Sunday February 3, 2019
11:00 am - Saint Thomas Church
Preacher: Fr Turner
Shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father
Preached on the Feast of Candlemas with the baptism of Samuel James Moretz.
Today we celebrate the day when Jesus was brought into the Temple in Jerusalem; Christ, the creative Word of God, through whom everything was made, was presented in the very place where people sought the glory of God. He was brought to God’s house in obedience to the Law of Moses, yet in his life on earth he would fulfil the Law; the blood of animals was offered by the parents of Jesus but he, himself, would offer his own blood for his parentsand for the whole human race.
Simeon was close to God; his ministry in the Temple allowed him to touch holy things. Now he cradles the little boy and holds the future of humanity in his trembling hands. Simeon saw the light that was flooding into the world through this child and for a moment it was as if the veil of the Temple was torn in two, for Simeon gazed on the glory of God. St Paul, writing to the Corinthians says, “We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:5b-6)
That light, which reflects the glory of the Lord, we see very clearly in this liturgy and we also baptize Samuel James Moretz, presented today by Matthew and Megan in this House of God. What an appropriate feast day on which to baptize a child, for it means that we will also renew our own baptismal covenant. We will, as it were, join with Simeon and glimpse the grace of God working in our midst. In a few moments, Samuel James will ‘put on Christ’ (like putting on a wedding garment) and we will recognize him as born again into the Lord’s family – our family, the church, which is Christ’s body – filled with Grace, which is ‘God’s riches at Christ’s expense.’
And that brings us to Anna. Dear Anna, the prophetess, who had spent most of her life in the Temple. Luke says, “she never left the temple” Never left the Temple! “At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem…” And? Luke! What did she say? My friends, have you ever thought about that? Why do we not know the words that Anna said after waiting most of her life in the Temple for this child!
Simeon did not have the last word (that was given to Anna) but they are not recorded. So, let me suggest how we might discover those words. Could it be that Luke intends for us to take up the story ourselves? Could Anna’s words be our words. If so, what will you tell people about this child Jesus? How will you share the good news that you have experienced in this temple, this sacred space where we have each encountered the glory of God?
On this feast of Candlemas we, therefore, celebrate the cost of discipleship. As always, we will be dismissed at the end of the mass; sent out - not sent home. Yesterday, I attended the ordination of a deacon in Connecticut; the Bishop there spoke movingly about the journey of the young man being ordained – he described it an ‘odyssey’ which began with his baptism. The mass began with the blessing of candles in the same way that we began our celebration today and how we will end it. The Bishop pondered on the candles. He said, “In the 21st century, when we have so much technology and many ways of lighting our churches, isn’t it interesting how we still choose to light candles?” It was a lovely thought.
In a little while, we shall give Samuel James a lighted candle – that flame will glow brightly; it will remind us of the light of Christ. It is also a reminder of the cost of discipleship by following the Lord’s own example; for the wax has to be consumed in order for the candle to burn brightly and when we leave the calmness of this space the chilling wind outside could easily snuff out the flame. If our lives are to reflect the glory of Christ, then we, too, must be consumed in the process so that the flame burns bright and clear: Less of self – more of Christ.
At the end of mass, the Deacon will say, “Go, in the light and the peace of Christ!” Let us allow ourselves, like our candles, to be consumed in worshipping, loving, and serving our Lord Jesus Christ. And let that loving and serving be something that is done to others eagerly and with a joy in our hearts that is palpable so that, in being consumed, we become part of the glory of Christ, the Light of the World. That worship, love, and service should remain a characteristic of our lives until we meet him face to face and, as Wesley’s wonderful hymn puts it, “Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.”