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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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The Presentation  February 2, 2020

Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 84
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40

Today we celebrate the feast of the presentation of Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem. Forty days after the birth of a first born son, the parents would take him to the temple to dedicate him to God. We don’t have the opportunity to celebrate this unless it falls on a Sunday, and this is one of those years.

Our first reading is from the prophet Malachi, We know almost nothing about this man. The name “Malachi” means “messenger, but scholars tell us it is not his real name. He is a messenger, so his book has been named “Messenger.” Scholars tell us that his ministry took place between 520 B.C.E. and 400 B.C.E.

God is calling this messenger to prepare the way for the time when the Lord will come to the temple. We hear the words which Handel has so beautifully set to music in the Messiah. “But who can endure the day of his coming and who can stand when he appears?”

The Lord will purify the people so that they can present offerings to the Lord as a people of compassion and justice, a people who love the Lord with all their heart and soul and mind and strength and who love their neighbors as they love themselves.

Psalm 84, our psalm for today, was a song that pilgrims sang as they entered the temple in Jerusalem. How dear are God’s holy places to us. How dear is Grace Church to us. We love to spend time with God and each other, and our strength is in God.

Our reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus came to be one of us so that he could destroy the power of death. As John Donne wrote, “Death  has no more dominion” over us. Jesus has become like us so that he can become “like his brothers and sisters (namely, us) in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God.” And then those words which are so reassuring and inspiring to us in times of great trial. “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” Our Lord has walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and he helps us when we have to walk   that valley. We know that he has gone before us, and his grace holds us up and even carries us.

Our gospel is a tender scene of celebration. It is forty days after the first Christmas, and Mary and Joseph bring the little Jesus to the temple to worship and to celebrate and to offer him to the Lord and ask God’s blessing.

In the temple is a faithful elderly man named Simeon. His song of praise, the Nunc Dimittis is in our prayer book on page 93.  Simeon realizes that he has seen the Savior, and he sings a song of thanks and praise, “Lord, you now have set your servant free/ to go in peace as you have promised;/ For these eyes of mine  have seen the Savior,/ whom you have prepared for all the world to see:/A Light to enlighten the nations,/ and the glory of your people Israel.”

Just think what it must have felt like to see this beautiful baby, only a little over a month old, and realize that this is your Savior. Simon blesses Mary and Joseph and tells then that because of what Jesus will have to suffer, a sword will pierce their own hearts too.

Another devout person, Anna, is there, She never leaves the temple. She “worships there with prayer and fasting night and day,” She, too, recognizes who Jesus is. She praises God and tells the people that Jesus is the Savior.

And then those final sentences, so filled with meaning: “When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord,  they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him.

The next time we will see Jesus is when he is twelve years old and the family goes to the temple for the Passover. In those days, families traveled in large extended family groups. Mary and Joseph started on their way home in that large family group, thinking Jesus was with Uncle Amos and his family or perhaps Aunt Elizabeth and her family, and they finally realized he wasn’t with them. We recall that they rushed back to Jerusalem and found him teaching in the temple, astounding people with his learning.

 They had been so worried and they tried to tell him how upset they were that they had left him in the temple without even realizing it. We will never forget his answer. “Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Even at age twelve, Jesus knew who he was.

He is our Savior, someone who understands all of what it means to be human, and, because he understands, we can go to him and tell him about the times when we fail to love God and our brothers and sisters or the times when we really put our foot in it and say something we regret or the times when we get angry because we are very tired, and why are we tired? Because we tried to do it ourselves instead of asking him for help. We can tell him the truth because we know that he understands. And because he love us. And forgives us. And gives us strength to go on.

These two very elderly people, Simeon and Anna, understand whom they are seeing, a Savior who loves and understands and forgives and strengthens us. May we know him, too, more and more deeply. May we see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly. Amen.

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