Posts Tagged ‘God’s Promises’

One Plus One Equals One 6-8-16

This morning’s sermon is based on John 17:20-26. Jesus prays for unity among all believers…which includes us.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

I like Math…I just do…because it always works. I’ve heard it said that Math is the universal language…because when it gets right down to it…1 plus 1 equals 2….or Uno y Uno es Does…I could continue in other languages but unfortunately those are the only two I know.  But it always works…if you have something…and you bring in one more thing…then you have two things. Period.

I love math…but…not everyone does…and in my observation, for anyone who isn’t a fan of math, story problems are the bane of their homework existence…I’ve seen it many times as I’ve helped my kids with math homework…and I can remember many of my classmates lamenting them during my school days.

Now personally I’ve never really had a problem with them…because for whatever reason, my brain connects well with the very linear method of thinking required to solve story problems…in order to solve the question, I need to find this, and in order to find that, I need to solve this, and in order to solve that, I need to do this particular process with these available numbers…one thing leads to the next thing, which leads to the next thing.

Now because my mind works pretty well to move through that linear pattern of problem solving, I was geared well to handle geometry during my sophomore year of high school…and in particular, writing geometric proofs…something that the vast majority of my classmates hated…and yet I could sit there and do them all day.

Because this is true, we know that this is also true…and because that is true, we can deduce that this is also true…and if that is true, then we know that this is also true…and so on and so forth…Admittedly, it probably makes me pretty nerdy…but its safe to say that I actually enjoyed the process of moving forward from what was given to end up at the desired result…from start to finish…always pushing forward despite any tricky roadblocks that might get in the way of where we were trying to get to. (pause)

Now today’s gospel lesson offers us something of a similar type of situation. We find ourselves today at the final Sunday of the Easter season…Ascension Day was last Thursday…and so, within our calendar we have passed the point where Jesus returned to Heaven…coming up next Sunday, one week from today, we hit the day of Pentecost when Jesus sends the Holy Spirit upon his followers, just as he promised…and with that, we will begin to see and remember the explosive growth of the early church which has led all the way up, across the last 2000 years to today…and which will continue on until the last days…when Jesus will return ushering in a new era…a new reality with a new heaven and a new earth where God dwells among us.

That’s the direction that this is all going…that’s the end game that God has in mind…and in fact, it seems to me that this has been the plan all along…when God sparked off creation, using whatever means he saw fit…and somehow, someway God made the world and everything in it, not to mention the great cosmos that exists out there…and everything in that too…and ever since that initial moment, whenever it was, when God spoke existence into creation…its all been moving forward…and despite your personal thoughts on creation…despite what you might think about the debates between science and religion…it seems to me, that creation…or reality…or whatever you want to call it, continues to move forward…with something of an energetic spark behind it…I happen to think that energetic spark is God…but that’s just me…

But regardless, as time marches on, this reality is moving forward towards something…and the scriptures give us glimpses into the various moments when God has acted directly here within our reality to continue this forward momentum…and now coming all the way back around to the gospel for today…we see Jesus engage in the same sort of forward movement within the context of a prayer.

The entirety of chapter 17 of John’s gospel is a prayer…Jesus has wrapped up his final time of teaching…and just before they head out to the garden to kick off this whole death and resurrection thing…Jesus takes the time to pray.

Now this is a unique situation…because the majority of the time in the gospels we don’t get to hear just what Jesus is praying for. There are brief moments, but they’re pretty rare…but here we have the entirety…and the amazing thing, as we see in the verses just before this one, and then throughout these verses as well…is the fact that Jesus is praying directly for his followers…and remember that they are sitting there at the table with him…think about that.

What does it feel like when someone takes the time to pray for you…and you are there, privy to what’s on their heart for you…it’s a pretty amazing thing…and in this situation…its Jesus…God in human form…God the son…The word of God made flesh…praying for his followers…and newsflash…YOU are a part of that…You…are included as a recipient of Jesus’ prayer…YOU are on his mind.

Father I ask not only on behalf of these who are sitting here, but also on behalf of those who will believe because of their words. (pause). Without a doubt…we are included in that number…because 2000 years after Jesus lived died and rose again…the life altering gospel has reached our ears, and that has brought us here today.

