The Witness February 2013

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As we approach the holy season of Lent, I am reminded of a line from Joy Davidman’s book “Smoke on the Mountain”:

 

How does one keep a day holy? By making it unpleasant, and restrictive, and boring – or by making it joyous? By making it as much as possible like hell, or as much as possible like heaven?

 

We don’t usually think of Lent as a joyous season: Our church services are more somber, we refrain from using the joyous expression “Alleluia,” and we are encouraged to be more mindful of our sinfulness and or mortality. But the Spartan and penitential nature of Lent, need not remove all joy from our lives every February. In fact, when understood properly, our Lenten journey can actually help us to find and hold onto the true source of joy in our lives.

 

Life has a way of distracting us from what is really important. We are always tempted to put our faith (and our time, energy and resources) into things other than God. Maybe our desire for food controls us more than it should. Maybe our television habits are poisoning our view of humanity. Perhaps we need to spend less time chasing after life and more time just living it. The world always wants us to believe that joy is to be found in more stuff, but our faith is always calling us to remember that sometimes true joy is to be found in less.

 

Less drama, less noise, less clutter, less dessert: Lent can be the spiritual and emotional equivalent of cleaning out the basement, the attic and the garage. The austerity of Lent is not meant to be an arbitrary punishment for our sins; it is there to focus our attention on those things that are truly important. It is there to remind us of how much the world tries to distract us from the love of God.

 

We worship the same God during Lent that we do during Christmas and Easter. The God that we celebrate feasting on pancakes on Shrove Tuesday is the same God that calls us to fasting with ashes on Ash Wednesday. The God that confronts us with sin and death on Good Friday is the same God that offers us forgiveness and life on Easter Sunday. We need both, and God knows it.

 

Now we are come to the beginning of Lent. We are all given the opportunity to make this season truly holy, not by giving up joy, but by focusing ourselves on what the true source of our joy really is. We may put aside some things for a while, not because they are necessarily bad, but because we recognize that we don’t need them as much as we need God.

 

Joy Davidman (that author I quoted above) was the wife of C.S. Lewis. When she died prematurely of bone cancer in 1960 he had the following epitaph placed on her grave:

 

Here the whole world (stars, water, air,


And field, and forest, as they were


Reflected in a single mind)


Like cast off clothes was left behind


In ashes, yet with hopes that she,


Re-born from holy poverty,


In lenten lands, hereafter may


Resume them on her Easter Day.

 

The ashes that we are anointed with this Ash Wednesday are a reminder of our mortality and all that we must let go of, but they are also a sign of hope: Hope that no matter how much we have to let go of in this world, there is so much joy waiting for us in the next.

 

Blessings,

 

Fr. Kevin

The Witness December 2012

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God knows we all love Christmas. The food, the decorations, the traditions…it can be a fun and exciting time of the year for children of all ages. It is hard to contain all that fun and excitement into one day (Christmas Day) or eight days (the Octave of Christmas) or even twelve days (Christmastide). The fun and the excitement, and the celebrations and the preparations long ago spilled over into the season of Advent, which originally had very little to do with celebrating the Nativity and was mostly concerned with the Second Coming of Christ. Now, most people think of Advent as (at best) a season to prepare for Christmas or (at worst), Christmas itself. For years I struggled with what to do with Advent. As a good Anglo-Catholic, I want to be faithful to the tradition, but I also have to be honest and admit that I do like to have fun in December as well. Mostly I am tired of listening to clergy complain about how Advent has been lost to secular Christmas, so I am just not going to do it. I don’t think that we are going to be successful at getting people to stop celebrating Christmas before December 25th, and I am not sure that I even want to try. I have not given up on Advent though.

 

There just might be something to be said for preparing to celebrate Christ’s birth at the same time that we are talking about his Second Coming. We have been taught for years that we should be joyful at the Nativity and fearful at the Second Coming, but why must this be so? Perhaps God wants us to look to his Second Coming with the same joy and anticipation that we do with Christmas. Perhaps we need to be preparing for both in the same way. No child is afraid to open their presents on Christmas morning; if we truly love God and believe in his love, then we shouldn’t be afraid of the gifts he has for us either.

 

I have decided to stop complaining about Advent and to start celebrating Christmas early. But I won’t settle for starting as late as October, like the retail stores. I am going to start advocating that we start Christmas even earlier than that! September, August, July…nah, those months are for the late-comers. We should really start celebrating Christmas on December the 26th, that way each and every day of our lives would be a preparation for the coming of Christ. That way we could live in a perpetual Advent: always remembering the great gift that God has given us, and always looking forward to the great gift that he still has in store.

