Rector's news 31st January 2021

PERAMBULATING READER Luke ch2 v 22-40

 

 

       
 

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 

23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 

24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

 

 

 

Image result for simeon and anna free images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 

26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss[c] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 
    which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

 

33 The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[d] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

One morning in the Temple

 

This Sunday we mark the end of Epiphany when the feast of Candlemas reflects on the words of Simeon in Luke 2v 32 where he proclaims Jesus as ‘a light of revelation to the Gentiles’.

 

This Gospel transports us into the Court of Women in the magnificent temple of Herod. Mary enters through the Beautiful Gate lovingly cradling the infant Jesus in her arms. Joseph gently holds two young pigeons in his hands beside her. Round his waist he wears a purse containing the same price he has already paid for the pigeons.

 

They join a little queue of families at the foot of the steps leading to the Nicanor Gate. Through this gate the priest’s court and the Temple of the Lord can be glimpsed but the people are forbidden to enter.

 

You may think that our current habit of mutually giving others a respectful distance as we pass in the street for fear of contamination is something new. But here each family does likewise. The place they stand is considered to be unclean, contaminated. The temple court contains the melting pot of Israel’s people in their diversity.

 

This is not the realm of the priestly caste or the rulers. This is a place where provision is made for Nazirites, lepers and an odd assortment of others the priests don’t wish to get too close to.

The reason the families have gathered this morning is twofold:

 

  1. Firstly for the family to be ritually purified following the birth of their child which involves the offering of two living creatures to be sacrificed by the priest, one as a burnt offering and one as a sin offering.
  2. Secondly in the case of a first born son, to consecrate and to give their precious son to the Lord (Ex 13 v 2).  At the time of Jesus people are allowed to buy back the child for the price of the two sacrificed creatures - hence the coins contained in Joseph’s purse

 

This may have been why Mary and Joseph stood before the temple that day but God had other plans.

 

Among those present was Simeon, named after the son of Leah, Jacob’s unfavoured wife.  Simeon was a quiet, devout soul, unfavoured in the eyes of the world but a close friend of God. Simeon has lived his life in the expectation that before he dies he will see the Messiah, Israel’s consolation.

The Spirit has moved him to come to the temple court at this very moment and on this very morning. 

There before him stood two like souls gently cradling their child.

Simeon cannot help being drawn to take faltering steps towards the couple.

Mary turns and their eyes meet. Recognising a like soul, she steps towards him giving up her place in the queue.

She passes her child to Simeon who seems to tremble as he takes hold his Lord and Saviour, while Joseph looks on with some trepidation.

The Gospel of Luke places words in Simeon’s mouth but to my mind the look of enchantment and wonderment on Simeon’s face and in his moist eyes would have said all that was needed.

Simeon may or may not have been an old man but his life was fulfilled and had run its course in this moment.

All the characters we have so far met are similarly quiet and unimportant in the eyes of those in power – I am drawn to the term ‘the quiet in the land’ for them.

 

But before Mary and Joseph reach the head of the queue Anna who is 84 also approaches them.

Anna too is a godly and devout woman. In fact she has become part of the furniture of the Temple Court.

She lives her whole life there in prayer and contemplation.

Anna recognizes the baby in Mary’s Arms as Messiah and she is moved to spread the word.

We can’t tell the impact of Anna’s words on those present but Mary is thrilled and recognizes Anna as a prophet.

Many years latter Mary will share her story with Luke who shares it with us.

Since Anna would have been ignored by the powerful she too can be counted among the ‘Quiet in the Land’

 

If we are to reconcile the Biblical nativity accounts, the visit of the wise men lay in the future.

People would not have taken their sons to Herod’s temple after he had begun slaughtering them.

 

So the momentous news of the birth of Israel and the World’s saviour has passed completely below the radar - known only to ‘the Quiet in the Land’.

 

Do we not also inhabit a world where the saving grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is passing below the radar?

 

Is this not also the hour for the ‘Quiet in our own land’ to make their presence felt?

 

Not in loud and strident tones but in the quiet and gentle tones that have the power to open hearts towards a God who yearns to embrace the deepest hurts and needs of his children and bring them home to his salvation.

 

And for this sacred calling, advancing years can prove a positive advantage and the Temple Court is the world around us.


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