So let that sink in for just a moment. At the Last Supper…just before Jesus endured the most horrific fate that we can imagine…he prayed…for…you. (pause)

Now the basic theme of this prayer…unity. Father, you and I are one.  So let them be one…and all those who will believe later…yah let them be one too…and why? Well so the world will believe that you sent me…and if they believe it, then we dwell with them…and they with us…and we’re all one…and if we’re unified, then they’ll see my glory, and my glory is your glory, and if they see it, then we’ll glorify them too…so let them be one…because we are one, and we want to be one with them…because we love them. (pause)

But the really interesting thing about all of this, is that Jesus’ prayer is almost structured like one of those geometry proofs that I loved so much in high school…and its because of the presence of a single word that is repeated over and over again.  In the Greek, it’s a word called Hina…and its best translated “in order that.” And in these 7 verses, it happens 9 times.

Just like those proofs…since this is true, then we know this is true…and it happens here too. Father I pray for them, IN ORDER THAT they be one…that they be unified, IN ORDER THAT we may be with them and they with us, IN ORDER THAT the world may come to know that you sent me. And they will believe that you sent me IN ORDER THAT your glory may be in them, and if your glory is in them, then your name is glorified in them IN ORDER THAT your love is in them, IN ORDER THAT the world may know your love. (pause)

Its all moving forward…its all moving towards something…and in the end, it seems like God is working in the world, which has been redeemed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the end result of this work, which we have not yet reached…is unity…that we may be unified as the one body of Christ, and that the one body of Christ may be unified with God…and as Jesus says…so that where we are, they may be also…that’s where this is all going…and Jesus desires it…not only for those guys sitting at the table that night, but for you and me…and everyone that has come before us and everyone that will come after…that in the end, we may all be unified…that we may all be one. (pause)
Now, how does all this work? Well, I have no idea…but I do know that it involves the power of the Holy Spirit…which Jesus is about to send our direction at Pentecost…the Spirit of God which flows through the world…empowering the church…and empowering us as individuals to join with God in this work of unification.

And what I do know is this…it is only possible because of the hand of God at work…because there are way too many different forces at work here in the world that are trying to push back against God’s work towards unity…the powers of sin and death…the powers of darkness and destruction…powers that we’ve seen first hand this week…because there’s been a lot of death surrounding our community as well as individuals within our congregation…and death is only one of the forces that work against the unity that God desires for us and with us.

All we need to do is turn on the news and we witness more…anytime the world…which unfortunately includes us as well…tries to throw up some sort of barrier…whatever that barrier is…division based on race, or gender, or economic status, or age, or orientation…and even here within the realm of the church…divisions and judgements based on denomination or Biblical interpretation or tradition.

We create barriers to unity all the time…but praise be to God that no matter what we throw at it…the world…this realty…this creation that we live in…God is moving it forward whether we like it or not…whether we come on board or not…whether we take God’s invitation to join in this work of reconciliation or not…its happening. (pause)

You know interestingly enough, I was sitting down with one of our members earlier this week, talking about this very thing…and the radio was playing in the background…and as we talked, one of those really catchy songs came on…you know the type…the ones that even if you don’t like them, you hear it and it catches your attention.

And this song that came on the radio was Taylor Swift… (sing it) We…are never ever ever…getting back together. (pause) And the more I thought about that blasted song the more it seemed fitting.  Because all that dark stuff within our reality…whatever it is…its trying tooth and nail to keep us apart…to keep us separated…and the world and all the divisions that we create might tell us “We’re never getting back together…its too far gone…never gonna happen.” But God says…Oh yah…you just wait and see.

We may not get it now…because God works in ways that go far beyond our ability to see or do or understand…and what God’s up to doesn’t always make sense to us…in fact the work of God often times to be the polar opposite of what logic says should happen.

And as much as I might love math…and the way that it always works…the unity that God is working towards even throws that for a loop…because math may tell us that 1 plus 1 equals 2…but it seems to me that Jesus is saying that 1 plus 1 equals 1…at least it will when its all said and done. Amen

Haven’t We Heard This Before 1-10-16

This morning’s sermon for Baptism of Our Lord Sunday comes from Luke 3:15-17, 21-22. I explore the importance of Jesus’ baptism and the promises made for each one of us in our own.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

In any situation, when a person sets out to tell a story, no matter what form its in, every story can break down to one of three different plots. The person verses person…person verses the environment that they are in…and person verses themselves…that’s it…every single story line, in its most basic form will fall into one of those three categories.