 

May this Advent season help you to prepare for the coming of Christ….the first one, and the second one.

Cassock Albs are Destroying the Church

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I fully agree with Robert Hendrickson on this.

A Desert Father

OK, so the title might be an exaggeration.

This morning, in jest, I posted a vesting prayer for donning a cassock alb to Facebook.  It read, “Place upon me, O Lord, the polyester potato sack of ease that I may speedily and conveniently enter Your Presence.”

The post garnered some amusing responses.  Having not worn them before and now having worn them for a year – I think they represent some unfortunate trends in the Church.  Sometimes and alb isn’t just an alb.

They represent an ease that makes me uncomfortable.  When we approach worship our chief task is to spiritually prepare ourselves to be in the Presence of Christ.  This is a responsibility that is all to easy to take lightly.  The repetitive nature of our pattern of worship poses challenges to our need to come to the Sacraments with reverence – treating each encounter with Christ as a…

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The Witness October 2012

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Making stock is perhaps (next to peeling potatoes) one of the most boring things to do in the kitchen. You spend hours cutting and cooking spare bones and vegetables, and for what? Something most people never ask about or care about! But despite the fact that making stock is rather uninspiring and tedious, each Fall I end up spending several days in the kitchen boiling bones and freezing broth for use throughout the rest of the year. Of course I realize that you can purchase canned stock in the grocery store, but it never even approaches the flavor that homemade stock has (it’s way too bland), not to mention that it is filled mostly with salt and preservatives. You have to use good stock when you are cooking, because stock forms the foundation of whatever dish you are trying to make, and in that sense it works just like the foundation of a building: you don’t usually stand around and admire it, but it is what holds the entire building together. Even the grandest cathedral will fall over if its foundation is not deep enough and even the most elaborate and expensive meal can be ruined by using bad cooking stock. There are some places in life where you just cannot cut corners and foundations are one of them.

 

People often think of Anglo-Catholics as people that are primarily concerned with the “frills” of religion: the gothic buildings, stained glass, incense, candles, statuary, music, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. The primary concern of Anglo-Catholics, from the time of the reformation through today has always been the foundation of their religion. We want a church whose foundation runs deeper than the past thirty years. We want a church that rests upon the foundation that Christ himself created when he called his disciples to follow him. We want a church that honors the contributions to our faith made by saints over the centuries. It’s not about the “smells and bells.” It’s about remaining connected to our history, connected to Christians throughout time, and connected to Christ.

 

Our traditions, our history, our beliefs, our scriptures, these things form the stock of our faith. They are the broth that pulls everything together and give our worship depth and character. As Anglo-Catholics we hold onto our past, not because we are afraid of the future, but because we know that a building is only as strong as its foundation, just like a soup is only as good as its stock.

 

I am reminded of the words of a great old hymn:

 

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
 Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

 

May we always remain connected to that foundation and may no one ever accuse us of being bland!

 

Blessings,

 

Fr. Kevin

The Witness August 2012

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Notre Dame 2012

 

August 2012 Witness Letter

 

Why is it that old churches seem so much holier than new ones? Is it the architecture? the old wood? the dust? I have spent that past week touring many beautiful and historic churches in London and Paris and I reflected while I was there that there is something powerful about these buildings that goes far beyond their style of architecture or their state of repair. I’m sure that others have experienced this as well: that feeling of walking into a place and knowing instinctively that the spiritual world is somehow closer to us there. While I think that architecture, age and grandeur all play an important role in drawing our minds and hearts to God, I do not think that it is what gives these places their sense of transcendence. What makes these churches holy is the effect of prayer over time.

 

Prayer has a cumulative effect over time. Day after day, year after year, century after century, people come to these places to present to God their hopes and their fears, their thanksgivings and their petitions. Churches are witnesses to the joy of baptism and new life; the hope and commitment of weddings, confirmations and ordinations; the sadness and grief of reconciliation and burial, all the while being filled by the adoration of the faithful and the presence of Christ’s body and blood. How could the effect of such weighty matters not transform a place over time? I think that prayer works upon the world in much the same way that a glacier does. A glacier’s movement is usually imperceptible, but it is one of the most powerful natural forces on earth. The Himalayas, the Alps, and even the island of Manhattan all owe their form and existence to the work of glaciers. I think that those centuries of prayer scratch away at the material world like a glacier pushing away the earth’s crust and they allow us to reach a place that is much deeper and closer to the foundation of our existence.

