Sunday, December 28, 2014

Doting Devotion - Simeon Anna Luke 2:22ff

Preached, Dec 28, 2014
Commerce Presbyterian Church
Luke 2:22-44; Isaiah 61:10-62:3

When Ruby was a baby, she had no hair.  

She actually didn’t really get any hair until she was about 3  
She was round, ears protruded from her head boldly;
hers was a unique look, so much so that she drew a lot of attention;
It wasn’t uncommon for random people would make comments about her.

One of the most unique encounters between a stranger and Ruby happened in Santa Fe--the city different.
We were at the international folk art festival.
You can imagine the wonderful artsy type people who came out for the festival;
and that many there had significant exposure and leanings to Eastern Religions.
The Buddha was quite popular and most likely he was present in the form of a miniature statue in their homes.  
There was no getting around it, Ruby looked like a miniature Buddha:). Laughing Buddha      

But, I guess a lot of children kind of look like the Buddha...another example I found....Diaper - As we change the diaper, the diaper changes us…

Anyway back to Ruby at this festival...
An older woman would not stop looking at Ruby, who was on my shoulders while we watched one of the dance acts.
Eventually, she approached us with intention and a soft directness….and when she stood in front of me, eyes fixated on Ruby, she said,
“There is something about your baby. This is a special baby. Such a special baby.”
“Thank you,” I said.
The woman touched Ruby gently and departed in peace.  

It certainly is nice when others take notice and have kind things to say about our children; or even about us :).
It is kind of flattering: “To think, someone else thinks my child is special, just as I do.”

Certainly it can be that certain expectations, certain hopes and dreams, might be projected onto our children by others and ourselves.  
We, as a people, are quick to look to others to fulfill our hopes and dreams;
We look to washington...and then quickly look elsewhere.
We look to ministers…
To hollywood actors
To sports figures and coaches...

And from time to time we look to a newborn child...the ultimate symbol of hope and new life!  
And it really is amazing how much a newborn can bring with their peaceful innocence.
Their non judgemental spirit;
quite often our troubles fade away in the presence of a newborn...until it is time to change the diaper…”as we change the diaper, the diaper changes us.”

In our story of Jesus we find baby Jesus with his parents in the temple.  Before rushing home to show off their new baby to family friends and neighbors, Joseph and Mary take the time to do that which was required of them by the law; they fulfill their responsibilities by going to the temple.  Luke mentions no less than five times in these verses the actions of Mary and Joseph are motivated what was required by law of the Lord--these are some devout and pious parents!   Through ritual they sought purification, for Mary, who had to cleanse herself after exposure to blood during the birth.
Through ritual the family presented their first born baby boy before the priests so that the priests could “designate him as holy to the Lord.”
There at the temple, the family kills two birds with one stone;
literally, to fulfill these obligations they kill two turtle doves...
What is it you bring with you to the temple? two turtle doves…
and a partridge in a pear tree.
Actually, Luke says, they may have been two pigeons…but who’s really keeping count….
five golden rings
At the center of the scene is Jesus in the presence of two doting elderly folks: Simeon and Anna. Doting, Simeon and Anna, who it seem have dedicated most of their lives to looking for God’s action in the world.

Simeon is described as just and devout. THe holy spirit rested on him.
He saw in Jesus that God was going to do something great.  
Anna--whose husband had been gone a long time--is described as one who served God day and night with prayer and fasting.
She saw in Jesus God was going to do something great.
Both are portrayed as people who are looking to interpret the sign of times.
They are looking at how God is being experienced and how God is acting in the world.
They see things through eyes which want to see God….

Simeon, describes the greatness he sees in Jesus coming in the form of salvation,
a universal salvation: salvation prepared in the presence of all people.
Light for gentiles or for all nations, and glory to the people of Israel.       
The salvation does not come from economic security, nor in political triumph, but through falling and rising, through the revelation of innermost thoughts; even to the point of a sword piercing one’s very soul.

These are striking statements of Simeon: rising and falling, revelation of innermost thought.  
Do these images speak of the experience of Jesus on whose shoulders was placed so much expectation?
He rose and fell in the eyes of many.
He rose when he first began his ministry there in his local synagogue by announcing who he was, only to find the people shortly trying to throw him off a cliff.
He rose as people flocked to him to see him preach and heal;
and he fell as those in positions of authority sought to trap him;
he fell as they killed his cousin John in the process.
He raised bread and he raised a cup….
He fell into the hands of the authorities;
his disciples turned their backs on him as he was raised up on a cross.

Throughout are revealed his innermost thoughts--
seek the kingdom of God...Forgive them, they know not what they do…
Is this what Simeon and Anna would have expected from the baby they dotted over there in that temple? We don’t know.