And so, many story tellers will often report that there are no original stories…simply that every story is a variation on one of those three plots. And in recent history, no other medium highlights this notion as well as the movie industry. Considering that we are now into a new year, and me being a movie buff…I got a little geeky and looked up the top 10 grossing movies of last year…at least for here in the US…and here’s the list starting with number 10 moving up to number 1. See if you recognize these titles. Spectre, Cinderella, The Martian, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Minions, Furious 7, Inside Out, Avengers Age of Ultron, and the winner…Star Wars The Force Awakens. (pause)
Now…did you sense a trend? Out of those 10 movies, 1 is an original idea…1 is a nearly verbatim adaptation of a book, 1 is a live action remake of the very same story told in animated form, and the rest…7 of the top 10 films of the year…are sequels…and not only are they sequels, but they are increasingly far into different series. There is 1 part 2, 1 part 3, 2 part 4’s, 2 part SEVENS…and finally…the 24th…Bond Movie. (pause)

With these stats in mind…I believe that it is beyond debate…that Hollywood, is REALLY good…and telling the same story over again. Because in the end…particularly with movies…that’s what sequels do…they tell the same basic story with new details…period.

And I bring all of this up, because today’s gospel lesson reminds me of a sequel in many different ways. First off…because the opening portion of today’s gospel was featured just 4 weeks ago as we heard John the Baptist rattling on about NOT being the messiah, and pointing out the important differences between them. (pause) And secondly…because this story…the baptism of our Lord…is one of those stories that we hear, every year…there are a few different ones…Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Transfiguration…and this one…the Baptism of our Lord.

Now, some of those stories are always the exact same gospel…Christmas for instance always comes out of Luke…others from that list will feature the same story but from a different gospel…and today, the baptism of Jesus…well it falls into that second category. For the baptism of Jesus is mentioned in all four gospels…even John gets in on it…but with the other gospels, Matthew Mark and Luke…the details surrounding the baptism are all pretty similar…there are a few differences here and there…but we see those differences within the lead up to the baptism itself…and when we get right down to the nitty gritty of the story…when we get down to the action featured here for Baptism of Our Lord Sunday…no matter which gospel, it’s the same deal…and here…I’ll read it again…the baptism of Jesus.

When all the people had been baptized, and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form and a voice came from heaven saying You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased. (pause)

Wait a sec…did we miss something? Was there a baptism in there…oh yah…Jesus was baptized…talk about a throw away comment…but, I guess it is in there that Jesus was in fact baptized…even if every one of the gospels almost glosses over it…they all do tell us that it happened…but then…in all four gospels…we hear about what happens next…it’s the same old story…SLIGHTLY different details…just like movie sequels.

But you know what…the focus that all four gospels gives on this next part is probably a pretty good indication that we should sit up and pay attention…for following the baptism of Jesus…the heavens open up…and the Holy Spirit shows up with some sort of physical form…one of only 2 times in scripture when this happens…and the Spirit comes upon Jesus…but that’s not all…and we hear, once again, each and every year…the voice of God the Father…You are my son the beloved, in you I am well pleased. (pause)
This moment…this one story, told from different perspectives…is the ONLY time in the entire Bible…when we have all three members of the Holy Trinity present and accounted for. The voice of the father, proclaiming to the world the identity of the Son, who now harbors the Holy Spirit. 1 God in three persons, all of them here. (pause) And let me remind you of the occasion…this all happens because Jesus is baptized…

So what is it about this story…that is so significant…what is it about this story that led the different authors of the gospel to line up some precisely with the details of what has happened…what is that causes us to talk about it, each and every year? (pause)

Great questions…especially when we stop and think about baptism as a whole. For it was nothing new at that time. John was simply utilizing an old Jewish practice to symbolize the purification of the sin that they had repented of…but then John tells the people, when they claim him as the messiah…that no…the Messiah will still baptize you…but it will be different…He will still purify you…but in a way that we can never do…With the Holy Spirit and with fire. (pause)
And we all know that the practice of baptism has continued…most of us in this room, if not all of us…have been baptized…and interestingly enough, at first glance it almost seems like our baptisms are closer to John’s…for we use water don’t we? There’s no fire here…and thankfully so because I don’t think any of us would react very well to being dipped in fire would we? (pause)