 

I once worked in a church that had a sign near the entrance that read: “This is a place where prayer is wont to be made.” You knew that what the sign said was true; you could feel it in the walls of the building. The years of daily prayer and almost daily Eucharist had transformed that building into a sacred space, the holiness of which no one could doubt. Once when visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, I leaned up against a wall for just a moment, only to discover when I pulled away that my hand now smelled strongly of incense. It was a delightful reminder that prayer becomes a part of the fabric of our churches, as much as, if not more than, the bricks and mortar. Prayer transforms buildings over time.

 

Prayer has the power to transform and shape us as well. This year the Church of England and many other churches in the Anglican Communion are celebrating the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The cumulative effect of centuries of using the same prayers (themselves often translations of prayers that had seen centuries of use before the Reformation) has had a profound impact not just upon the Anglican churches, but upon the English language as well. For centuries people have been coming into God’s presence using words that they had learned from their parents and grandparents, often using the same prayer books as well.

 

There is something truly wonderful about having a prayer work its way into your memory, and your soul. I’m not talking about the kind of rote memorization that schoolchildren are sometimes forced to do; I’m talking about the familiarity that comes through use: knowing a prayer because you have prayed it time and time again. That sort of thing can’t happen if the liturgy is completely different each and every time you walk into a church. It also won’t happen if we don’t use the prayers regularly in the exercise of our faith. We must allow prayer to shape us over time, just as it has transformed the ancient churches of the world into blessed and sacred spaces.

 

As I begin my time at the Church of the Ascension I have many hopes, and maybe even a few ideas, but my supreme hope, wish and goal is that the Church of the Ascension will continue to be, as it has been: a place that is shaped by prayer, filled with people that are shaped by prayer; to be unquestionably “a place where prayer is wont to be made.” There are sure to be many parties and many missions, much joy and much work, but through it all should be the unending river of prayer, praise and adoration that is at the heart of who we are as the church. In the end, the legacy we leave should do honor to the legacy we have received: a deep and profound faith in God’s love and redeeming work done in Christ; a faith whose prayers may not always seem to work instantly, but when given time (like a glacier), have the power to move mountains.

 

Blessings,

 

Fr. Kevin

Good Friday 2014

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Sermon for Good Friday 2014

Last night we stripped the altar bare, removed all the fine linens and cloths and fancy fabrics, and washed and cleaned the altar. Of course, it’s really just a symbolic act. This altar never really gets dirty, most altars don’t. So it would be easy for us to overlook, or to forget, just how messy and dirty sacrifice can actually be.

 

Many years ago, when I was a seminarian at Christ Church in New Haven, the church produced a poster to advertise our Holy Week services. And on the poster was a painting of a lamb tied up and lying upon an altar. You may have seen it, the poster is in my office. We got a number of complaints about the poster from people that were horrified that a Christian church would depict a lamb being prepared to be slaughtered, and right at Easter. Our response was “well what did you think that the Jews were doing to the lambs?” They weren’t playing with them. The Passover lambs were slaughtered on the altar and it was bloody and brutal.

 

We have for too long allowed people to sanitize and sterilize our religion to the point where it is in danger of becoming nothing more than a philosophy of being nice: a bland milk-toast way of feeling good about ourselves and perhaps a little self-righteous. It makes us too uncomfortable if we have to confront what sacrifice is really about. We, like Pilate, don’t want any blood on our hands. We want to be good people without getting messy. We want to show up looking clean and pretty on Easter Sunday, without having to deal with the blood and gore of Good Friday. There are plenty of people who would love to sell you that religion. The stores see nothing inherently offensive or insulting about selling chocolate crosses and I assure you that if you go to the Holy Land theme park in Orlando, you will not see any lambs being slaughtered. We want the glory without the pain, but the truth is you can’t have one without the other. There is no Easter without Good Friday. There is no life, without death.

 

Perhaps we have been too insulated against death in our modern world. We buy our meat in nice little packages, all cut up so that it bears no resemblance to the animal it came from, so that we won’t have to think about the fact that this very food which gives us life, is there for us because of the death of another living creature. There aren’t many of us here that have had to kill our own dinner, and if we have, it was mostly likely for sport and not out of necessity.

