Candlemass – January 30th 2022

Worship

Confession:

Most merciful God,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we confess that we have sinned
in thought, word and deed.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbours as ourselves.
In your mercy
forgive what we have been,
help us to amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be;
that we may do justly,
love mercy,
and walk humbly with you, our God.
Amen.

May the God of love and power
forgive us and free us from our sins,
heal and strengthen us by his Spirit,
and raise us to new life in Christ our Lord.
All Amen.

New Patterns for Worship, material from which is included here,
is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2002 and published by Church House Publishing.

Word

“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 3
1-5

Affirmation of Faith (Apostles Creed)

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.

Jesus presented in the temple

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’[b]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons’.[c]

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.’

33 The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Luke 2
22-40

Reflection

Hi Everybody  – , I’m sorry I cant be with you today.  Sam our son has unfortunately got Covid and so we all felt it was safer if I stayed away. So I’m sorry if this feels a bit like we are back online!

I wanted to have the Old Testament  reading in today as the story gives a little context for todays Gospel reading. That first reading came from the book of Malachai – written 3 to 400  years or so before Christ in a time when society was a bit lawless, there were a lot of false prophets about and employers were often unscrupulous.  In the book there are plenty of back and forths between the people and God.  In the bit we have in our first reading God is answering the charge that he doesn’t fix the injustices that the people are going through – that he won’t just fix everything as the people know that he could.  They were going through a bad time and wanted something done – surely God could fix everything?  Instead God responds that he will first send a messenger, the person they are seeking, who will come to the temple to cleanse the people and warn them of God’s judgement to come.  God lets them know that he won’t make a quick fix – that there is a longer game here – his plan differs from the short term requests they are making.

With hindsight of course we can see that this prophecy is most obviously fulfilled when Jesus cleans out the Temple  of the traders and money changers and others that have turned it away from a place of worship and into a glorified market place. But as we know from todays Gospel reading Jesus goes to the Temple for the first time long before that and it is that first visit we are interested in today.  Don’t forget  how important the Temple was to all faithful people – we are talking about the epicentre of their religion – a truly symbolic place.

Today’s Gospel reading tells us that Jesus first went to the Temple at only 40 days old.  His parents were there to take part in the ritual cleansing of a new mother who would have been considered unclean for 40 days after the birth of her child. They were also there  to present Jesus in the temple as any parents would their first born son according to the religious law.   They took a couple of pigeons or doves to release as a sacrifice – nothing flashy, they were not rich people.  If you want to know the law given to Moses regarding ceremonial cleansing for women after Childbirth and the rules for presenting children at the temple, Leviticus 12 is the place to go.  This is why we know that Joseph and Mary were not well off as the requirement was to bring  “a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering” which the priest would offer to God in atonement to enable the woman to be ceremonially clean.  However the Law went on “.if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering.” So we know Joseph and Mary were not well off.  We can also guess that they knew that their Son was special – it would have been hard for them not too given what had happened to them and at Jesus’ birth, but I’m sure they were not expecting a day like this. 

Maybe the family got dressed up in their best clothes, like we would for a Christening, maybe they were going to have a little celebration afterwards – a special meal or something  – who knows.  They were just doing the best they could as custom dictated. They were doing what every other family with a newborn would do after the required amount of time.

Luke tells us that In the Temple they met a man called Simeon.

We are not told that Simeon is an old man, but assume so as he was told by the holy spirit that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Messiah. On this particular day the Holy Spirit had guided him to be in this exact position at this exact time.  We don’t know where he has come from or what has happened to him in the rest of his life , only that he was righteous, but when he takes the baby in his arms he tells those around him that he has now seen what he needed to see, that he can now die happy – he has seen salvation. 

Isn’t it amazing  that Simeon recognises Jesus for who he really is at all.  We don’t know how long he waited since his word from God but it feels from the story that it has been a long time – he must have seen many 40 day old babies carried in by their mothers and fathers.  Did he suspect at all that it would be a baby or was he waiting for some altogether more obvious saviour? No matter how long he had waited Simeon that he was alert to God’s possibilities –he was awake and aware when the time came, he hadn’t given and wasn’t looking the other way.  Clearly God prompted him when Jesus came, God gave him some sign that this baby above all others was different – would be different. 

