On Tuesday morning the pastors of Lutheran Saints in Ministry gather in Fairborn Ohio to discuss the texts for Sunday.

These are the contributions that are brought to the table.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Living in the Temple - Pr. Kruse

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them. — SIR 3:2

A number of things go on in our Gospel text this Sunday. Jesus is taken the temple for the first time as his parents do what the faith demanded they do after the birth of a child. In a second part of the text, the prophets get to speak: Simeon and Anna.

Either one might give us a moment to think and ponder. About what? First, Jesus is taken to the Temple, the place he will in  a few years be at enmity with and the place that does ritual that he will be there replacement of. But, second, his parents, people of faith and commitment to the God of Abraham, do what the faith asks they do at this time. Third, the Holy Spirit makes a rare appearance. Rare, because in the Gospel of Luke —  note, the Gospel not Acts — the Holy Spirit works in and through but a few individuals. It is only later that Joel’s latter days will break out and the Spirit will be poured out on many and they will all see visions and prophecy, etc. (Acts 2)
Maybe these are connected. Already in the story of the visitation, John the Baptist, yet to be born but rich in the Holy Spirit, as foretold by Gabriel, has given witness to Jesus who had at the time been barely conceived. As Simeon and Anna now show us, those who are full of the Holy Spirit give praise when Jesus the Messiah is present. They know that he is with them. They praise God for his presence and give thanks. They also seem to have a different attitude toward life. Simeon and Anna spend their day in the temple. They, like Anna, seek the close proximity of God and the temple is the best place for it. All other things seem secondary. They, like Simeon, live contemplative lives that seek the signs of the presence of God before they die. And, in a Lukan twist of the tale, they break out into song. Zachariah does as he regains his town, Mary does as she hears the Angel voice confirmed, Simeon does so as well. Later, others, in thanksgiving for healing and miracle, will do so as well, but Simeon, John, and Zechariah do it at the mere presence of the Lord.
The Gospel of Luke begins and ends in the temple. At the beginning we find Zechariah in the temple and in the end we find the apostles praising God in the temple after the Ascension. Luke will say that: “they were continually in the temple blessing God,” much like Anna who we meet today. (Lk 24:53) In Acts, there is still a lot of traffic to the temple. Even towards the end of the book of Acts, St. Paul is going to the Temple and is eventually arrested there, accused of brining Trohimus, a Greek, into the temple, which he had not. (Acts 21:29-30) In a way, the old ways and the new ways meet in the Temple. Today, we contemplate a peaceful meeting, guided by the Holy Spirit. In other places the meetings are volatile and those on whom the Spirit does not rest tend to be the aggressors.
The old ways will eventually die. The Temple is no more after the 60’s. Yet, even in the story of Paul’s arrest there is a foreshadowing of departures to come: The door of the Temple are shut when the altercation begins. (Acts 21:30) It is as if Luke is saying: “This was the end of our travels to the Temple. We were no longer welcome.”
Where then shall one go now, to fulfill all righteousness as Mary and Joseph did on the day described in our Gospel lesson? Where will Simeon and Anna await the salvation God has prepared for every people?
Incarnation is tricky bizzness. It, along with history’s destructive presence, has left Christians, and to some extent Jews as well, without this “Holy Place” of pilgrimage. We arrange Holiday in the Holy land in order to understand the scripture better but not to be in the presence of the Holy. Yet, there is “Holy Things” that are considered the very presence we seek. The Holy Spirit somehow knows and recognizes these and calls to them and from them to hearts inhabited by the very same Spirit.
Would Simeon, kidnapped by Dr. Who in the Tardis and transported to our time and place, recognize the light that reveals the God of Abraham to the nations and the Glory of God’s people Israel in Mass celebrated at our altars? Will Anna, as she walks the earth find herself drawn to a peculiar place, action, or person and there realize that she stands in the presence of the Most High? Will they break into song?
There is a bit of a contemplative in every Christian, at least there ought to be. We train at the altar and pulpits of the church where we know the presence is real. We walk the earth longing for that presence to be revealed to the nations as well, ready to see it wherever it discloses itself. The Spirit will recognize it. Once incarnation is real the whole world might be packed with wonder.  Those who live seeking will not be disappointed.  

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