 

We don’t want to think of death as a necessary part of life, it makes us uncomfortable. It causes our kids to ask us questions that we would rather not answer. So instead of dealing with reality, we whitewash it. But to do so only cripples our faith and prevents it from being very useful when we encounter pain, suffering, blood and death in the real world. Furthermore I am convinced that turning our faces away from the painful reality of sacrifice is not only an insult to our intelligence (because deep down we know better), but it is also an insult to our Lord.

 

It insults our Lord because it diminishes the significance of his suffering. If we want to act like death isn’t a big deal, or that sacrifice is a relatively easy thing, then what was the point of the cross? What was the point of God suffering and dying for us if it scarcely gets our attention? The point of the incarnation is that his wounds are real wounds, and the crucifixion hurt him as much as it would have hurt any of us.

 

The idea that God would be willing to suffer for us is one of the core ideas of Christianity. It is critically important, because suffering and death are a necessary part of life. We cannot avoid them. If we want our life to have meaning, even in the midst of suffering, even on the brink of death, then we need to be able to look to a God who understands that suffering. We need to be able to look to a God who knows our pain because he has walked that way himself. That is the power of our faith. It’s that it can take the worst pain, the worst suffering, the worst evil and transform it into something that has been redeemed by God.

 

Turning our heads away from the pain of sacrifice may alleviate our internal discomfort momentarily, but in the end it makes our suffering so much worse, because it strips our life and our faith of any real meaning and power.

 

One thing I like about old hymns, is that people a couple generations ago were not quite as squeamish as we are now, so the imagery that was used is often more graphic and blunt. Consider these hymn titles:

 

There is power in the blood

 

Are you washed in the blood?

 

Covered by the blood

 

Nothing but the blood

 

There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins

 

The list goes on. The point is that if we want our faith to have real power to save us and comfort us when life gets ugly, then we had better get over our squeamishness now and start looking at the blood of Jesus. We need to realize that the life that we often take for granted is given to us by the sacrifice of others. Our spiritual life, our eternal life is given to us by the sacrifice of Christ, and although our altar never gets any blood on it, we need to know that the sacrifice that Christ made, which we benefit from, was indeed a bloody one. Just like the altar before the temple in Jerusalem would have been covered with blood, so too was the cross of Christ, the altar on which our Passover lamb was sacrificed.

 

Today we are called to observe Jesus’s suffering and pain. We are called to draw near to the cross, to venerate it and to recognize the sacrifice that was made there.

 

My question to you is this:

 

 

Can you get close enough to the cross to actually get blood on you? Can you stand there with John and Mary and not look away? Can you not look away from his nakedness and his wounds?

 

The power of the cross is that if we can resist the temptation to look away from our Lord in the midst of his pain and suffering, we just may find that he is right there with us, when we are in the midst of ours.

 

Memorial for Judy Berglund

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Sermon delivered at the memorial of Judith Berglund

judy

 

When I was interviewing for the position of rector here at The Church of The Ascension, I had to meet many people. All those names and faces of people on the search committee and the vestry, and I tried to remember all of them, but one stood out. The one person who instantly I connected with, even before she made a really awful pun, the person that I connected with and knew was going to be my friend, was Judy Berglund.

 

I think that many people here could probably say the same thing about when they entered this church. What I have discovered over this past year and a half since that first meeting with Judy, is that that special connection that we made almost instantly, wasn’t because I was special, it was because Judy was.

 

It was because among Judy’s talents, among those things that she was good at, was making that connection with people, and doing it quickly.

She could talk to anybody, at length, about anything… another one of Judy’s talents.

 

She knew every person that walked into that door. She knew if you were new. She was fearless about talking to people and bringing them in. It was her mission to make sure that every person that came into this place felt cared for, felt respected, felt loved, felt welcomed. Judy did that to the utmost degree. For so many of us she made this place home.

 

She was an imposing presence, but a benevolent one. Her smile could fill the room, as it frequently did. Her voice and her grand manner and way of being, always just filled this space and filled it with such love and exuberance, because she was exuberant about God, about her life, about the people she loved.

 

Judy was a lover of many things: she was a lover of people, she loved culture, she loved music, arts, history, there were so many things that she loved. When I was thinking of Judy and reflecting on her and all of her loves, the thing that stood out above many of the others was that Judy was such a lover of words. Words and language were Judy’s currency. She loved words, she showered her bountiful vocabulary on people she loved. She crafted words. If you didn’t already k now that she was a poet and could recite poetry, off hand, any moment, not only her own poems but any poem she had ever learned, then you will learn it today in a few moments when we read one of Judy’s poems.

