Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sermon for the Presentation of the Lord - 2/2/2014

The Audio can be found at: [ ]

The text, with variations can be found below:

How do we honor those who have gone before us?  We remember.  This past week I stumbled across a video of Alfre Woodard reading a moving piece  by Sojourner Truth that was originally delivered in 1851, titled ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’

I marveled not at the fact that she was articulate or brave or cunning or smart.  I marveled that she was the birth mother of 13.  Most of whom she never saw grow to adulthood.  They were sold off as slaves.  Her ability to take others from the South to escape in the north during the years of slavery are well documented.  It was almost as if, she replaced the children she lost with others whom she could deliver to freedom and a new life.

I marveled at the fearlessness that she demonstrated in going back to the same regions from which she had gained freedom to offer that to others.  She was able to face the danger full well aware of the risks she was taking but that there was an importance for her to complete the missions for which she readily volunteered.

She was a mother facing danger on behalf of her new found children and the children of many others.

So what does this have to do with the Presentation of Jesus as the Temple? 

Did you know that Bethlehem is only 6 miles from Jerusalem?  Yet this manger that had been transformed into a nursery was six miles south of the Palace of Herod and six miles south of the Temple to which Jesus was to be presented.  This was six miles closer to the one who is reputed to have killed all the male babies that could be found after he had encountered the wise men who were looking for a new king.  But you see the wise men are not accounted for in the Book of Luke.  Luke covers the Birth of John the Baptist, the Birth of Jesus, the Presentation at the Temple, and then if we were to read further, we would encounter Jesus as a 12 year old on the yearly trip to the Temple.

This young mother and father were bound and determined to fulfill the actions called forth by their faith.  It was time for the ‘purification according to the law of Moses.’ Mary and Joseph brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.  The Law of Moses says, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord."

They gave the appropriate sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."  They had been warned that they should flee rather than have their son sacrificed to the anger of a disturbed king.  Yet they went toward danger to fulfill the law.  It was there that an old man who regularly attended the temple saw them and took Jesus into his arms and gave of the words of one of my favorite parts of the liturgy that we find only in the first liturgy in the new hymnal.

Lord, now you let your servant do in peace,
Your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have see the salvation
Which you have prepared
In the sight of every people:
A light to reveal you to the nations
And the glory of your people Israel.
Glory to the Father
And to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and will be forever. Amen.

Amazed at what the Old Man had said to them, he added "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and he will 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."  Like all things about this new baby, Mary pondered these things in her heart.

Simeon was now ready to die for the promise given to him to experience the Messiah had been fulfilled, though the work was still a long way off.  Yet Simeon was not the only Temple visitor.  There was a prophetess named Anna.  This woman of 84, never left the temple, but worshiped there – praying and fasting – day and night.  Entering the temple, she saw the child and praised God, and again told the mother, that this is the child that all were looking for to redeem Jerusalem.  This encounter with Anna was tucked into the memory bank of Mary again to be pondered in her heart.

This powerful woman, though young in age was driven by her faith to follow the directions that God seemed to be laying in her path.  Thus I was thinking a lot about the foremothers in my life.

I must admit that I have been a witness to women in dealing with health issues of their own or of the ones they love.  We have lost a few mothers this year: Dorothy Saylor, Kitty Leach, Rose L. Johnson (mother of Lucinda Gittens) ,  the Mother of Mary Ellen Dykhouse, Carol Ulrich.  Some were related to the faithful who continue to worship among us and have lived at distance from us.  Some of us have had to deal with accidents.  Some members of the congregation and members of their families are dealing with health issues.  Please read and pray for the prayer list in our bulletins.

Lift up your fellow members and note those whom you have not seen.  Call them, talk with them, if moved, pray with them, for that is the fulfillment of the expectations of the Family of God.  Our caring for one another is just as important as the father and mother fulfilling the law and presenting their child at the temple, before going to their home.

Our caring for one another is a matter of listening and sharing the news we have about one another.  For our faithfulness and care for one another is the caring for one another, to build a strong family, that has wisdom and favor with God.  This day especially pray for the church council members as we begin a year together as the eyes and ears that listen to the cares and concerns of the members of the congregation.  See them as the eyes and ears of the church, so that we may be able to hear about all the pains and needs of this community, as we move into this year of challenge to seek a new leader among us.