But here’s the thing…something that I talked about a few weeks back when this passage came up…something I talked about a year ago when this story was featured…something I talk about in every baptism class with new parents seeking baptism for their child…something I talk about for 2 class periods with the confirmation students…and something that discuss with individuals on a constant basis…
Jesus has taken baptism…and through the ordinary element of water, God does something impossible…God does something new…God does something different…and somehow, someway…in ways that we can neither physically see or understand…God is able to purify us with fire…through the power of the Holy Spirit…in the same baptism perfected by Christ…and just as Christ experienced death and resurrection, we are given the promise in the waters of our baptism that we have joined with Christ in baptism like his…and likewise we join with Christ in a death like his, for the waters of our baptism drown the sinful self and we rise out of that water…with new life…a new creation…and as such we claim the promise that we will join with Christ in a resurrection like his. (pause)
This is the work that God is up to in the waters of our baptisms…its nothing that we do…its nothing that the parents or the sponsors…or relatives or friends…and certainly, this is not the work of the individual who is baptized…this is the work of God…and this is a wonderful thing…that we do…and we do it…because Christ himself told us to…

I mentioned before, that this is the one time when the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are all present and accounted for…but there is one more time when all three are named…and it happens in the great commission when Jesus tells us to Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…one God in three persons.

And we invoke all three for a very specific purpose…remembering that it is not us who does the work…But we are baptized in the name of the Father who created us in the first place…in the name of the Son who redeems us through his death and resurrection…and in the name of the Holy Spirit who comes upon us in our baptism to unite us as individuals into the one body of Christ…and to empower us to be the church…to be the body here on earth until such time that Christ shall return and we will join together in his resurrection.

And this…is a very big deal…something worth remembering…something worth clinging to…and that is why we tell this story every year…remembering that Christ was baptized so that in the waters of our baptism we might join with him…and as God calls Jesus his beloved Son…God is also pleased to claim us as individuals, through our baptisms as His beloved child.

We cling to this promise…in all things…we cling to the hope found in the promise when we face the reality of death, that it does not get the last word…we cling to the promise that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus…not even our failings…and so we remember…and as Martin Luther said…every day when you wash your face, remember your baptism…live in the promise that God has given you that you belong to him…that he has claimed you…and yes, we’ve all heard this before…but it is worth hearing it again….because this same old story…is the best news that we can ever receive. Amen

In It For the Long Haul 11-15-15

In this sermon, based on Mark 13:1-8, I explore the apocalyptic nature of Jesus’ teachings to his disciples about the end times. He assures us that dark times will occur, but that we do not need to be afraid.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

It goes without saying that to the best of my knowledge, I have never been pregnant…but, I have encountered many individuals who were, and inevitably, when in conversation with someone, particularly when they are nearing the end of their pregnancy, the question always comes up…When’s it gonna happen?

And the vast majority of the time, almost across the board, the answer is “I don’t know.” Because the birth of a baby pretty well happens unexpectedly…it can’t be predicted….for the most part. (pause)

In our family though…that wasn’t the case…Because my son prefers, at times anyway, to do things the hard way, he ended up being breach…resulting in a planned c-section birth. The closest we got to being surprised was a trip to a specialist in Sioux Falls towards the end of my wife’s pregnancy that COULD have resulted in Jack being born about a month early…something we found out the day before going to that appointment…and so we had the surprise of “this time tomorrow, you might just have a baby.” (pause) But as my story has already revealed, that wasn’t the case, and so on January 15th, 2004 we checked into the hospital at 6am…and by 7:45…we had a baby…Quick and easy…seriously…c-sections…I highly recommend it.

But, on the flip side…that’s not the norm is it? I found that out about 24 hours later. We were still in the hospital and would be for a couple more days yet…and so we were witnesses to the other happens in the OB department. It happened to be a fairly quiet period in that department…but, at 6am the day after Jack was born…another lady was induced…and her labor began…and she walked that hallway…up and down…up and down…over and over again…lap after lap…hour after hour.