 

Judy understood that although words could sometimes be cheap, words could also be priceless. We all know that Judy agonized over the words that she used. Its no accident that she spent so many years editing The Witness, and so many hours each and every month trying to make sure that it was just perfect visually and that all the words and grammar were perfect. This was endless amusement for those of us who sometimes goaded her and teased her by making small suggestions for changes which would make Judy start all over again and go back to the drawing board. But she knew it was in fun and she knew how much we loved and respected the enthusiasm that she put into the words that she used. Not just what she wrote, but what she said and what she sang. Judy paid attention to all those words: she listened to the poetry in all of the music that we sing, the message that was behind them. She paid attention to the message that was behind everything that she said to another person. If she loved you, if she was proud of you, Judy would shower you with praise and compliments. Words were Judy’s currency and she spent lavishly.

 

Judy was also a bit eccentric, as I think we all know, which perhaps made her the perfect cheerleader for this place. She was also not at all afraid of laughing at herself and her own eccentricities. Judy was somebody that appreciated the power of humor and the importance of being able to laugh at yourself. Judy was very good at laughing at herself: about her own foibles, her own adventures and misadventures. I am sure that there isn’t a person in here who doesn’t have a story about an adventure or a misadventure with Judy.

 

It was in my first summer here that Judy invited me to come out to Greenport for the maritime festival. We would go out and stop at some farm stands, have some lunch, perhaps meet up with Bill Cooper and with Stu, and of course the trip ended up being one thing after another, as it always was with Judy:

 

It was the waitress putting the menu behind her head and asking her what she wanted. It was here GPS coming on and speaking loudly in German. It was her sitting down at lunch and immediately knocking over her ice water, sending a cascade in Bill Cooper’s direction, at which he had to jump up and run away, which was the first of 4 times that day that Judy would knock over her drink. We had no end of amusement at that and then later on when she joined me for Thanksgiving dinner I made sure that her drink was served in a sippie cup, which amused Judy immensely.

 

I still have the sippie cup and I dug it out the other day and I thought: what a priceless moment, and what a priceless memory that is of Judy and how typically Judy that was: to have funny things happen and to be able to stand back and to laugh about it. To not take oneself so seriously. I treasure that, and I treasure all of the stories of the things that happened before I came here: the plays and her bad Swedish accent, all of the things that Judy participated in and loved about this place. The things that she did that contributed to making this place what it is.

 

Judy used the gifts that God had given her: her gifts for language, her gifts for connecting with people, for speech, for talking with people, she used those things to build up this little corner of God’s kingdom. She used them as an evangelist to spread love and cheer to people: to make sure that people who were shut in or at home heard that cheery chipper voice on the other end of the phone. I miss that voice. I miss that “cheerio” that she would always say and write. That upbeat spirit, that smile that she had, that appreciation she had for each and every person here. She used that to build this place up. I have to say that the two greatest joys in Judy’s life: one of them, was Kendal, her niece, the other one was this place and all of the people in it.

 

When Judy had been diagnosed, and it was looking that this was going to be serious, one afternoon she called me up out of the blue in tears. She said: “I want you to make sure, that you tell them what a special place this is, and has been to me. They don’t know how special that place really is, and I want you to tell them how special they really are.”

 

Judy was right. I think that I can speak on behalf of every person here when I say:

You were right Judy, this place is special… and thank you for helping to make it so.

 

Well done good and faithful servant.

Candlemas Sermon 2013

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Candlemas Sermon 2-13

 

Childbirth is a dangerous thing. We forget that now, we think of it as rather routine, but as last week’s episode of Downton Abbey reminded us: for most of history it was a threatening ordeal for both mother and child. There was always a very real danger that one or the other, or both, would not survive. For most of the history of the Book of Common Prayer, up until the last revision, there has been a service called the Thanksgiving of Women After Childbirth, also known as the Churching of Women. There was good reason to thank God for a safe child delivery, because it was by no means a certainty. But this service was really a Christian adaptation of an ancient Jewish practice, and it is the ancient Jewish practice that we are talking about today in the Gospel.

 

The purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one title for today’s festival. In Jewish law a woman who had just given birth to a child had to wait several weeks before she could enter the temple again.

 

What I find interesting is not that pregnant or infirm people are commanded to make a sacrifice to God after their deliverance, but that they are commanded to wait until after the crisis had passed before they do so. It is easy to want to worship God right when we think we need him, when we are in the midst of our suffering. What is far more telling about us though, is how we behave once things have returned to normal and the crisis has passed. Do we only respond to God when we need him, or do we respond whenever he asks?

