The Feast of the Presentation

2020-02-02 – Year A – Presentation – The Rev. Carrie Klukas Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 84; Hebrews 2:14-18; Matthew 2:22-40

Lord Jesus help us to come into your presence broken and in need of redemption. Help us to come to you and receive your merciful correction and guidance in our lives. Help us to find healing in your goodness and mercy. Amen

Today is the Feast of the Presentation or also known as Candlemas. If you love your Christmas decorations then you had every right to leave them up until today. In the church, the celebration of Christmas continues into the season of Epiphany in which we remember the manifestations or glorious workings of Jesus as the kingdom of heaven came into our world.

Epiphany helps us to draw more fully into the reality that God came as flesh and blood to walk among us, live vulnerable as we do, and suffer in common ways to us. In our house we left up our creche or nativity scene to remind ourselves that God came to be among us as a baby. 

The incarnation of Jesus, coming into the world as a baby is a life altering event intended to change our lives and make them more holy. It takes such love to come into this broken world and leave the glory of heaven to suffer, give of yourself to others, and to die. Jesus’ willingness to walk the life we walk is profound, we are not alone. We have one who has gone before us and who knows our sufferings, temptations, and inclinations towards brokenness. 

The Feast of the Presentation is when Jesus has been brought to the temple by Joseph and Mary to be prayed over by the priest. He would have been circumcised, named, and dedicated to the Lord for being the first born male child of Mary. The first male child to open a woman’s womb would be considered a priest, meant to be dedicated to the Lord. Each family was thought to have produced an heir to serve in the temple for the Lord. Priests were needed day and night to perform the sacrifices and rituals for purity and forgiveness of sins. 

For a large part of history faithful families were to produce offspring to serve the Lord in his church. We know that Jesus was the true priest, offering himself up as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. He was and is the final offering needed to end the shedding of blood. 

Mary would also have been prayed for as well by surviving the process of giving birth and needing to be made ritually clean. Birth was and is a highly dangerous event which can easily end the life of the mother or baby. 

Jesus’ birth was not ideal in that Mary was not attended by a midwife or even family to care for her. She gave birth in a rather earthy environment and her safety and Jesus’ was a miracle. Birth also involves blood which requires an offering to make Mary clean again. We heard in the gospel passage of the miraculous things that took place. 

Two people proclaimed the holiness of Jesus and His purpose in the world. Yet again God had sent people to come and proclaim to all who would hear that something amazing and kingdom oriented was happening with the birth of Jesus. First it was Elizabeth and the leaping of John the Baptist in her womb, then it was the shepherds from the fields, the wise men from the East, and now Simeon and Anna. God was announcing over and over again that His son was in the world to make things new. 

What I find amazing is that God takes normal everyday people and does miraculous kingdom sized things with them in the world. It says in the scripture that Mary and Joseph listened and were amazed. Here they were two people who never could have guessed how large of a thing that God was doing through their lives. They were just being faithful in the moment in the ways that they had been taught growing up. 

Both Mary and Joseph would have grown up going with their parents to the temple to give thanks for a baby and to offer sacrifices for the life of the child and mother. They were doing what they were taught to do by their family. 

Generational faithfulness is something that is taught and modeled for the next generation. Our faithfulness is not just for ourselves but for those closest to us. Your family needs to hear the message of God’s love, forgiveness, and mercy. Mary and Joseph were folding Jesus into the story of faith, redemption, and chosenness. 

We too are called to live lives modeled this way. We all fall short in sharing the gospel with people in our lives. Perhaps you didn’t raise your children to know the Lord, perhaps you didn’t share your faith as you should with your parents, sisters, or brothers. Our families are often the hardest places to share Jesus because we feel the most vulnerable. 

However they are the place that we should often begin. Try asking the Lord how He might want you to share Him in your family. Perhaps it is through apologizing, “Saying I am sorry for not sharing Jesus.” And seeking reconciliation with the people in your lives. Loving, listening, and caring can go a long way in expressing the gospel. Your sincerity will be felt and doors you may never have imagined might be open for sharing the love that God has for them. 

The temple was a place where people would gather to give thanks, offer up sacrifices for their sins, and come into the presence of the Lord. They believed that God only resided in the Temple, so it was the only place to go to be near the Lord.  We know that God does not reside just in the temple but rather the hearts of his followers. We can experience Him in many places.The Psalm passage today gives us a beautiful image of what it should mean for us to come into the presence of the Lord. 

The Psalmist is reminding us that the Lord’s presence is holy and good. That we are too long with a holy longing to be in the presence of the Lord. What could it possibly mean to long in a holy way for the Lord? So much of our life’s existence is around fixations or obsessions. We often move from one thing to the next seeking something to make us happy, calm, or life better is some way. 

Let’s take a socially acceptable fixation that many of us have, coffee or caffeine. We know from research that coffee or caffeine is addictive. When we consume it our bodies long for it everyday. We become dependent upon it so much that we get a large headache when we don’t have it. To feel the effects of the caffeine we need to increase our intake of it. So one cup of coffee in the morning can often turn into two or three cups or even a whole pot. Then we start longing for it in the afternoon, if something gets in between us and the coffee we become irritable and annoyed. 

Most of our longings or fixations here on the earth are like this, we want it more than we want God. The Bible says the knowing or experiencing of God does not leave us this way. It does not leave us with a self serving attitude but rather one that turns our eyes upwards and outwards. When our attention is turned up towards God then we become more aware of others. God leaves us calm, peaceful, and rested, which is a very foreign concept in our world today. Most of our interests leave us lacking or clamoring for more. 

