The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple
February 2, 2003
The Gospel: Luke 2:22-40
Sermon: "Where do we look for God"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
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 firsttborn 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.
Where do we look for God
The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple - February 2, 2003
Where do we look for God? We live in a time in our world when people have a hard time seeing God and God's marvelous works. People are looking for the big event, the splashy, the colorful. Maybe it is a function of the movies and television. We see actions in the movies that defy description. Actors do moves that no body with an intact skeleton can perform. We see pyrotechnic displays and crash scenes that are incredible. We want excitement because we think excitement is where life is. In fact, we see these scenes so often in the movies that the tragedy of yesterday, for some, can seem very distant, almost unreal.
Many people have the same idea about God, that God is unreal. As a result we think God can only be found in the exciting. God show us where you are. Do something to prove you are real? Perform a miraculous healing before our eyes. Bring world peace about in an instant. Do something spectacular?
But the story in Luke reminds us that we mainly see God in the everyday events of our lives. Simeon was an old man. He had been faithful to God. Faithful in the Hebrew understanding would mean he attended synagogue regularly. He gave to God the appropriate offerings. He lived his life to the best of his ability in accordance with the Law. Even though he did all these things he waited. He waited patiently for the redemption of the people of Israel. In other words, he waited for the coming of the Messiah. But now, in his old age he wondered if he would live to see the day when the chosen one of God would come. He prayed for the opportunity to see the Messiah. God hears and answers this prayer. God answers the prayer more fully than he could possibly have imagined.
In answer to Simeon's prayer God sends the Holy Spirit to him. The Spirit tells him he will see the Messiah. The Spirit guides him to the Temple. Now the Temple in Jerusalem was huge. A hundred different activities went on in the building every day. Hundreds of people went in and out of the doors. Simeon is guided to a certain place. There he waits. In addition, The Holy Spirit is anointing him. Through Simeon Jesus, Mary and Joseph are blessed. Simeon did not do anything spectacular to receive the gift. He was faithful. He prayed. He obeyed.
How about Mary and Joseph? They did not even know Simeon. They were bringing Jesus to the Temple in accordance with the customary laws. Jesus was to be presented on the eighth day to be circumcised. They, too, were doing what ordinary parents did in their day. It is just like parents bringing their children to be baptized today. The three of them were in the Temple doing what they knew they were supposed to do. They were faithful to God and did what was right before God. Nothing fantastic. Nothing out of the ordinary.
I believe there are two points in this lesson for us. The first lesson is that God is in the every day. We can take great comfort in knowing that God is with us each moment of each day. If we simply open our eyes and look for God we just might see God in the simplest of things. God is full of surprises, we might see God at any time. The second point is even when we might get discouraged keep looking for God. For example, one complaint I often hear is that church is boring. We say the same prayers. We do the same things. Nothing new ever happens. In short, where is the excitement? My answer is keep looking for God. Keep coming to the services. Keep saying the prayers at night before bed. Keep saying the prayers at the dinner table. Keep doing the things that help us grow closer to God even when they may seem to get stale sometimes. Faith is believing even when we don't see all the time or don't hear God's still small voice each day. Perhaps we should bring back those old bumper stickers that said, "Keep the Faith, Baby."