As her labor progressed…as those labor pains came and went…that poor woman walked that hallway…husband in tow…for 25.5 hours…finally, according to the report of a nurse that filled us in…at 7:30am the NEXT day, she went into delivery, where she pushed for 2.5 more hours…until ultimately having to undergo and emergency c-section…and it was seeing this from the outskirts…just watching her walk the halls that I discovered just how extensive…how long term…labor can be…once it starts, trust me, you are in it for the long haul…and that first contraction…is just the beginning. (pause)
And now in a moment of full disclosure…I am FULLY aware that I have never, nor shall I ever…experience something like this for myself…Ladies…you are champions…and you are WAY tougher than us guys can ever hope to be. (pause)
Now…all that being said…it probably comes as no great shock that I connect this story in with Jesus’ closing words in today’s lesson…this is but the beginning of the birth pangs. An interesting analogy to be sure…especially considering that those involved in the conversation…Jesus, Peter, James, John, and Andrew…all happen to be members of the male persuasion and not a single one of them would have experienced those birth pangs for themselves…nor had any of them sat through it with a wife…as midwives were all the rage in Jesus time…and husbands got kicked out the house until it was all said and done. And yet…as Jesus is addressing the “end times” this is the analogy that he uses.

But before I get into that, I need to back up…perhaps share a little background…here we are towards the end of Mark’s gospel…and as in all of the gospels…we hear about the end times…these different apocalyptic messages within the final week of Jesus’ life…this is no different…though perhaps it’s a little more fitting that here in Mark…its chapter 13…lucky number 13 as we hear somewhat cryptic messages about what is to come at that unknown point somewhere out in the future. (pause)
But the funny part of all this…is what sparks off the conversation in the first place. After walking out of the temple for the last time here in Mark’s gospel…one of his disciples…we’re not sure which one, but one of them takes a gander at the incredible size of the buildings…and the individual stones that make them up…some of which were as large as 40 feet long and 20 high…and that disciple can’t help but marvel…at least for second…until Jesus rains on his parade by saying “there will come a day when all this will be gone. It’s all going to be destroyed.”

And its at that point, that Jesus gets the million dollar question. “When will this be? And what will be the sign that it is about to be accomplished?” (pause) Then Jesus takes a breath, and spends the remainder of the chapter 33 verses… 6 different sections…all aimed at the end times. (pause)

Now admittedly…apocalyptic texts always give me a little bit of pause…but at this time of year, each and every year in the lectionary…we get them. Earlier in the week, I was in conversation, and the individual that I was talking to reminded me just how much I tend to cringe at this type of text…that its one of my least favorite things to discuss…much less to preach on.

And it is…but I do have to say that this year, compared with last year, is a little easier. Last year, we got apocalyptic texts for about 4 weeks straight…but now this year…its just this one…just one week…just one text…and yet, it raises the exact same grimace for me.

But why is that? Good question. What is it about apocalyptic texts that tends to bug me so much? And the answer…the typical reaction of those who hear it…I’ll be honest, as a pastor there are certain types of scripture that illicit a pretty normal response no matter who it is that you are engaging with…and inevitably when we get started on this dire predictions for the unknown end times…I know I’m gonna get the question “What’s it gonna be like? When will it happen? Is it already going on?”

And the tricky part about this from my end of the discussion, is how many times can you say “I don’t know” before people start to wonder if you have any idea what you’re talking about…but the long and short of it is that we don’t know. (pause) Scripture gives us little glimpses…but there is no roadmap to when it will occur…there is no indication of if it will be short…or if will be long…if we’ll all know in an instant or if news will need to spread….the thing is…that we just don’t know.

And yet…we all want to don’t we…all of us…I think we all hear texts like this and wish that we had some indication of when its all going to happen…but despite an entire chapter devoted to recognizing the reality of the end times…that at some point that God the father has ordained, Jesus will come back and there WILL be a new heaven a new earth…and those who have died WILL join Jesus in the resurrection….despite all that…Jesus really doesn’t give us much to go on does he?

