And, What Did You See?

First Corinthians 15: 12-20

LUKE 2: 25-35

February 17, 2019

I think that everyone who is in worship today, including those online, have travelled more than 25 miles from home at least one time.   In fact, many of us have had the opportunity either because of work or our desire to travel … many of us have traveled literally thousands of miles from home.   Perhaps some of you have lived thousands of miles from the place of your birth because we live in a world where home as they say is where the heart is but our houses might be elsewhere.

Now, I want you to consider this morning the places you have travelled and then to think … what did you see along the way?   When you drive along Philadelphia’s Schuykill Expressway out towards King of Prussia what are you looking at?  Or if you travel towards the shore with a destination wrapped up in the awesome reality of God’s ocean or Atlantic City’s stuff … what do you see beyond your car’s interior?

Well, of course the first thing you see in Philly are some truly awful drivers with Pennsylvania plates because the ultimate test of one’s ability to drive is whether you can drive on the same highways that Philadelphia drivers attempt to control.  But, if you are a passenger what are you looking at?  The Art Museum?  Boat House Row? The skyscrapers that your Comcast cable dollars have built?  The train station?    One thing I always look for are the church steeples of Conshahocken and Manyunk.  Of course I have never had the time to exit and see those churches up close or to even go inside but their steeples are magnificent … in the distance … but I keep on driving.

Just what do you see?  What occupies your minds and thought processes?   What matters?  What’s worthy of some extra time or even a quick exit from your daily journey? We are all busy … even if the highway is open, which the Schuykill rarely is but in the midst of our busyness in those moments when we actually have full control of our day’s destiny do we ever pull off to exit to a place that seems to appeal to us or to a place that clearly offers us respite, peace, and maybe even a little hope?

Some of you do … others are just too busy or consumed with the predictable or the acceptable or even those of you who enjoy saving time by not venturing away from the expected because we all know the value of our time don’t we? …Can’t stray from the schedule; have to be controlled by the its we create not by the possibilities that are around the corner.

This past week’s Bible Study on Wednesday featured scriptures about the birth of Jesus.  I know … I know that you can still recall the songs of that season “Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water? Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?”  Well Rich and Elaine sing that so beautifully every year on our Christmas Sing Along night.  About Mary, the mother of Jesus.  And, by the way did she know?

Church did you know … do you know that Jesus Christ has the capability of not only saving our sons and daughters? But also saving our grandchildren and our nieces and nephews and our neighbors and also you and me?  Is that worth regularly taking an exit from the busy highways of life … that Jesus.

So, I was consumed as I prepared for and then taught this week’s Bible Study not by the thoughts of decorations nor packages wrapped up in fancy paper… not even by Charlie Brown’s Christmas message from Linus but friends what struck me and has stayed with me all week long was thinking about the experience of two individuals Simeon and Anna.

You see their every day path of life was dramatically and forever changed when they experienced Jesus the baby … Jesus the hope of the world .. Jesus the Messiah … Jesus the life changer … Jesus whom should be our daily companion in a world of division and debate because our goal … yours and mine and every church attender in the world’’s goal  should be … do you get this church?  Our goal … the goal of anyone who claims the name Christian should always be to spread the positive love of God as expressed through Jesus Christ … when you see our church … any church … a Bible gathering dust … church what do you see?  Are you seeing yourself reflected in those visible signs of the church of Jesus Christ or are you too busy in your journey to be the person God is calling to?

As we approach the season of Lent and then Easter’s Holy Week, I want us to consider what gets in the way … what gets in my way and your way of our being able to clearly see Jesus in our daily lives.  I want each of us to take on the roadblocks; the detours; and the challenges that have perhaps slowed us down and keep us from making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

If there were no detours … if there were no roadblocks … if churches were dedicated to sharing God’s love of Christ for all well then all churches would be overflowing with people because our neighbors, our family members, and even our fellow church members would see church not as an inconvenient exit to be taken on occasion but as a destination to worship, praise and thank God for bringing Jesus into our lives.  If there were no detours, nor roadblocks wouldn’t every church attending person be actively involved in asking their friends, family members and strangers to church because it is in these places called church that God is worshiped by gatherings of believers?

