February 5, 2017
Anthem: Trees of the Field (Come to me)Senior Choir
Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.
So the family goes to the temple to dedicate their firstborn son, because first fruits of all that we receive belong to God. So Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the temple to do what the laws of Moses commands.
And there in the temple are Simeon and Anna. Simeon and Anna are waiting for the Lord. Simeon, guided by the Holy Spirit, and Anna, a prophet, are looking to God to heal their people, to set things right, to lift up the fallen and bring down the haughty. They are living in the promises of God, but have not yet seen these promises fulfilled.
And there are many who have come and gone claiming to be God or God’s annointed.
Julius Caesar, proclaimed a god by the Roman senate. And the temples of Rome have all the gods they borrowed from the Greeks, as well as their Caesars, all of whom were supposed to be worshiped. (This is why early Christians were called atheists. Not because they had no God, but because they did not worship all the others gods and sacrifice to those who represented Rome.)
There are Jewish self-proclaimed messiahs and revolutionary leaders, each of whom have declared that they are God’s answer to the problems of the day.
But Simeon and Anna did not fall for any of it. Simeon, on whom the Holy Spirit rested, and Anna, who was in the temple every day, praying and fasting, saw all the Roman statues, and all the revolutionaries of violence, and did not see in them the fulfillment of the promises of God.
But now they see Jesus.
And we would all like to think that if we were in the Temple that day, we would see Jesus and recognize him as who he was to become. But chances are, I would be busy trying to get things ready for the whatever is next and might miss him. I know some of you cannot let a baby come into church without an ooh and an aah and a request to hold the child. Some of you have finely attuned baby-radars.
But Simeon and Anna do not simply ooh and aah over Jesus. Simeon says, “I can die now. It’s okay. I have seen that your promise is coming true!”
Anna, the prophet, praises God and speaks of what God is going to do to redeem the people.
This freaks Mary and Joseph out a little bit. Like a couple who haven’t been to our church since grandma’s funeral ten years ago, and they walk into a good Pentecostal church with speaking in tongues and falling out in the Spirit, and they are…well the Bible says “amazed.” But “a little freaked out” might be a safe understanding.
What if we could welcome all children like this? Not necessarily with speaking in tongues, but with an acknowledgement that they too are a part of the promises of God.
And not just infants, who might still have new baby smell, and who might still be so cute we forgive blowouts, and who still snuggle us the way we wish we could hold on to God.
- What about pre-teenagers who have started making decisions, some good, some bad?
- What about adolescents who haven’t had enough to eat, and maybe don’t know where the deodorant is?
- What about adults who have never needed to grow up and are now facing challenges they were never prepared for?
- What about children whose color or language or ethnicity or religion do not match our own?
It says that 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.”
I’m not sure this sounds like a blessing at first. What it does sound like is an elder who cares not just that there is a baby in the church, but that this child has a calling they will need help with, and the child’s parents need blessing too.
In some African cultures, the parents are not allowed to help initiate children into becoming adults. They are too close. They are still fighting each other over homework and curfews and drinking milk out of the jug and all those other things. It is the elders of the community who help find what gifts the child has. It is the other adults, the Sunday School teachers and the adoptive aunts and uncles and grandparents of the congregation who help a child discover their calling and their passion and what draws them into the world.
Howard Thurman, poet and theologian, dean of the chapel at Boston University, wrote, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Our children need adults in their lives who are asking them, “What makes you come alive?” And if we don’t know how to ask, maybe we need to start by asking ourselves.
And the kids who hang out at the picnic table behind the annex need some adults to start asking them, “What makes you come alive?” And maybe even helping them understand the question and how to live into the answer.
And the kids at CrossWalk, and the kids who don’t go to CrossWalk, and the kids who don’t fit in, even at CrossWalk, need adults to ask these questions.
Simeon and Anna were waiting on the fulfillment of the promises of God.
And we have made God some promises too.
“We promise our love, support, prayers and care.” We make these promises every time someone is baptized in our church. And we have enough people not of our church who get baptized here, what if we just assumed that every kid we see is someone for whom we have made this promise?
For in each child there is the possibility of the promises of God. How wonderful would it be if each child were welcomed by adults who want to see how that child might be loved into these?
Thanks be to God. Amen.