Tuesday, January 3, 2012

People of the Book - Simeon

This was my first sermon of 2012. I am going to be looking at people in the Bible. With the understanding that everyone has something to teach us.
Sometimes we find inspiration in them And sometimes we find warning. So - with that introduction - let us look at Simeon - the old man and the baby.

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.
26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.
27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.
34Then 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 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 3

Simeon is a wisdom figure in the Bible -
He is not a wisdom figure because he is old - but he is because he is faithful.
There are three descriptors of him in the Bible
1. He is righteous and devout
Greek - righteous - care well toward people - compassionate
Devout - signifies careful about religious - faithful to God’s temple
2. It tells us that he is looking forward to the consolation of Israel - looking for the messiah that is to come. - when you are old it becomes tempting to look back -
One of chuck’s gifts this year - was candy from the forties (do you remember candy cigarettes, buble gum cigars, smith brothers licorice cough drops?) - -
There are industries devoted to looking back - to saying "those were the days my friend"
And the temptation is to think that the best days are behind you, the glory days, and what is ahead is all downhill!
But for Simeon - he looks forward to what God is going to do YET - bring in the Messiah
3. And it tells us that he is guided by the Holy Spirit -
. The text tells us that the Holy Spirit rested on him.
He knew the history of Israel; he knew Hebrew scripture.
Because of his unwavering faith and knowledge of the Word of God, his eyes were certain of God's doing.
It was a sight for certain eyes.

And his life is a model to us of the faith of the elderly -
When I grew up - I thought that there were stages of life - baby, toddler, child, adolescent and then adult.
And that was it. It has only been in the last 20-30 years that there has been study of the stages OF ADULTHOOD - Erik Erikson has been a forefather of that work
And he says that there is young adulthood, middle adulthood, late adulthood. And every stage has tasks and learnings in it - and actually choices
In middle adulthood - choice - between generativity and self absorption or stagnation
In late adulthood - choice between integrity vs. Despair.
Simeon - a man of generativity and integrity - In the second half of his life.
First half of life is about building the building - the tower - of your life -and some people never get past that...the acquisition, the ego, the power...Donald Trump comes to mind
And then the second half of life, the wisdom choice....moves from success to significance. From building my own tower, to seeking to help others...Bill Gates may be an example
And we have a choice - always - because there is an opposite to generative - it is stagnated
There is an opposite to integrity - it is despair

And what the gift of Simeon is - is an example of one who chooses life - every day - chooses to be compassionate, devout, looking forward, and seeking the HOLY
And I see Simeon here - in so many people who keep choosing to look forward - to look ahead - to seek what God has for them in the new day and the new year What this means is - choices that we have as we age - whether we are going to care about the next generation and future or whether we our life is going to keep getting smaller.
So that we come to care about OUR health, OUR money, OUR family.

On the other hand there is great wisdom with age - that comes from an openness to life and an openness to God

And so Simeon is a gift to us for his life - which is why he is the one who sees and then says - he is the prophet who tells the young Mary about this child
And it is a hard word
And I would imagine that this is not what Mary wanted to hear
Probably she wanted to hear -
• that he is going to be a loving and faithful son to you
• He is going to follow in Joseph’s footsteps and everyone will love him and
• he will be a comfort to you in your old age
But Simeon - with his wisdom and truth - told her this child is destined to be a sign that we be rejected - and that many will fall and rise because of him - and that her heart will be pierece
Destined for the falling and rising of many
Maybe this means he is going to be a stumbling block - certainly many people stumbled over the teachings, the actions, and the life of Jesus.
Because there are a lot of people that trip over Jesus - in the Bible - it is the saducees and the Pharisees, and Herod and Pontius Pilate - and the rich young ruler,
Yes - it is also the disciples
Jesus can be a stumbling block
The way of Jesus that loves each of us and invites us into a kingdom where the poor are not rejected but preferred
The way Jesus calls us to forgive our enemy ...actually love our enemy
The way Jesus shows us a life - not of power over others but of servanthood and compassion
We Read our bible and watch the disciples trip over this
Who want to have a ranking, who want to burn their enemies, who want to avoid the suffering of the cross
They trip over the new way of living that Jesus comes to show us
But this phrase - destined for the falling AND THE RISING of many
We stumble over the teachings of Jesus, they force us to fall on our knees even
That falling - that losing pride in our own spiritual achievement, that emptying our self of self - life of humility and service
Fall on your knees in front of the HOLY
And then - we rise

Richard Rohr has written a wonderful book called - Falling Upward - which completely captures this image -
The subtitle is - the spirituality for the two halves of life
And the upside world of the gospel reveals - that the falling leads to the rising
The failure leads to the grace
The mistakes lead to the understanding of the need of God
Some call this a spirituality of imperfection or "the way of the wound"
So - to go back to the understanding of second half of life faith - why is it different than first half of life faith
Because we have lived long enough to fail -
When you are young - you think that mistakes, failures, tragedies are an aberration (playing tennis - missing a shot)
When you become older you learn that mistakes, failures, tragedies are the stuff of life - a part of life - not all of life - but part of life
I can remember when this came to me in a big way - in my late twenties when I was driving my car in Lebanon Ohio - with toddler Audrey in the front seat (yes - kids were in the front seat then!)
And I drove through a stop sign and hit a car - could have killed someone - didn’t - but could have
Led me into a great big depression and what I would now call the dark night of the soul
And it is the part that makes you realize that you are not in control, that you are not self sufficient, that you need help
It is the part that makes you realize that you need God and then you start to see that God is there - in the midst of it all
Strengthening, healing, forgiving - God is there - But more than this
God is calling us to be people who are righteous and devout - compassionate and faithful, looking forward and not backward, and filled with the Holy Spirit
And it is in the falling - that we find Jesus and then there is the rising to answer his call upon our lives.

Jesus- the son of God is destined for the falling and rising of people
The words of Simeon are so true
His gift to us is his life and his words and his song.
It is called the nunc dimities
Nunc dimittis[1] /nʊŋk dɪˈmɪtɪs/ is a canticle named after its first words in Latin, meaning 'Now dismiss...'.[2]
It is a song of gratitude - appreciation
Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
He can see God’s salvation which is intended for more than him alone - which means that now near the end of his life there is this deep satisfaction - not just for his dream realized
But that God is at work in the world and bringing Jesus who comes to save us. I can die happy, I can die in peace. And so as we face a new year - the old man’s life and words and song are a gift to us
For what God has done throughout his life - not only for him for for the world

Today is new year's day and I really cannot preach it without talking about New Year's resolutions. This is the day that people make them. And often they are about "first half of life" concerns - our appearance, our finances, our stuff.

And I want to suggest a few resolutions that come from time spent with Simeon
1. I Resolve to be more compassionate this year.
2. I Resolve to devote ymyself to something every day that may remind me of God’s presence
3. I Resolve to look ahead with hope and at the same time appreciate the gift of this moment
4. I resolve to ask for the Spirit to guide and empower
5. I resolve to make life choices that will glorify God

So that as my years add up - I can - like Simeon - have the eyes to see what God is giving to me and to us.

1 comment:

Pattie said...

I love this! I love how you preached generally the same thing our pastor preached Sunday but in a different way. I love this message.