Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
In our journeys each day may God so direct; In happiness and pleasure may God so bless; In care or anxiety or trouble may God sustain; As we have gathered to worship
may God be present. Amen.
“Lord you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised…” (BCP pg.93) The Nunc Dimitis of Simeon would never be said in any other place than the Temple in Jerusalem. A sacred space, a holy place, a building, yes but so much more.
The Temple throughout Jewish history is where God resides, a theophany. In the very final book of the Hebrew Scripture, the book of Malachi, God’s presence will be both sudden and dramatic, a time of justice which would only come through divine intervention. Seems that both Simeon and Anna believed the very same. God intervened into human history through the faithfulness of these parents in the act of presentation no where else but the Temple. A place of holiness, a space of divinity.
But also a place of inclusion as what happened that day was in the court of the Gentiles.
Not the Holy of Holies. Not the inner sanctuary where only Jews were allowed. But in the outer court where anyone could be. And the God of justice in the Hebrew Scripture
was also the God of inclusivity. As Jesus was presented to the priests so he was also presented to any and all gathered. The Temple in Jerusalem became a place of restoration of and for the people, a fulfillment of God’s redemptive work. And Simeon was testimony to that work exemplifying a devout response to God’s promise and God’s response to humanity. God’s response in the life of a child but also God’s response in the presence of faithful parents.
‘Lord you now have set your servant free…’ not that Simeon could end his life in peace
but he was now freed from his watchful waiting. Patiently waiting for God’s promise to himself and to all who looked for redemption. God’s redemption not the overthrow of the Roman Empire but the holy presence of God among humanity. Then along comes Anna: faithful widow, faithful witness, faithful prophet. Speaking of, yet again, redemption in the presence of a child. We cannot help but wonder at what others
might have thought. Redemption being throughout Hebrew Scripture from the very beginning, now being spoken of in God’s holy Temple by two elderly folk in the person of a babe? This is God’s great reversal that happens over and over again if we only look for it.
The Song of Mary: The Magnificat (BCP pg.91)
The Song of Simeon: The Nunc Dimitis
The Song of Zechariah: Benedictus Dominus Deus
(BCP pg. 92)
They are all songs of praise, of redemption, of the God’s great reversal to humanity.
And every single one of them was either in the Temple or in the vicinity.
The Temple is now The Church to those of us who are followers of Jesus. But we have lost a sense of the sacred it seems. Our inner spirituality is relegated to Sundays or maybe a few days during the calendar year. We depend upon the church to be our center for social gatherings such as weddings, baptisms, funerals. Nothing wrong with that but the 21st century Christian or Jew or Muslim finds religious observances to have lost some of their original significance. When we come here to this church I wonder if we come to meet others or to meet God. And holiness abounds here if we simply seek it.
A quote from an early Christian papyrus:
“Wheresoever there are two they are not without God; and where there is one alone I am with him.”
God’s presence is everywhere if we only acknowledge such abundance but the presence of God has often gone missing in our secular age. This is not what the Greeks would call pantheism all things are God but panentheism that God is everywhere. In creation, in humanity, even in other creatures. God does not lack abundance but we often live a life of sacred scarcity. There has been in ages past a desperate need to recover the mystery of life, finding God in everyday experience
which is what we need in our time. Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna found that experience on an ordinary day when Jesus’ parents came to do what was expected of them. As the firstborn Jesus was to be offered to God and as his parents they were expected to come to the Temple to do this. An ordinary day with an extraordinary outcome. And we need to find God in celebrations but also in the ordinary.
Greeting each day with gratitude, offering our thanks for food that sustains our lives.
Giving abundant thanks for family and friends. Finding mystery in beauty even the beauty of such a day as this or the mystery of God in simple food such as bread and wine.
As Mary and Joseph were only doing what was expected so may we do what we ought to do: find God everywhere no matter where, no matter with whom, no matter what.
Even here in this simple yet beautiful church dedicated to God, made holy by our presence this day. Amen.