Sermon for The Presentation of Christ 3rd February 2019
Gospel Reading Luke 2 vv 22 – 40
Revd Dr Bernard Moss
Job done ! that’s what we like to say isn’t it? , Job done !
It could be something small like doing the tidying up that has been inviting our attention since Christmas…though perhaps that’s not so small a job after all!
Or something quite significant – a major task or piece of work that has taken ages to complete and we sit back and say -maybe I could have done better but given the circumstances it’s the best I can do ! but thank goodness job done.
Or like Simeon in our reading – a wonderful poetic explosion that enriches our liturgy even today in the Nunc Dimittis. It was one of those strange moments I guess – not so much a coincidence but a God-incidence we might say – one of those days when the spirit of God nudges us we know not why … and suddenly Simeon who had this deep-down faith – this inner God-given conviction – that he would see the salvation of God before his earthly life came to an end . How old he was – whether his death was to be soon or years and years ahead we are not told…
But into the temple he went and saw the young family
And his heart leapt – God moved in that moment – and he knew – he just knew that it was a case of Job Done – God was at work
Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word
For mine eyes have seen the salvation which thou hast prepared in the sight of all peoples
A light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of your people Israel ( Luke 2 29-32)
Job done Lord – I have achieved what I have been longing to see for all my life. Anything worth having is worth waiting for and now I have seen thy salvation –whenever I am called to go, I can go in peace. Job done!
I don’t know how often you have been to various training events or such like where you meet up rather self consciously with a complete group of strangers and wonder as you grapple with a cup of coffee and a disintegrating biscuit what you have let yourself in for – and inevitably there are the group ice breakers to get you going – to get you moving round and talking to people
I’ve had my fair share of these at the giving and receiving end, but I think the oddest icebreaker ever was when the trainer asked each of us to write down on a piece of paper what we would like to have as our epitaph and then to share it with others in the group. What we would like to have written on our tombstone when the time comes, assuming we have any say in it of course!
Well, there were one or two risqué ones which I can share with you over coffee afterwards but my favourite was the one borrowed from Spike Milligan – “I told you I was poorly”. Or perhaps that well-loved variation on
” everyone brings joy into this office – some when they arrive – others when they leave”.
But there is something in this which harks back to Simeon
Job done – this is how I would like to be remembered – this is what I am most proud of .. or this is what makes me who I really am – this is the real me… I can go now – I’ve discovered the heart of what this is all about
And for Simeon and the people of God this had been a long long wait – hundreds of years – the nation had gone through turmoil upon turmoil – hopes had been raised and dashed.. when oh when will this promised messiah ever come, they achingly cried
And then Simeon caught a glimpse… as Mary and Joseph brought their young child to the temple, Simeon saw not just a young family full of hope and promise– not just proud parents – not just a child beginning a new life that would end who knows where doing who knows what – all parents and grandparents know that feeling for sure
All that no doubt, but Simeon caught a glimpse that here at last God was doing something new ; here at last God’s salvation was entering human life – here at last salvation for all was at hand. Job done … job about to begin – the candle had been lit and would never be put out.
And its moments like this that make us all pause and wonder what it’s all about..
A new life enters this world…new opportunities beckon
Or things happen that rock us back on our heels
Disasters strike and we feel rudderless on a turbulent sea
And what will we say of ourselves if asked – if asked at that moment in our lives – at dark moments – that is a hard question to answer.
But Simeon, who knew what longing and hoping and being in a dark place was all about, Simeon we guess would say : put as my epitaph… not “what kept you all these years Lord?” – or “ we thought you’d never make it” or some such statement of rebuke – but no – “ I have seen thy salvation”. That was all he needed or wanted to say.
And as for us and our epitaphs – I guess we won’t be saying “ I voted for Brexit” or “I voted against Brexit”
Or “ I worked my socks off for all my life and attended more meetings than I ever thought possible” – or “ I attended the PCC regularly for 144 years without fail” – or at least that’s how it felt !
These things and many more are important, but when asked to bring it all down to one short sentence that sums up who we are … what shall we say?
And of course what Simeon glimpsed, the next few decades would see unfold as Jesus began a short ministry – teaching healing challenging –it would not be an easy ride for anyone – it would be like a sword cutting through everything that kept people distant from God and each other – everything that undermined the call for justice and peace and reconciliation – – everything that we call sin and evil . This would be important and life changing stuff
– how all the forces of evil tried to do away with him
and how in John’s gospel it both ended and began on the cross with Jesus crying out “ It is finished” = job done – the barriers stopping us having a close relationship with God have been broken down and there is now nothing but nothing that can separate us from the love of God.
The resurrection of Jesus blew a gaping hole through all the barriers we had set up or we had allowed to get in the way of a friendship with the holy loving God
This is heady stuff…this is life and death stuff – this really matters
There are moments in our lives when we catch a glimpse of what really matters
Music and poetry and art ; deep love and sacrifice can all point us beyond ourselves to a deeper beauty
There are moments of anguish and bitterness – or hatred and abuse that can point us beyond ourselves to a deeper belief of what human living should be about but often isn’t
There are moments of joy and awe and wonder and mystery which can point us to something – someone – greater than we could ever aspire to be
Dare I say it – that is why we are here this morning – that is why this church is here
To point us beyond – to a love and a power and a beauty that even death cannot overcome
So that when we are asked – whether or not it’s on our tombstone who knows-
But when we are asked what sums us up – what we are all about – may our answer be – job done -for I have seen the Lord – everything else hinges on that statement: Mine eyes have seen thy salvation. Thanks be to God.