Saturday, February 1, 2020

Gospel text for The Presentation of Our Lord, Sunday 2 February 2020

Luke 2:22-40        When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-- and a sword will pierce your own soul too."
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.
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.

Reflection      This past week I attended the Annual Arizona Diocesan Clergy Conference where the topic was Dementia From the Inside Out. The speakers were The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, former dean of an Episcopal Cathedral and active with the the Episcopal Church Pension Fund and her wife Emily who worked in commercial real estate and management. In 2016 at the age of sixty-two Tracey was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). The diagnosis comes with the expectation of loss of memory, language, motor skills, ability to care for yourself and ultimately a dramatically shortened life expectancy.  While grappling with how to live with this diagnosis rather than succumb to focusing on what she was losing, Tracey confronted the roomful of clergy with a question she and others living with dementia grapple. “When I cannot remember God, will God remember me?” *

I have no idea what she said next because along with everyone else in the room my heart nearly stopped as I choked back tears. I suspect every priest in this diocese is preaching Tracey’s question today. “When I cannot remember God, will God remember me?”

Tracey’s question invites us to ask, How do we present ourselves to God? Exactly as we are. As unblemished babes brought to the waters of the baptismal font. As fidgity five year olds, stopping, dropping and rolling. As awkward preteens preoccupied by appearance and longing to fit in. As rapidly changing teenagers developing values and obcessed with body image. As young adults reaching our peak in health, strength and performance. As middle age adults re-examining our life as many physical changes signal aging. As older adults experiencing decline in strength, energy, vision, hearing and balance.

How do we present ourselves to God? As people of God who at any age or any stage may be fit and formidable or may be frail and ailing because our wholeness and our holiness does not depend on us alone. Our wholeness and holiness depend on God with us. Furthermore, our wholeness and holiness does not depend upon us being able to recognize and assert it our selves.

Jesus parents name him Joshua, which means "God saves." At the appointed time in his development Jesus’ parents bring him to the temple and present him to God. Neither action depends on Jesus. Additionally, it is the perspicuity of the two prophets Simeon and Anna who affirm Jesus’ holy stature. First Simeon proclaiming, “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Then Anna who proceeds “to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Returning to Tracey’ heart wrenching question, “When I cannot remember God, will God remember me?” my answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”  “Yes, those of us who surround you and know you will hold you up and present you to God even when you have no memory of God.” And yes, there will come a time in every one of our lives when we cannot remember God due to crushing challenges, loss of faith, impaired cognition, a broken heart or a broken body. That is why we need one another. That is why we are church, the living body meant to surround and present us to God and affirm, “When we can no longer remember God, God will remember us.”

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