Sunday Sermon - 28th February 2021

SERMON “Nunc Dimittus” for Sunday February 28th, 2021 - LUKE 2: 21-40 (Please read Psalm 40; Luke 12: 35-40)

Things looked bad for the nation. Nothing seemed to change – it was the same old story: under foreign occupation, a king/leader who was self-seeking and evil.  The God in whom they used to believe was (apparently) silent and had been for centuries. The promised Messiah was not coming, or he wasn’t what we were looking for. I’m talking about Israel, but it has a familiar ring to it!  The people used to pray, “I wait for the LORD; my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope…” Most people had run out of hope and patience…
But, as if from nowhere, Luke introduces us to Simeon and Anna. They’re certainly not “movers or shakers” – they could be easily missed; they were faithful and thankful. They blessed. They did not curse. We don’t know much about Simeon. We suspect he may be an older man (v. 28); we do know he was a man of faith who kept close communion with God so that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and led by the Holy Spirit. And for one man clearly God was not silent (see v. 26).  God spoke to him and promised him he would see the Lord’s Anointed in the flesh before he died.  When we first meet this man we are told he is WAITING for the CONSOLATION (COMFORT) of ISRAEL.

The dictionary defines “waiting” as “the act of remaining inactive and stationary.”  I don’t think for a moment Simeon is inactive or stationary.  The RSV tells us the Simeon has been “looking”.  He is neither inactive nor is he stationary.  “Waiting” has another sense too: that of “being in attendance” – ladies in waiting…they are ever alert, watchful (working) slaves (Luke 12:43).
Simeon had waited a long time for this day and (probably) suffered much during the process. But once God spoke he certainly moved…
It bears repeating that Simeon came in the Spirit, the Spirit was on him, the Spirit revealed to him, and the Spirit moved him. Simeon came in the Spirit into the Temple and (for him) the wait was over.
God Himself had waited until the time was right; when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman (Galatians); and the wait was worth it!
This kind of waiting was no waste of time. Simeon believed God - his name (incidentally) means, “One who hears or obeys” - (same word in Hebrew). Simeon says he is a servant – good servants wait, they hear and they act when their Master speaks. What a fantastic picture we are given of this elderly man led by God to the temple of God to hold the Son of God in his hands! So happy was he, Simeon was ready to die! Simeon knew nothing of a “bucket list” – but now he had realised his greatest dream and achievement, he was ready to rest in peace, ready to die and go be with the Lord. The man was “righteous and devout”.
All those who hope in God will depart in peace – but there is no peace for the wicked!
Like the old victory song, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

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.”How true and prophetic! (Quite a swansong!)
Do you remember the old circus trapeze acts? There is a flyer and a catcher and such a crucial connection between them.  And there are rules: the flyer is the one who lets go and the catcher is the one who catches. As the flyer swings on the trapeze high into the big top the moment comes when he must let go. The flyer must fling his body out in mid-air.  His job is to keep flying and wait for the strong hands of the catcher to take hold of him just at the right moment.  The flyer’s task is to wait in absolute trust. “Now dismiss your servant in peace…” The catcher will catch him, but he must wait…just like us, just like everyone. I am reminded, in this, of Mary’s funeral this week…
Waiting is not easy and the hardest part of waiting is always (of course) the waiting itself.  But this being said, Jesus warned his disciples to wait, to watch and pray (they found it hard); he said to them, look out for the signs of the kingdom. That would require supernatural patience. Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
God rarely seems to do things according to our desires or timetable.  But something happens during the waiting; and this is the real encouragement for those who cry, “How long, O LORD?”   But God is at work. (Maybe a year in the wilderness has knocked that out of you?)  And the Simeon’s of the world and the Anna’s of the world believe(d) that God was at work. Both Simeon and Anna are awake to God, sensitive to the movement of God’s Spirit. In the ‘ordinary’ child and ‘ordinary’ family they see the extraordinary…

I wonder, when we pray, “Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”, do we mean it?

Remember Job? His circumstances were dire, but he believed and declared, “I know that my Redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh, I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes – I and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (JOB KNEW!)
Like Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart – for they will see God!

Anna (we know more about her story) is also waiting – for the redemption of Jerusalem.  It’s interesting that in a time where there are no national prophets, here we have a prophetess. Is God silent then? No. Anna was not wasting her time either!  She had been widowed a very long time and as a younger woman it would have been reasonable for her to remarry and have children, but instead she waits.
Anna waits/looks/prays and Luke wants us to know where this woman is - she is in the Temple.  She was there because she believed in the promises of God and that in the child all the promises were fulfilled.  She did not depart from the Temple.  She was very old but not cold. Her life was spent in the Presence of God…
Notice how Anna’s prayers were not for herself; they were for others – she prayed for the redemption (the forgiveness) of God’s people. One of the “quiet in the land”, Anna prayed for the land.
People across the world meet (regularly, some every day) to pray - as unceasing intercessors for the world, for the land…
ANNA (unlike others) could have felt sorry for herself, she could have been angry and embittered, frustrated at the wait, angry with her country-folk – but she knew Psalm 25 – that no-one who waited on the Lord would be ashamed – she didn’t give up on God, or on others – she kept “turning up”. And, more, she “gave thanks to God” and spoke to others about the child - to anyone who was waiting for God (Verse 38).
Simeon and Anna are great examples to us all, to those who are tempted to give in to apathy (or give up) - as the interminable wait goes on.  They have much to say to our culture (and our church) which is one of convenience and impatience. The church would do well to recall Simeon and Anna and how: They waited patiently; they waited expectantly; they waited faithfully…
They waited and were richly rewarded…

The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong…” (Ecc 9:11)  The race is to those who persevere, to those who will not listen to the scoffers; the race (THE VICTORY) is to those who will wait on God…
THEY THAT WAIT UPON THE LORD SHALL RENEW THEIR STRENGTH; THEY SHALL MOUNT UP WITH WINGS AS EAGLES; THEY SHALL RUN AND NOT BE WEARY, AND THEY SHALL WALK AND NOT FAINT…and may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation, say continually…Great is the Lord! YOU are my help and Deliverer!”

MFR 28-02-21

 

 

 


 


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