Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Day the Old Man Died

"Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn't commit." - Eli Khamarov

The church was full as worship began. A simple glance at the congregation showed all the usual types of people were present. The wealthy and the poor, the sincere and the casual. There was even the crazy old guy who claimed visions from God, and the poor widow woman whose presence at the church was noticed only if she was not there. Poor people are so needy.

The church itself, though big and full of people, had long since kept on keeping on. Once vibrantly focused on God, the worship through the years had moved to catering to displays of individual expressions of righteousness and political agendas. The church was the center of religious and political life in the city, and to it the population looked to find the answers to decay and depravity that rampant in society. The church was aware of and used its influence and power to promote its political ideas. And politicians curried the favor of the church, and they could play the congregation like a piano, with rousings speeches about God and t heir own personal walk with God. The solution, the church thought, to the evident moral decay was for the church to use its political influence to radically alter their society. The politicians just knew that the church was but one key to the city, and needed its people to find their power.

The church had lost its focus of committment to God, and learned that it was a powerful force for creating the world it thought God wanted. Message over substance. Action over committment.

It was used to strangers in its presence, and normally paid little attention. The dregs of society came in,, whether for hand outs, or from a sense of duty, their presence was barely acknowledged. Certainly, few noticed the young unmarried couple with a new born baby, and those that did quickly dismissed them as they had so many others. The people who needed to be known in the church were already known, and this young couple, obviously poor, were not likely candidates to promote the agendas of the church or useful in advancing its mission. They had nothing to offer, and were only in need.

This worship time, though was to be disturbed. A commotion started in hushed tone - the crazy old man had collapsed in the church, and people were rushing to give medical attention. It seems while no one was looking, he had greeted the poor young couple, even holding their newborn when he collapsed. In the midst of the commotion the baby was separated from his parents, and found himself safe in the arms of old widow until he could be reunited with his parents.

In their midst, amongst all the diginitaries and politicians with all their schemes and plans for making society after their own image, was the hope of the world. What they could only talk about, God delivered into their midst in the child of a poor, unmarried couple.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord"), 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." 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 upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 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, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 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, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 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. (Luke 2:22-36)

And the church moved on, and with all its influence and power, 30 years later crucified our Lord. How quickly we forget.

Lord, help us all to see that the answers to this world's issues are not found in better government, but in that One Child, Your Son, who You gave for the redemption not only Jerusalem, but for all of Your people. Your Son, who we miss because we look not for You, but instead for that which we think You want.

Happy Candlemas.


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