Sermon for Eucharist
28 January 2007 at :00 am
Luke 2:22-40. The Presentation
A mouse was always upset because it was terrified of the cat.
So the magician took pity on it and turned it into a cat. Then it was afraid of the dog. So, the magician turned it into a dog. Then it was afraid of the lion. So the magician turned it into a lion. Then it was afraid of the hunter. Then the magician gave up-and turned it back into a mouse. He said: "Nothing I do for you can help, because you have the heart of a mouse."
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple presents each of us with an invitation to explore our own heart. He's presenting himself to each one of us, and necessarily, we're each presented to Him. And to ourselves. His Presentation gives a sight of who you really are and where you fit in His global context. There are three people there who offer advice on being true to your heart: Anna, Mary and Simeon.
Anna was married for 7 years then her husband died leaving her a widow. Suddenly her life shifted from social and financial security to a certain social exclusion and dependence on charity. Anna took up her new vocation: presented herself to God's mercy, kept the religious obligations in the temple living them out from the heart. Hers was a hidden life of prayer, intercession and dependence on God.
When the old man Simeon took the child Jesus in his arms. At that very moment, Anna stumbled upon the scene and -her life was transformed.
This was God's time for her to take up a new vocation. Those years of desert discipline had prepared her to receive Jesus as the Christ. She was now free -praise God; immediately telling everyone about Him. Not everyone actually, just those longing for the Messiah to come and set them free. Some people turned away, set their hearts on killing Him, they wouldn't listen.
In Anna's experience there's advice to do some serious fasting and praying, to present your own heart and longings to Jesus: and let His light reveal His truth for you. And be open to surprises. He might set you free, free of you culturally constrained life expectations. He might set you free to "enjoy," enjoy being you.
Mary's experience at the Presentation of Christ presents us with the importance of living in the Presence of Christ. She came to the Temple, ready to leave Jesus there -as Hannah, in the old Testament, left her son Samuel. She was open to God's word for her life; detached from personal claims on Jesus. It meant she had space in her heart to receive Simeon's prophecy about suffering as integral to journeying with Jesus.
The presentation of Jesus is provocative. He's the sign of God's intervention in our world; His world as it happens. If you cling to your own world view, and oppose the sign: ultimately you're on calamity road. If you let Him liberate your heart; you'll be on track, on life's journey.
Witnesses to Jesus Christ as Saviour attract opposition.
In Mary's experience there's advice to carry on living in the presence of Christ. He transforms it all. Take the violence of those at war with Jesus. In the light of His presentation they're revealed as tragic figures who need your help and prayer. So Mary's advice is to daily journey in the light of Christ.
Simeon had a reputation as a man who studied the Bible, a man of prayer. He longed for the liberation of the Jews. His vocation was just that to wait for the salvation of God's people.
Simeon is a role model for us: switched on, tuned in to recognising God at work. Waiting like that isn't passive wasting time, missing the moment. It's awareness time.
What are you hoping for in life? How do the desires of your heart look -in the light of the Presentation of Jesus?
When Mary came with Jesus Simeon's face shone with the light of the love of Christ as he embraced his Savour. Simeon's vocation was special for him: fulfilling, and satisfying.
His message is: in searching out your own vocation: don't be a follower of fashion. Give time to watching and waiting: Set your own hopes and longings in the light of Christ. Present your self to Him and embrace His truth, His vocation for you.
Simeon also presents each of us with guidelines on our concluding vocation: of being released by God into death.
Simeon's embracing of Jesus was the fulfilment of his life's vocation of expectation. It set him free to receive God's final gift of the liberation of death. He was able to die in peace: at peace with his own conscience, his own life story, with everyone else and at peace with God. To die in peace like that is God's gift for everyone, including you.
It's why the church repeats Simeon's song at the end of every day. It's a last thing at night statement of faith: a letting go, an embracing of Jesus in faith that He'll embrace you in His outstretched arms. Simeon's song is for daily life but also for death; for dying in peace and rising to eternal life in Christ.
So to conclude: the presentation of Christ in the Temple presents us with guidance for the heart: Anna's story offers advice to live in the present moment, especially in dark times; and to be ready for whatever God calls you to.
Mary's story offers advice to live in the presence of Jesus so you can journey with Him through all the exigencies of life.
Simeon's story is a reminder that God's unique plan for you is fulfilling and satisfying: and will bring you to full maturity in Christ.
Such a lifestyle of embracing Christ is a living in readiness to die in peace, And be lifted into the eternal embrace of the
outstretched arms of Our Saviour Jesus Christ. AMEN