This sermon was preached for the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas) on February 2 by the Rev. Tripp Hudgins. The texts for this service were: Malachi 3:1-4, Psalm 24:7-10, Hebrews 2:14-18, and Luke 2:22-40.
Let us pray.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
Make these words more than words and give us all the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
So, brothers and sisters, especially you students in the Intro. to Homiletics course, this is what it looks like when you have prepared one sermon for Candlemas only to have anarchists and outraged students set fire to campus the night before you are scheduled to preach.
Lawyers gather in airports to help refugees and immigrants.
People fill city streets in protest across the globe to draw attention to the plight of women in this nation and the world and how our new President might be a threat to women.
With a media cycle with the shelf-life of a politicians tweet, this preacher finds it challenging to stay focused…
…to keep up
…to discern the Spirit.
…and if, by chance I do, is there anyone who will listen?
But here we are…
…and so it continues.
“All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected, but in every place in this country are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.
“The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our Administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more, by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens.
“We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.”
~ Pres. Bill Clinton, State of the Union Address, 1995
The politics of 1995 were not the politics of our day, but the rhetoric sounds eerily familiar. Familiar enough, at least. In this same address, President Clinton spoke of the pressures of globalization and the pressures on the American worker and middle class families.
These policies did not begin with him. Nor did they end there.
And so it continues.
Maybe you have heard about the Twitter feed, @StLouisManifest, where its authors share pictures and names of the Jewish refugees aboard the S.S. St. Louis who, in 1939, were turned away from New York harbor with the Statue of Liberty in plain sight. Each tweet is a photo, a name, and information about how that person died in Europe during World War II.
The concentration camp in Auschwitz.
A small village bombed into rubble.
A stand of trees in France.
A name. A face. Families, adults, children…all turned away from our shores. So many to die in the violence of World War II.
Still recovering from an economic depression (25% of the labor force unemployed), US immigration quotas of the time were draconian. Add to that the political strife of global warfare (“they might be spies”) and you have yet another example of our continuing struggle and shame as a nation.
Political disagreements rage in the courthouses, Congressional conference rooms, and airport terminals of our nation, a nation founded on the profits made on colonial violence and slave labor.
We debate about national identity; yet we are who we have ever been.
We debate about the national best interest; yet we are who we have ever been.
We pick sides. We always pick sides…we are who we have ever been.
…And so it continues.
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
What did she say about the child? We don’t have her words, but in your imagination, what were her words? They were about the redemption of Jerusalem. How so?
I doubt they were polite words.
I doubt they were a-political.
This is Luke’s gospel, after all. “Woe to you who are rich now…” are words that usher out of Jesus’ mouth right after he proclaims who is blessed in the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ first public act of ministry in Luke’s Gospel is to proclaim the year of the jubilee. It almost gets him killed.
And Mary, she sings. And O how she sings. She sings rebellion. She sings redemption.
Perhaps she had met Anna before at the Temple.
Maybe years before as a little girl and Anna pulled her aside and said,
“Here, let me teach you a song. I think you will need it.”
So Anna sees the child messiah and, praising God, begins to tell all who were seeking the redemption of Jerusalem about God’s promise fulfilled in their sight.
Follow the story! Follow your imagination…
She tells them:
“Here is a light to enlighten the nations!”
“Here is the glory of Israel!”
“Here is the promised Son of David!”
“You crazy old woman, sit down,” someone shouts from across the plaza.
And so we are faced with a familiar truth.
Not all are seeking redemption, not for Jerusalem, not for the United States.
Not even for Berkeley.
Some are not interested in redemption.
Some cannot imagine redemption.
Some cannot believe in it.
There are warmongers and faithmongers alike profiting on the troubles in the world.
Redemption flies in the face of such profit.
But Anna still has a word. She still goes out into the streets. She leaves the Temple to tell those who would listen, those seeking redemption, those seeking reconciliation, truth…light…that the child is here.
She offers a word of redemption. She proclaims Christ Jesus.
“There. Is. Light.” She stands erect in the plaza with so many gathered about.
Jesus is present.
“At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”