Presentation of Christ in the Temple – Sermon 5
Prayer to start
May every word and every thought be graciously recieved for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ
Have you ever trusted someone enough to put your life into their hands? – a hospital surgeon or operating staff might come to mind – or an airline pilot, if you do a lot of flying
– But the fact is we do it every day – when we travel , on a bus – in a car – we rely on the driver and the workmanship of those who made the vehicle.
– When we buy food from the shops – we rely on its quality – its production and packaging all done by people we will probably never even meet – its the way we live our lives today – we depend on each other for many things – usually we don’t give it a second thought.
– its only when something goes wrong that we realise how dependent we are on one another –
( plenty of examples recently – BSE scare, Icoli food virus , medical mistakes, emphasis on road safety at high risk times such as over Christmas ) –
– we are happy to rely on others provided we get what we want and the risks are small enough not to worry us. – Our motivation is mainly self interest.
What about our reliance on God – is self interest our main motive there
Our theme for the service is " the Presentation of Christ in the Temple". Our collect tells us that Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple to present him to the Lord. –
This was so that the ancient ceremony of redemption could be performed according to the Law of Moses
every first born male was sacred to the Lord and was presented to Him along with a sacrifice –
– his parents could then redeem him back for money
from the priest ( usually about 5 sheckles )
This ceremony acted as a reminder to them that God had adopted Israel as His first born – delivered every first born among the Israelites from the Tenth plague and brought them out of slavery in Egypt.
For Joseph and Mary their motivation to offer Jesus to God in the Temple was the Law – it was a question of duty
What about our commitment to God – do we come to church to praise Him – or out of Duty ?
In our Old Testament lesson we are told about the dedication of Samuel. Hannah had been tormented for years by Peninnah because she could not have children
– Hannah wanted a child more than anything –
– On one of the family festival visits to the Temple She poured out her heart to God – and made a vow that if she was given a son she would
"give him to the Lord for all the days of his life
This was not the simple dedication required by law – she vowed to surrender her privilege to raise her son in her home – he would become a Nazirite wholly dedicated to God and be brought up in the temple – she agreed to give up the child she so desperately wanted if God would release her from the torment she was suffering through being childless
Her prayer was granted and she raised Samuel until he was weaned which was about 3 or 4 years old. – When it was time to present Samuel to the High Priest – she did it willingly – this was a supreme act of devotion and sacrifice – and is an example of what true commitment to the Lord really means
Our intercessionary prayers contain a version of Hannah’s prayer found in chapter 2 of this 1st book of Samuel – a song of praise and thanksgiving to God , sometimes called the Magnificat of the Old Testament because of its similarity to Mary’s song
Hannah’s response to God was not a matter of self interest or duty but out of Love – in thankfulness of the many things that He had done for her.
What about our commitment to God, is it based on love, in recognition of all that He provides for us
As Paul writes in our New Testament lesson – we are to – " offer our very selves to God, a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and soul " –
not just a spiritual offering – but our bodies too –
– Paul deliberately used these words to shock the Greeks who regarded their bodies as an embarassment
– our worship to God must express itself in concrete acts of service performed by our bodies –
it requires our personal participation
– not just on Sundays in church – but everyday – in the office – in the factory – in our homes – where ever we are
– all we do and all we are has been given to us by God and we should make it all available to Him to use as " instruments of righteousness”
But its not enough to perform good deeds or acts of service unless it is for the will God – as Paul puts it you have to be " transformed by the renewal of your minds". – we have to change inside as well as outside – accept Jesus Christ as Saviour –
" only then will we be able to …..know what is good, acceptable and perfect
– only then will we know our true purpose in God’s plan
But how are we to do it
The trouble is we find it so difficult to commit ourselves totally to God – there’s always distractions keeping us pre-occupied on other things –
– we give so little time to God – sometimes only a few minutes a day – its no wonder we fail – but if we truly want to offer ourselves to Him – we have to be positive – be prepared to recommit ourselves every day
If someone wants to give up something they’ve been doing all their lives – they would have to be very determined – it doesn’t just happen – if they wanted to give up smoking for instance – they would have to – take it one day at a time – renew their effort everyday –
So if we want to really change – then it means that from this moment on we have to start doing things differently – to put God’s wishes ahead of our own
– to stick at it no matter how hard it might be .
We would have to commit ourselves everyday – with prayer, study our bibles, meet regularly other Christians
– its an ongoing process – and not something we should do only on Sundays –
and what about our acts of service? –
Paul gives us practical advice about how we should carry out God’s work
we should not be moulded by worldly opinions or change our views to match the people around us – we have to be consistent and constantly radiate God’s message to others
Our God led actions are to be used according to the gifts and faith that we have received – We have to form a "sober estimate based on the measure of faith that God has dealt each of us "
we have to recognise that each of us has a part to play in God’s plan – Paul uses an analogy with the human body to explain this – all the many functions are required each one just as important as the other and to be used for the health and enrichment of the whole.
I’m sure you will agree that our choir benefits from having a full harmony of voices – basses, tenors – sopranos – all just as important as each other – and they would not lead us nearly so well if some of them – decided to sing out of their voice range – If the soprano’s tried to sing bass and the basses tried to sing soprano – I know some of the men would find it a struggle – we can’t all be Dennis Rousous – (and I’m sure we wouldn’t want to be.)
Our God led actions must be according to the God given gifts we have received – and no matter what gift we have been given we are to use it willingly for God with zeal and commitment – for the good of the whole –
– Our collect reminds us that Jesus was acclaimed the Glory of Israel and the light of the Nations – and that through Him we must also present ourselves to God – so that in the world we will reflect His Glory
– our commitment should be in response to God’s love and mercy like Hannah’s – not out of self interest or personal ambition – or out of Duty – but in thankful recognition that God is the provider of all goodness – and has given us through His grace – something that we could never obtain by ourselves
We have to change – open ourselves to His mercy
– put ourselves right with Him – only then will God’s truths be revealed to us and we can truly become instruments of His righteousness in the world –
our God led actions must be according to the gifts we have been given – and we should carry them out with commitment and in recognition of our love for Him
At the end of our communion we finish with this prayer:
Almighty God, we offer you our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice – Send us out in the power of your Holy Spirit , to live and work for your praise and Glory
Let’s use that prayer everyday and let’s try to really mean it
Prayer to finish
In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit