Verse of the Day

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Presentation of Christ in the Temple, commonly called The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin. [February 2.]

Sermon – Reverend Jack Arnold - Time and Action
Church of the Faithful Centurion, Descanso, California
Today’s sermon brought the Collect, Epistle and Gospel together and is partly contained in the forewords above.  

 Consider these words from the Collect:

… as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts …

In the Collect, we are asking God to look at us in our Judgment Day as He looked at His Son that day in the temple.  We cannot be perfect, nor can we have truly pure and clean hearts, for we are imperfect creatures with free will.  But, through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, we can be accounted as such.  That day in the temple, Jesus was presented to God, with a pure and clean heart.  We need Him to make us accounted so. 

We need Him to be our link between Heaven and Earth, for without Him, we cannot ascend to Heaven, but with Him we can. The purification was the beginning of His presentation to God as a clean and acceptable sacrifice, and the cross was the carrying out of His sacrifice to God, which cleaned our slate. This was the beginning of His plan to free us from the servitude of sin.

Likewise in the Collect for the Fourth Sunday after The Epiphany, we ask God for His Help, acknowledging our imperfection:

… by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations …

This is why He sent the Holy Ghost to be our inspiration, comfort, strength, understanding.    With Him all things are possible, without Him, we fail. While Christ is not physically present on this Earth, He is spiritually, through the Holy Ghost, He is still giving us guidance on how to conduct ourselves and if we will listen to Him, we will find that we will be a lot happier following his advice.

The prophet Malachi reminds us that Jesus was sent to fulfill the Law, not to continue it; to call men to perfection, not to hide them from it.  Jesus was sent to call men to God’s standard[1], not to give them ways to seem like they were following Him.  These are all concepts that the Pharisees refused to understand. The Pharisees wanted the Law to continue so that they could grow their power here on Earth. Jesus’s fulfillment of the law was an attack on their power base. They could not see that Jesus’s way was truly the only Way. They only saw He was cutting into their livelihoods of getting people around the law. This was the reason that they sought to put Him to death, to end a perceived threat to their way of life. 

 Malachi goes on to tell us what God expects from us.  We are to be His followers, but also His Hands, to act on His behalf.  We are to be considered as ambassadors of God on Earth, we must conduct ourselves as such then. As any good ambassador, we need to be honest in our dealings with men, to take positive action to help those who cannot help themselves, to be a friend of all in need, to help those who need help.  This does not mean encouraging slothfulness, but rather encouraging industriousness.  This is what God wants for us, to work hard to the best of our ability, to help our fellow people in need, and to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love Him.  This is what Jesus talks about in The Summary of the Law. If we follow the Summary of the Law, we will find that it is what He wants for us, and if we follow Him and do these things, we will find that it actually makes our lives easier and happier than if we did what we want.

We must overcome our natural temptation to listen to ourselves, but we must turn to the Holy Ghost and listen to Him. He will give us all the solutions we need to get out of whatever adversity we are in, if we will but listen to Him. 

In the Gospel, we learn of Jesus’ presentation in the temple, pure and clean before God, as we will be accounted through Him.  The presentation was to bring the new child to the Lord in thanksgiving for a safe childbirth, no small thing, in particular for a first born in those days before the medical advancements of today, back when the infant mortality rate was super high.  All the more reason for thanksgiving and the dedication of the firstborn to the Lord.  Imagine the joy that was in his heart to see the Lord’s Christ when you hear Simeon’s words that are found in our Evening Prayer service on Page 28 of the Book of Common Prayer:

Nunc dimittis. St. Luke ii. 29

ORD, 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. 

Simeon goes on to foretell the effect Jesus will have on Israel and those who live there, both good and bad.  He tells Mary of the pain she will bear at the loss of her son, though in time she will understand. And she did understand it as Jesus carried out the ultimate sacrifice upon the Cross, she finally knew what Simeon meant in his words to her.

The prophetess Anna also near the end of her time here on earth likewise tells the parents of things to come.  Imagine how difficult it was for them to understand all this, yet it would in their minds as time went on.

After the presentation, the family went back home to Galilee, and Jesus grew strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.  This is what we must all strive for in our hearts, souls minds and bodies. We must strive to grow in spirit and be filled with that Holy Wisdom.

We must look to God for the strength and guidance we need to follow Him.  We must welcome the Holy Ghost into our hearts to have the courage to follow Him.

Be of God Live of God Act of God

[1] By standard, one can mean God’s flag or side, or one could mean the level expected; here we mean both!

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