“Jesus…when will this be? And what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” (pause) Wars…nation against nation…earthquakes…famine. (pause) Come on Jesus, that’s not a ton to go on here…and perhaps we turn on the nightly news and it seems like this stuff is already going on…and you know what…it has been…because wars and natural disasters and hunger…that’s all been around since Jesus day…and so it seems that the disciples who heard his message that day…and everyone who has read it in the scriptures all the way up to us today…we pretty much all have the same thought that Jesus…you’re warnings…they don’t really reveal very much because we already live in that reality. (pause)

And it that’s the case…then I guess Jesus could come back any second couldn’t he? And I don’t know about you but there are plenty of times when I watch the news or hear the reports and think to myself that it would a whole lot easier if he would…Come on Jesus…enough is enough…let’s get this show on the road here. (pause)
And you know what…followers of Christ have had that reaction as long as there have been followers of Christ. His earliest followers…some of those who literally walked along with him…they thought he’d be back during their lifetime…and many of the other 1st century converts though the same thing…so much so that the Apostle Paul had to write the letter of 1st Thessalonians to ensure them that the death of believers was not a bad sign…and this notion has continued through countless dark times for the past 2000 years.

And in the midst of all this, Jesus reminds us…quite calmly…do not be alarmed…not when you hear of wars and disasters…Not when you hear of freak November tornadoes…or wildfires in Colorado…or earthquakes in California…or hurricanes in the southeast…or devastating storms in the north east…Jesus tells us that when you hear of these things…don’t be afraid…for they are only the beginning of the birth pangs.

Birth takes a long time…and for that woman in the midst of it…feeling those devastating labor pains wracking her body…it probably feels like an eternity. (pause) Likewise, Jesus tells us that we need to be in it for the long haul…because these devastating events…they’re only the beginning. (pause)
That’s what he told the disciples 2000 years ago…and that’s what he’s still telling us today…isn’t it something that we share the same reaction as Jesus’ own disciples when we start to think about the end times? But maybe it shouldn’t come as a shock to us…because its human nature…we want to know…we want to understand…even that stuff that’s beyond our ability.

But remember this…Jesus doesn’t seem interesting in determining when its going to happen…but rather, he wants us to be prepared. That’s what the vast majority of Mark chapter 13 is about…be prepared. Now that the gospel has found you…now that the Holy Spirit has worked within you…now that Christ’s work in our reality has brought you into faith…simply live each and every day hopeful in the promise that through Christ you have been given eternal life…whatever that looks like. Live today like Jesus is going to come back tomorrow…even if all signs point to the notion that it won’t happen during our lifetime.

As followers of Christ we have been given the promise that we don’t need to fear…not the disasters describes in the end times…not the trials and tribulations that we face in our day to day lives…and ultimately not even death…because God has claimed us in the here and now…and that promise goes right on through to eternity.

So when you start to think about the end times…try not to stress…because remember that God’s in this for the long haul…and he’s promised to bring you along for the ride. Amen.

What is it About This Kid 12-28-14

This morning’s sermon is based on Luke 2:22-4o. This is the story of Simeon and Anna encountering the infant Jesus in the temple.

You can listen to the audio of the sermon here:

You can also follow along with the text of the sermon here:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Have you ever heard that old expression…you’ve got to see it to believe it…or perhaps a similar notion that in order to really understand something you’ve got to experience it for yourself? (pause)

When I was younger, I didn’t put much stock in that particular notion…and I find myself wondering if that’s the normal tendency for most children. (pause) Think about, kids typically take things pretty much at face value don’t they? You tell them a story or give them an answer to a question…and they pretty well accept it as truth…and that was certainly the case for me.

Thinking back, it didn’t really even need to be that great of a story for me to buy into it…depending on who it was that was telling me. In my youth, I idolized my brother…and I remember a time when probably about 11 or 12, he told me a story of about one of the other high schoolers making some random statement in what he thought to be a humorous fashion…and since my big brother thought it was funny…I thought it was hilarious…at least until I tried to tell some of my friends about it…and they just sorta looked at me. I guess they needed to experience it for themselves. (pause)

But then as I got older…I started to realize that there was certainly some truth in that whole notion. And perhaps the best example of this whole deal came about a few years back when we visited Washington DC. (pause) It shouldn’t have been at all shocking to me. I’d seen all the monuments on tv…I’d seen videos of the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier…but until I stood there…staring up at the Washington monument…or in front of the giant carving of Lincoln sitting in his chair…until I watched those highly trained men go through the ritual of guarding the tomb…I couldn’t possibly know just what it was all about…truly I had to see it for myself. (pause)

Today’s gospel lesson offers the same sort of notion today…the idea of truly having to see something with one’s own eyes. (pause) But certainly this goes far beyond anything that I can attempt to compare with…there was a man, living in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon…a man righteous and devout…a man that the Holy Spirit rested upon…and this man had been informed that he would…in fact…see the messiah for himself.

