God can, does, and has been working through women

Since the beginning of creation.

When God speaks to you, listen!

Take thou authority!

Men, there is no loss to your esteem or strength

To recognize the fact that God appears to be gender neutral

When it comes to selecting who is chosen to fulfill God’s will.

When God speaks to your wife, daughter, or granddaughter,

Listen, support, encourage, discern, and act

According to God’s will.

 

It is as if Anna is the cherry on the top;

The completion of the Jewish story line

Of creation, law, covenant, and prophecy.

 

Indeed, our Gospel is deeply rooted in Judaism;

Solidly Hebrew in its origin.

Jewish parents bring their

Jewish son to the

Jewish Temple to engage in the

Jewish rites of circumcision and purification, according to the

Jewish Law, as handed down from Moses.

 

Three items caught my eye here.

 

First, Jesus comes from a very, very poor family.

They offered a sacrifice of

“a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

(Luke 2:24)

Had they been middle class or wealthy,

They would have been required

To purchase a Temple raised lamb for sacrifice.

 

Compare 80% fat hamburger with

Free range, organic beef tenderloin.

 

Contrary to many who promote a Gospel of prosperity,

Jesus is not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

Neither does he become a family man, landowner, or businessman.

He is a poor, itinerant preacher, who

Lives off the generosity of the population, who

Works and serves the poor.

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One cannot know Jesus

Without being immersed in the world of

Poverty and brokenness,

Powerlessness and dependency,

Oppression and suffering.

 

On this eve of the New Year,

Consider this carefully:

How might I center myself in the world of Jesus,

Serving the poor, the powerless, and the oppressed?

 

Our Christian heritage,

Our Christian discipleship

Spring from our roots in Jewish poverty.

 

Secondly, the word “sacrifice” makes an entry into the Gospel.

With the birth of Jesus has come

Unending verses of Christmas carols,

Family gatherings, gluttony, and gourmandizing,

And gift giving galore.

 

Yet, we hear today of sacrifice,

First concerning Mary and Joseph’s

Sacrifice in the Temple at Jesus’ purification and circumcision,

Followed by the ominous words of Simeon himself,

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

(Luke 2:34-35)

… just what a new mother wants to hear.

 

There is a price to be paid for salvation.

There is a cost to the redemption of Jerusalem.

What starts in a lonely manger in Bethlehem

Ends with a sacrifice on a cross in Jerusalem atop Golgotha.

 

The price to be paid doesn’t begin and end with Jesus,

Or the grief of the Heavenly Father

Whose only Son was sacrificed on our behalf.

Can we not also hear the cries of the innocent children

Being slaughtered at the command of Herod?

Listen carefully to the Gospel and

One can also hear the murder of John the Baptist, or

Jesus’ own family,

Who will come to reject him

And attempt to throw him off a cliff.

Listen to the early Church Fathers,

Of their sacrifice and reports of martyrdom.

Listen to those who have risen up against an abusive Church,

And have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Indeed, redemption and salvation come at a cost,

Whose price is often paid for in sacrificial blood.

 

On this eve of the New Year,

Let us carefully consider this Gospel inspired question:

What price are we willing to pay for the Lord’s redemption and salvation,

Both personally, and collectively?

 

Thirdly, the presence of the super religious and sincerely righteous

Simeon and Anna in the Gospel exude an air of expectation,

Of forward looking,

Of anticipation.

 

The Holy Spirit rested on Simeon

And revealed to him that

He would not see death until he had seeing the Messiah, the Son of God.

Now, there’s something to look forward to.

The bitter/sweet nearly present

Of the incarnation followed by certain death

With only the promise of salvation.

 

Simeon’s secret must have been shared with the widow Anna,

For she never left the Temple;

Day and night she lived her life in the heart of Judaism

Praising God

And speaking to all about the child Messiah

Who was expected at any moment.

 

Some secret, huh?

 

On this eve of the New Year,

Let us ask ourselves:

How might we live out our Christian faith

With the same fervent desire for worship and

With the same heightened expectation for the return of our Savior?

 

Dearly beloved,

Each of whom are loved by God

And who are also loved by myself as your spiritual leader,

On this seventh day of Christmas and

On the eve of the New Year,

Let us all resolve

To immerse ourselves in the love of our neighbor,

Serving the poor,

Determined to end the injustice of poverty in our world.

Let us all resolve

To look forward with fervent anticipation

To the return of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

May we all find the same peace that overcame Simeon and Anna;

That God keeps God’s promises,

That our redemption and salvation has come.

Give God our praise and our glory.

Amen.