But what Simeon said that was true for the experience of Jesus,
and it is true of our experience as well.
We rise and we fall. We suffer and we succeed with our innermost thoughts.

Each and every time we experience a rising or a falling, the revelation of innermost thoughts, we can experience salvation in the form of God’s presence--
the comfort of knowing God is with us in Emmanuel.

It seems like we just need to be made aware of what God may be doing in the world.
What is it that God is revealing to you in your rising and falling, in your innermost thoughts?
What is God revealing during difficult visits with family members?
Troubling situations at work?
Tough decisions that come in later years?   

I have a friend who has an interesting way of helping me become more aware of what God may doing in the world and in my life.
If I am talking to him about something that is troubling me,
or some current issue, or even something mundane like where we might meet up for lunch..
His response is pretty much always the same:
What do you think God is saying to you?
What do you think God is telling you to do?
What do you think God is doing in this situation?

It’s almost like, come on, give me a break, can’t we just talk like normal people….?
But, as annoying as it sometimes can be, I really appreciate the simplicity and complexity of his questions.
With these questions he invites me to think about how God may be present in each and every aspect of life.
And this is unusual.
We live in quite a secular world, one in which it seems like God talk is not readily welcomed, or When we do hear of God talk, it is usually accompanied by politicized ideology, or it has judgemental undertones.
When God does show up in talk, it is so often comes in the form of  in your face bible thumping; or a God’s not dead and I’m going to prove it kind of attitude.
Is it any wonder we hesitate to include God in our daily living…
why we may be hesitant to talk about God as part of our daily experience…

I appreciate the way our consitution protects religious freedoms…
and, in a religiously plural society, I’m don’t really see putting ten commandments in public spaces as a way to increase our awareness that God may be active in our lives..the beatitudes...maybe.

But I do like my friends questions as part of day to day living.
In our rising and in our falling. As being an intergral part of our innermost thought:
What do you think God is saying to you?
What do you think God is telling you to do?
What do you think God is doing in this situation?
These questions suggest a keen openness to the possibility that God is God in the way we profess God to be God….
The way my friend sees the world and his life with this constant perspective of seeking God, looking for what God may be doing…
by doing this he is so frequently amazed by revelations of what God is doing...of how God is present in the world.

In this way, he reminds me of Simeon and Anna.  
And so do many of you.
Particularly those of you in this congregation who are among the more seasoned and elderly; just as Anna and Simeon were.  
We are here on the first Sunday after Christmas;
when pretty much only the hard core show up at church.
Plus, It is rainy and cloudy and cold outside.
You really are the hard core church goerers;
kind of like Simeon and Anna...if the sanctuary doors are open you are there...seeking after God….

It is my understanding that many of you who are elderly, grew up in times when it was not uncommon to include God in daily conversation.
Many of you learned how to pray and read scripture on a daily basis.
Many of you have learned how to watch and wait and see God at work….

And so I want to reach out to you Simeon’s and Anna’s to help us of a younger generation.  We’re trying to make sense of this confusing world we live in.
We’re trying to have faith in God; but we need your help.
Sometimes, we show up in churches, some with more consistency than others.  
We need help talking about God.  
We need help learning how to look for what God may be doing.
And we need your prayers and blessings….
you see what a troubled world it is--think if you had to raise your children now in these times?  

And, the children--they need you as well.
They need to learn the faith from you;
they need you to be an active part of their lives;
they need you to speak of how special they are….
They need your blessing….

if you’re not sure how to get involved in the young people’s lives, ask their parents…
maybe just ask their parents if you can pray for their children on a regular basis.  
I know I would welcome the gesture for my girls.

We come to the end of 2014.  
A year we saw falling and rising,
in the life of this church;
in many aspects of society and the world.  
And in our own lives we surely experienced falling and rising as well.
What was God doing in those moments?
How was God revealed during those times?
How was God present to us then, and how is God present to us now?

With a new year comes so much possibility, as well as the reality that expectations will not be met--there will be trials and losses.  

Maybe 2015 can be a year when, with intention, we consider the possibility of God being part of our daily living--
in our waking and our sleeping,
in our rising and our falling
in our wars and our suffering
In our prayers and fasting,
and our protests and our struggles...
in our work and in our play…
in our waiting for the redemption of the world….
WE may be surprised by joy at the ways in which God is redeeming the world before our very eyes…

Hope came into the world; and Simeon and Anna, saw God in the face of the newborn Jesus.
Hope comes into our world as we become aware of the living Christ present among us.  
And in each moment we might discover salvation….

It may take a stranger, a dear friend, or even a Simeon or an Anna among us to call our attention to God doing, but none-the-less, Rejoice
God is, God was, and God will be.

Thanks be to God. Amen.