Now keep in mind the history behind this whole situation. The people of Israel had been waiting for the Messiah for centuries…literally centuries. In their minds, the Messiah would be a political leader that would reclaim the throne of David, throw out whatever ruling empire was in power at the time…and reestablish the nation of Israel. This was the expectation of the people…and they prayed day after day that this great deliverer would eventually arrive…and make no mistake…they truly believed that it would happen…they just didn’t know when.

But then there’s this guy…Simeon…and for what ever reason…God chooses him…and at some point in the past…lets him know that truly the Messiah is coming…and God promises Simeon…You will not die until you have seen him.

Certainly we’ve heard this sort of thing before…God making a promise to someone in their younger years…telling them that they can count on it…and then waiting years for it to actually happen.

Admittedly, we don’t know how long Simeon has been sitting on this knowledge…resting on the promise that God had made to him….but on this one special day…Simeon’s “Holy Spirit radar” goes off and he thinks to himself “I better get myself off to the temple today.”

And who should show up? Mary and Joseph and this newborn baby…not more than a few weeks old…brought to the temple to be dedicated to the Lord…and as they are all walking in…they cross paths with Simeon…now grown old…here by the urging of the Spirit…and Simeon sees the baby.

What would you think…if you were Mary and Joseph…and this random old guy that you’ve never seen before asks to hold your newborn? Do you let him do it? I think most of us would be pretty hesitant, but yet the story tells us that Simeon takes Jesus in his arms and immediately began praising God because he knew…truly…this was the long awaited Messiah…and obviously Simeon knew it by the words of the song that he sang in that moment. (pause)
And yet, I find myself wondering if this baby was who Simeon had really expected. Certainly you’d think when God chose to reveal his Messiah, it would be an adult…someone strong and ready to take on the mantle of leadership…certainly it couldn’t be this newborn…not even able to hold his head up…much less to take on the Roman empire.

But that being said…there MUST have been something about this baby…something about Jesus…because people responded to him…Just last Sunday, downstairs in the confirmation class, we talked about Jesus calling the first disciples…and for the most part we focused on the first 4…Peter, Andrew, James, and John…called by Jesus while they were fishing…and at his word…they left everything to follow him…and we also mentioned Matthew the tax collector…who was sitting at his booth one day when Jesus walked up and simply said “Follow me.” And that’s exactly what he did.

What is it about Jesus? I find myself wondering this from time to time…what was it about him that made people respond so favorably? We see it today as well with Simeon…but the truly astonishing thing about this story is that it seems to be only the appearance of the baby that sparks off Simeon’s understanding of just who the Messiah really was.

Jesus is a newborn…he can’t speak for himself…he can’t answer questions or give directions…and yet Simeon understands in an instant…just what the Messiah would be. And he praises God saying “I have seen your salvation…and it is prepared in this baby…for all people. He will be a light of revelation shining in the darkness…and people will see through him.

And truly, the first revelation must have been for Simeon himself…for how else would he know all this? (pause) And so I pose the question again…just what was it about this Jesus guy that made people respond? And unfortunately that’s not a question that we can answer…because we have not seen him for ourselves…but that being said…we do have something in common with Simeon…the Holy Spirit.

For the Holy Spirit rested upon Simeon…leading him…guiding him…and instructing him…and in our baptisms we too receive the gift of the same spirit…that same spirit which has been active within the world, even before Christ came on the scene…and this same spirit remains within the world today…as God continues to take an active part in the lives of all people…leading us…guiding us…helping us all to understand the same thing that Simeon clung to…that God has made promises…and we trust that God will do what God says he will do.

And those promises are made a reality in this baby…met so graciously that day all those years ago by Simeon…who praised God at the revealing of the Messiah saying now you are dismissing your servant in peace…

And what is this peace that Simeon experiences? (pause) It is the peace of mind and spirit in knowing that the promises of God are true…not only that they are true for all people…but more importantly that they are true for you. (pause)

Just what is it about this kid? This helpless baby who came into the world kicking and screaming like every other baby ever born? Well, he’s the savior of the world…he’s the fulfillment of God’s promises…and he’s here for you. Amen.