Friday, February 07, 2014

Sermon on the Presentation of our Lord, 2014

Yesterday, I got a bit of a surprise. I came to the church, turned on the water, and nothing happened. Michael, Kosta, and Dennis looked into it, we had a couple of plumbers come by, and there was nothing they could do. So, this morning, as you may have noticed on the signs, we have no water at church. But this got me thinking. Water service is something we expect and rely on. We go, turn on the faucet and water comes out and I can't help but wonder if we feel the same way about God: when we need Him, we go, turn on the faucet, and expect His grace to come upon us immediately.

The problem with that approach is that the grace of God is something that we need to prepare in order to receive. We are seeing these days in the Orthodox Spirituality series that in order to know God, we need to be prepared, to have a relationship with Him, to do the commandments, to live according to His teachings. We cannot experience God without that… and so it is easy to have that connection to God frozen if we don't pay attention to it. And then we wonder where God may have gone, why we cannot feel Him next to us, and perhaps we even begin to wonder what is there after this life, and we start focusing on this life and holding on, for lack of a better expression, for dear life to the things we have here.

I think it is instructive to contrast that with St. Symeon, whom we celebrate tomorrow and who... today we celebrate his reception of the 40-day-old Jesus in his arms at the temple. And we are told that he was old, that he was agéd, and we are told that the Holy Spirit had told him that he would not die until he saw the Lord's Christ, and he took that promise to heart and he lived with expectation of this promise in the temple. We know that he was a priest.

So he spent his time waiting, preparing himself for this moment when he fully trusted that the promise God had made to him through the Holy Spirit would be fulfilled, and I think what is amazing to me is his reaction to seeing God. God's promise was fulfilled. I don't think he had doubted that it would be, but there is this sense of finality, that he had seen the salvation, that God had prepared for all the people. He had had this joy of holding in his arms the infant Christ, and for him this is all that he wanted. This is all he was waiting for, and he trusts in the something better that comes after this life, because as he takes the infant, he says, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace."

As with the saints, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, he knew that his true home is in heaven. But he knows that because he trusted the promise of the Spirit. He knows that because he spent his life in the temple, waiting for the fulfillment of this promise. He has prepared himself. He is able to see God's revelation. He is able to receive the infant Christ in his arms. And as I said, his prayer is one of the most amazing things that I think we can see and we can make our own as a prayer, as a reminder that our true home is with God in His kingdom, seeing the joy and the peace that St. Symeon has and how he is able to just pray out of his whole heart:
Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all people, a light and revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Your people, Israel.
May we remember this beautiful feast and the beautiful example that St. Symeon sets for us. May we prepare ourselves to receive Christ in our hearts as he received Him into his arms. May we have the same faith, the same dedication that he had. May we prepare with the fervor that he prepared for the arrival of Christ. And in this way may we always give glory to God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.



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