The Psalm today speaks of our heart and flesh rejoicing in the living God. How do we cultivate our heart to rejoice in the living God? Our world is so fast paced now with information coming at us a mile a minute. We have options galore and so many that seem valid, worthy of our time, and needed for our happiness or something that we should do. 

How do we cultivate space to rejoice in the living God? One day we were on our way to have dinner with friends and we were driving through the city. As we went block for block I asked the kids what do they think people worship these days? They all said at the same time, “Our phones.” Person after person had their head turned down and there was no human contact or connection with the people around them. 

How often do we draw back from each other to lose ourselves in our electronics? Many vehicles now come with DVD players and people rarely need to ride in the car without something to look at. 

Over the years I have felt a distinct sense that I need to limit the amount of time that I and my family spend on electronics. The reason being that electronics can absorb our lives right up and we do not invest in others, or are present in the moment. 

In a few weeks we will begin Lent and it is a great time to push yourself to unplug from electronics a bit. Perhaps give up Facebook, put limitations on how much time you spend on the computer. Just so I am being clear I do use electronics and I think they can be a great tool for learning something new, connecting with long term friends, and sharing your faith with others. It’s just that sometimes things need to be given some limitation so we can grow in other ways. Replacing the time limitations with a life giving book about Jesus or coming to church on Wednesday nights could be an option.

Limiting how we spend our time with our minds, bodies, and hands can also lead us to rejoicing in the Lord with our flesh. Our bodies are meant to experience God’s joy and rejoicing in his love of us. Singing in a powerful and beautiful tool to experience joy for the Lord. I had been reading Ephesians in my Bible and felt the Lord prompt me to put Ephesians 5:19-20 on a note card and tape it to my kitchen countertop. It read, “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” 

You see I have often been standing in my kitchen preparing yet another meal or snack and getting grumpy at the children. God’s answer to my problem of feeling like a mean grumpy mama was that I needed to sing more hymns, and wouldn’t you know it as I practiced this God has given me many beautiful moments of praise in the midst of stressful, chaotic moments of low blood sugar, crazy toddlers, and the desire to avoid the chaos. The more we use our flesh in choosing the things of God the more we will change and find ourselves less selfish and more God oriented.

Have you ever felt God is such an intimate and holy way? For lots of us our lives move quickly and we struggle to slow down or to find space to hear Him. Maybe you long to experience this and wonder if there is something wrong with you. 

The Psalm today gives us such encouragement in that it reminds us that we too can have a place in the Lord’s courts and among His altar. I absolutely promise you that if you call out to God and ask to experience Him that He will come. God is a good Father who responds when His children call. He longs to hear your voice and to see your precious face.

 For happy are the people whose strength is in you and whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way. If you long for God, if you orient your life in a kingdom shaped fashion then your life will become more and more shaped in His image. The journey of faith to Jesus is one marked with presence, goodness, and mercy when we do not deserve it. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend the book Pilgrim’s Progress. It describes through a story the reality of choices in our lives and the kinds of people we come up against but also the kinds of people we sometimes are as well.  

To be a follower on the way means we long and press forward towards Him despite our season of life. Some seasons come with great distress, sorrow, suffering, and anxiety. Other seasons come with relative ease and an unawareness of how much it could change. Other seasons we are just thankful. 

The Psalm today promises that even when we go into a desolate valley He will provide streams of living water. Even when things seem so very dark, scary, sad, or unknown God is there and will provide for us. 

Just keep your eyes open for His hand and watch Him work beauty into your life. Come talk to us and let us walk with you on your journey to God and let us point out the signs of God’s work in your life. Remember we are on the journey with you and ever thankful to share bread as one beggar to another. 

The Psalm ends with the phrase better is one day in your courts better is one day in your house, better is one day in your courts then a thousand elsewhere. I love the song that goes with this scripture because it breathes new life into my soul and reminds me what it is all about. 

Sometimes trying to do all the adulting things that we have to do distracts my mind from the most important matter and that is to dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I know as you wrangle children in church or you watch someone do this or are distracted by others sounds it can be tempting to think of the courts of the Lord seems so very distant. 

I just encourage you to try and experience God for a few minutes or even seconds at church, in your car, in the shower, out walking, or in between work and home. I promise you that as you give this time to the Lord He will come and meet you and give you peace. There isn’t a moment of worship, bible reading, or praying that can be thought of as a waste of time. 

The Presentation of the Lord or Candlemas is meant to be a time for us to present ourselves to the Lord. As the month of January has ended I am sure many of your New Year’s resolutions may have ended as well. Perhaps that is okay and perhaps God has a different plan for you this year. 

What would it look like for you to present yourself as you are right now to the Lord? Do you want to run and hide, quick tuck around the corner and straighten yourself up, or are you ready to give your heart to the Lord? 

God sees you and knows you. He has known you before anyone else knew about you and He loves you. Present yourself just as you are to the Lord and let him show you what your next steps might be. Let Him change, mold, and shape your life so that you can experience joy, peace, and wholeness. 

We all need these things in our lives and God deeply desires to give them. So may you go from this place more aware of God’s love for you. May you rejoice in the presence of the Lord and experience His face shining upon you.  And may you share your love of the Lord with others that you encounter on the way of your life. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen

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