Last week’s sermon shared the calling of some of the disciples of Jesus Christ.  They were fishermen … they had a job; they were busy and in fact … in fact if you were here you heard Simon Peter’s words once again.  Words that may have surprised you because Jesus had just showed Peter, James, John, Andrew, and the men working the boat that had caught no fish all night … Jesus after speaking to a crowd told these professional fishermen where to drop the nets … where to find fish … and I am sure that you must have thought that Simon Peter would have said THANK YOU JESUS … oh THANK YOU JESUS but Simon Peter much like us said, “LEAVE ME LORD …” using as his excuse that he was a sinner.   Go someplace else Jesus and perhaps let me tell others about this catch of fish but nothing more … leave me so I don’t have to bring others to you.

LEAVE ME … and friends, lets be truthful … beginning with your pastor this entire church is filled with sinners this morning in need of God’s forgiveness but is this church also filled with individuals who are coming up with rationale to say LEAVE ME ALONE LORD … Peter tried to say he was a sinner but Jesus wanted him and He wants you and me … God calls sinners to preach the Good News … God calls sinners to work in the mission field … God calls sinners to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ into the world.

The lesson from last Sunday that we need to be like children; Look look to the children … the children they know more than we.  And that after Simon Peter declared LEAVE ME ALONE Jesus still said “DO NOT BE AFRAID … from now on you will be fishing for people.”  That’s our message too … and that’s the journey I want us to get on for the Lenten Season … discovering the blocks in our paths and pushing them aside to follow Jesus.

So Simeon was not called by the angels to Bethlehem’s manger … Simeon did not stand should to shoulder with the shepherds from the field … Simeon was in Jerusalem 9 kilometers from Bethlehem … about a 2 hour walk.   He was righteous and devout … friends;  God was with him.  The Holy Spirit was at work in Simeon and instead of rejecting God’s nudges … instead of coming up with one or more excuses … Simeon allowed God to direct him … he went into the Temple area on that day  surrounded by many people.  At the very same moment Mary and Joseph were bringing Mary’s baby who had just had the most extraordinary birth you remember it “The first Noel the angels did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay.” Well you remember the story … that boy named Jesus had had a very unusual, extraordinary, history making birth but that was more than a week ago … today the crying little baby boy was being held lovingly by his mother in the Temple area where other baby boys were being held lovingly by their mothers.

And, this man Simeon … a stranger to Mary and Joseph chose them amongst all the families to approach and he softly asked if he could hold the newborn in his arms.  The times were different … strangers were trusted more than today … and they agreed watching the expression on Simeon’s face turn to total joy and praise and worship of God … Church wouldn’t  it be awesome to see total joy in all who experience the worship and praise of God but that’s what Mary and Joseph saw .. Simeon declared to God “You, God … have prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples.  It’s a LIGHT for revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people ISRAEL.  This boy is assigned to be the One … My eyes have seen Your salvation God let Your servant go in peace.”

Simeon saw Jesus for all that Jesus is and could be to the world … a revelation  and a glory.  Then there was Anna the prophet; she was old not a young woman with great energy and after Simeon left she approached the family and began to praise God because she knew what she saw in the baby and she began to speak about Jesus to everyone”. TO EVERYONE.

Just what do you see that brings you to the reality of Jesus?  What occupies your minds and thought processes in those moments?   What matters after?  What’s worthy of some extra time or even a quick exit from your daily journey?  Are you ready to declare to EVERYONE the Good News of Jesus … are you willing to experience the glory of Christ?  That Joy to the World that we all joined in singing on Christmas Eve … believing is not dividing … taking Jesus on is about loving not hating … understanding God is becoming like a child with the full knowledge that we are all sinners but that we need to be calling on the Lord to stay not leave … to direct us and fill us and energize us no matter our age and to become the believers who build up the church of Jesus Christ not only for today but for tomorrow. AMEN

Watch a video of today’s sermon:

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