 

The Church has traditionally held that Mary didn’t need to be purified after the birth of our Lord (being preserved from any stain of impurity), but that she chose to do so out of obedience to the law. Mary was keenly aware that this child was like no other, conceived like no other, and with a destiny like no other, but Mary did not consider being favored by God as an exemption from religious duty. Just because we may have been spared some calamity or in some way have been blessed by God, does not exempt us from the worship of God, but calls us all the more to it. So Mary was purified, but the purification was just one part of the law, for the law also called for the redemption of her first born.

 

This feast is also known as the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. Jesus, as a first-born son had to be presented to God. Jewish law required it, as a reminder that the Jewish first-born had been spared by God during the Exodus from Egypt, therefore they still belonged to him. He is a first-born son and therefore Mary and Joseph had to acknowledge that he belonged first and foremost to God, not to them. Joseph offered to the priest Simeon the prescribed sacrificial animals to be offered to God in exchange for the life of this baby boy. This was the law of Moses and we are told that Joseph and Mary did everything in accordance with the law.

 

 

According to tradition Simeon was an old priest. He had been doing this very same service of claiming first-born sons as belonging to God for years, perhaps hundreds of times. Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that this work he was doing would not be in vain, but that it eventually would lead him to see the messiah, the child that would actually be God’s very own. The first-born, not just of one man and woman, but of all creation. And here at last he was in his arms: the beacon of light that he had waited his entire life to see and the one child that would give all of that waiting and working meaning. When Simeon utters that Nunc Dimmittis, the “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,” he does it for all of us who spend our lives working and waiting for God’s glory to be realized and seen. It is fitting that we often say the Nunc Dimmittis at evensong at the end of the day, because it is often only those brief glimpses of God’s kingdom that give us the strength and courage and peace that we need to go forward into another day.

 

Mary and Joseph were astounded at what Simeon and Anna said, not because they didn’t believe it, but because it confirmed what they already knew and could see. What a joy it is to have your faith confirmed by others; to have an experience that you thought only you had, be shared by someone else. How important it is to have that confirmation that other people see the light of God where you see the light of God. That is the beauty of Christian fellowship: to be able to stand together with others and say hat we have seen God here. That brings me to the third name for this feast: Candlemas. From ancient times, the Church has celebrated the light of God on this day, and the greatest symbol we have for the light of God is the candles we use during worship. You have probably learned by now that I really love candles, although I have to admit that I am glad I am not using them to light the rectory anymore. Since my arrival we have added the votive stand, which we dedicated on All Souls’ Day and the Memorial Torches, which we are dedicating this morning. Candles are something that we use here everyday in our worship of God. In the old Ritual Notes manual for celebrating mass it is made clear that mass cannot be said without at least one real flame burning on the altar. Artificial light is never a substitute for the real light, and as much as our worship may be a bit dramatic at times, this is not a stage and this is not a show. The God that we worship here is real, just as the candles we use are real. Part of the reason we go to church, I hope, is that it is a place where we believe we can encounter God, a real God. Now Candlemas can be a hard sell to get people to come to church sometimes. It doesn’t have any of the penitential lament of Ash Wednesday or Good Friday; it doesn’t have any of the joy or frivolity of Christmas Day or Epiphany. Its popular customs are largely forgotten and have mostly to do with this being the end of the Christmas and Epiphany season. It doesn’t stir us up and excite us, and maybe for that very reason it might have the most to say to us about our daily lives as Christians. The Purification of the Blessed Virgin and the Presentation of our Lord were done not out of desperation or delight, but out of devotion. They were done because God asked for them to be done and the people that did them had the will and the patience and the faith to keep listening to God, to keep observing his commands, and to keep working for his kingdom until by God’s light and grace they were allowed to see it. My report to you on this morning of our annual meeting 2013 is actually quite short and quite simple: Over the past year we have seen God’s light in this place; we have seen his salvation and we have tried to carry it into the world. We will try to do the same in the coming year. That is what God asks of us: to work for his kingdom, to look for his light and to share that light with the world. We will do our duty to God, just as Joseph and Mary and Jesus did their duty, just as Simeon and Ana did their duty, and we will do it out of devotion. We will honor the tradition that we have been given, so that we like them, may be so lucky to serve God, to see his salvation, and to depart in peace.