2 February 2014

posted 31 Jan 2014, 05:26 by C S Paul

2 February 2014

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Fourth Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)

Mayaltho (Presentation of our Lord at the temple) 

Gospel Reading for this Sunday - Luke 2: 36 -40
New King James Version (NKJV)

Anna Bears Witness to the Redeemer

36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 

37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 

38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

The Family Returns to Nazareth

39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 

40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit,filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.

The Jewish Christ of The Underclass

by Larry Broding

How do people try to hold to the spirit of the Christmas?

Another Christmas has passed. The glow of the season dimly lingers on. While many pack up their lights for another season, others want to hold on, even for the briefest moments, to the promise of Christmas. Peace on earth. Goodwill toward all people.

To those who know Christ firmly hold that the Spirit of the season lives on, for that peace and goodwill is Jesus. In Luke's gospel, the Spirit of Christmas not only lingers, it grows stronger. For God favors his child with wisdom and grace. And through his child he favors us all.

In Luke's gospel, Joseph and Mary brought the child Jesus to the Temple for two reasons: the child's presentation and the mother's purification. Luke used the ceremonies, the place, and the witnesses to further proclaim Jesus as the Christ.

According to Leviticus 12:3-4, boys were circumcised eight days after birth.. According to Jewish tradition, this ceremony declared the son legitimate (i.e., "presented") before God and the community. [2:22-23] A child's mother was unclean for thirty-three days. Only after that period could the mother celebrate the rite of purification with an offering. [2:24] While Luke referred to the circumcision of Jesus eight days after his birth in 2:21, he combined the presentation aspect of circumcision with the purification of Mary in one ceremony, extending it to the family (see 2:22; "their cleansing"). Luke, in fact, used the purification ceremony to emphasize the presentation of Jesus, just as Hannah presented (i.e., dedicated) Samuel to God at the Temple (1 Samuel 1:22-28). The question remained, what type of service would Jesus give? Luke portrayed the rituals in the Temple to advance his theme. Jesus would serve God as the Jewish Christ of the underclass.

Let's analyze that theme. First, Jesus was truly Jewish. His parents were devout Jews, piously following the dictates of the Law. In fact, their devotion fulfilled the Law, just as Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. [2:22-24]

Second, Jesus was called to be the Christ. The locale and the monologue promote his title. The Temple was the locus of Jewish devotion, for they believed God definitely dwelt within its walls. One of the most famous scenes in the Temple was Isaiah 6, the young prophet's call by God. With the symbolic connection between God, his palace (i.e., the Temple), and Isaiah the prophet, add his prophetic themes about the promised royal child (see Isaiah 11:1-10). Popular Jewish belief held the coming Messiah would be a king-priest, who would rule and offer true sacrifice. By holding the presentation of Jesus (i.e., his circumcision) in the Temple, Luke not only saw Jesus as the possession of the Father, he also saw Jesus in the Temple as the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. Jesus was the Christ-child, future king and priest.

The monologue of the witnesses emphasized the messianic theme. Simeon, the Spirit-filled man, announced this child as the promised One who would bring about the Day of Judgement (when the nation would be saved). Simeon prayed to see the Messiah. The Spirit assured him that his prayer would be answered. [2:25-26] His Canticle was a prayer of thanks and proclamation. The child he held in his arms brought him God's peace (his Shalom; see the Translation note for 2:29). For this Simeon gave thanks. But this child was salvation of the nation [2:30] who would return honor to God's people [2:32]. At the same time, the non-Jews would witness his rising [2:31]. He would enlighten them with God's wisdom [2:32].

Next, Simeon turned to Mary and proclaimed the child would cause the fall and rising of many. The fall and rising can refer to scandal and faith. It can also refer to condemnation (God's judgment) and resurrection (his salvation). He would be a sign many opposed, but their actions would reveal their true intent. The scandal-judgment of Jesus would cause Mary deep pain. [2:33-35]

Finally, the people in the scene stressed the underclass, the large majority of those living in the ancient world. Notice those in the passage. The poor Jewish couple, Simeon who did not seem to have family, and the widow Anna who lived alone. While Joseph could support Mary with a trade, Simeon and Anna had no apparent income. As a Spirit-filled man, Simeon followed God's lead. As a prophetess, Anna acted as social critique and religious icon. While Simeon appeared to live day-to-day, Anna was nearly homeless as a widow (unless her children or her extended family supported her; widows were synonymous with the homeless in the ancient world).

Notice who was not in the passage: priests or other Temple officials. Steeped in money and privilege, these Sadducees would later oppose Jesus in his Temple ministry. In their absence from the passage, Luke emphasized God's presence with the common people. The Temple aristocrats were not needed as mediators. The child would be the mediator. [2:25-26, 36-37]

The presentation of the child would have an effect. Jesus grew in character as God favored him with wisdom and his presence (see Translation Notes on 2:40). [2:39-40]

Catechism Themes: The Mysteries of Christ's Infancy: Part 1

Jesus' presentation at the Temple represents his unity with his people and his place as the First Born of the Father. As a circumcised Jew, Jesus was a true son of Abraham. He followed the Law, worshiped God in the Temple, and extended himself to his fellow countrymen.

Jesus was also the unique first born of his Father, the "light to the nations" and "the glory of Israel." But his status would come at a price. He would be opposed by the leadership and would suffer death, symbolized by the dagger in Mary's heart. Yet, the public nature of his death would be the sign of universal salvation, "in sight of all nations."

Have you ever experienced God in church, but in way unexpected? Has God ever caught you by surprise, yet in a way that gave new insight? Have children ever caused you to wonder? What happened?

In the place of God's dwelling, a child is presented and given a mission. In the experience of a child, God gave the world Good News. In the sight of a family, the world saw the presence of God with his people. Yes, the Spirit of the season lingers on. And it grows stronger as long as we hold the Christ Child close to us.

Take one or two spiritual gifts you have been given this season. Share them with a friend or two this week.