And Simeon begins to rejoice – he praises God that he has now seen the messiah God promised that he would see before his death- the messiah that would be “a light for the revelation of the gentiles and the Glory of your people Israel”  He is clearly a devout man and his rejoicing words have become the Nunc Dimitis, the song of Simeon – the words of a prayer that were used for centuries in church prayer books – as all would say at the end of a service: Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

But it is not all good news – Simeon also has a dark message for Mary – his tone changes:

“ This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

Simeons message is not a completely happy one.  Yes this is the Messaiah but he prophecies that Jesus is not in for a smooth ride – not only will he do great things but he will be “spoken against” – he will be attacked and that his parents will end up being devasted “a sword will pierce your own soul too”.  Poor Joseph and Mary must have been on an emotional rollercoaster, one minute Simeon is telling them their Son is the Messiah and yet at the same time giving them a hint of his terrible suffering.

And there was another person in the Temple: Anna. We are told that she was 84 years old and yet had only lived with her husband before his death for 7 years – so assuming she married around sixteen, as girls then would have, she must have been a  widow for over sixty years when we meet her in the Temple.

Anna is a spiritual lady ( called a prophetess in some translations) who has dedicated her life to prayer -spending all her waking hours in the Temple.  She is a truly devout lady who has focussed on little else but God since she lost her husband.  She also recognises Jesus the messiah and “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

But something that strikes me is that this isn’t a massive crowd scene – Simeon and Anna don’t go running and shouting through the Temple – hoards of onlookers don;’t descend on the family – this is not a mass crowd moment like Palm Sunday.  Anna and Simeon appear to tell those around them but most people in other parts of the massive temple probably never knew it happened and merily went about their business.  Would they have believed it even if they had been told.  Whould you?

Both these people of faith are witnesses to the extraordinary – they are both people of good character who have no reason to lie – they are here in this story to testify to the truth -that this IS Jesus

So we have Simeon – who was seeking in the knowledge that he would be shown what God had promised and we have

Anna – dedicating her life to God without being in expectation of this moment but ultimately being rewarded for her faithtfulness with this incredible event – holding the son of God himself

These two older people , both clearly near the end of their lives show us that God is never done with us – we should keep going – right to the end of our lives in the knowledge that God doesn’t work to our timescales. Also that , as Simeon did, we must trust, even if the promise of God takes longer than we would like.  And then both testifying to those around them that this was indeed the Messiah – still both willing to tell the truth about their faith out loud, however old. Still being used by God whatever their age.

And its not just that Anna and Simeon were waiting – its how they waited, they were active, alert, waiting expectantly as we must be.  Its easy for us to get bogged down – to coast along and go through the motions just to get through life. Simeon was always looking forward, Anna was always looking to God whereas sometimes our worries and busy lives distract us from these things.

This  particular Sunday, Candlemass is a pivot point in our church calendar where we turn from Christmas – the joy of the new birth – to looking towards Easter, the death of our saviour , the agony and the heartache of the death of God’s only Son and then his glorious resurection.  Lent is just around the corner so what better time is there to follow the example of Simeon and Anna – And Simeon here has given us a sobering reminder that its not all plain sailing.  That Jesus himself will suffer.  Simeon points us towards the cross, and reminds us that following Jesus is not just about Christmas  – not just light and joy and celebration – that following Jesus is to follow in his footsteps of sacrifice and faithfulness in the face of suffering in the hope of resurrection and the new life that follows.

Amen

Prayers 

Intercessions (Hilary)
 

The Lord’s prayer 

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray

Our Father in heaven, 
 hallowed be your name, 
 your kingdom come, 
 your will be done, 

on earth as in heaven. 

Give us today our daily bread. 

Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. 
 Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. 

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours 

now and for ever. 

Amen.

Dismissal

The Lord who called us, sends us.
The Lord who sends us goes with us.
The Lord who goes with us
give us his message of love, hope, joy and peace.
We go now in the power of the Spirit
to live and work for God’s praise and glory
Amen

All:  In the name of Christ. Amen.

Community

The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.

The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.

“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”

The Wardens of All Saints Totley have been producing regular newsletters with helpful links, thoughts and resources. The latest of these is here.

We have also started to add resources for the younger members of our church, to add to this virtual service. They can be found here, and here.

Reminder

If you have any feedback on this service or any other ideas, suggestions or contributions, for future services please do send these to comments@allsaintstotley.church