Future Planning

2nd Sunday before Lent

Revelation 4
Luke 8:22-25

A new friend of mine (Darcy Chesterfield-Terry) is being inducted into the next door parish (Datchet & Colnbrook) tomorrow evening and I am so thrilled for them and him. I have spent the last year covering various services & offices at St Mary and St Thomas and have enjoyed my time there. It has made me think about what I would be looking for in my next parish as I should be in a similiar situation in the next few months. So this is what I would like my next (but as yet unknown parish) to know about what I believe about being a worshipping church!

You are on the cusp of a new season in this parish and it is going to be exciting! I have been thinking a lot this week about you, the congregations of St Mary and St Thomas and Darcy as I will hopefully be in a similar situation in the next few months – not sure when or where though.

It got me to thinking about what I would want my new (although as yet unknown) congregation to know about what I believe about being church. I am going to be brave and tell you what I would want them to know and I hope this lands in the right place for you this morning. You can tell me later or tomorrow evening if I am completely naïve!

I do like the Book of Revelation and I always try to take the opportunity to preach on it when it comes up. I like it because it is scary, unpredictable, very challenging and gives us a glimpse of God that is so much bigger than we usually imagine him to be. Revelation also shows us that things aren’t always going to be as there are. Change is a comin’!

The American evangelist and writer, Beth Moore wrote this about Revelations 4: ‘In reading Revelation’s description of the throne room of God, please keep in mind that John related the completely unfamiliar through the familiar. Imagine, for example, escorting an Indian who had never ventures farther than the most primitive part of the Amazon through a tour of that state-of-the-art technology of NASA. When he returned to his fellow tribesmen, how would he describe jets or rockets? He’d probably have to begin his illustration by using birds as an example and try to stretch their imagination from there. Likewise, throughout much of Revelation, John employed known concepts to express images beyond our understanding. The throne of God is simply beyond anything we can imagine.’

Revelation 4 takes places in the throne room of God; John is ushered into this room and sees not only the throne but one seated on it. This would have been a dramatic yet glorious sight! It also takes some imagination to get this image – again John is using the familiar to describe the unfamiliar.

The one seated on the throne – who is it? God! What’s the picture that goes through your mind? We aren’t given any idea of the form but only of colour. Jasper can be found in shades of red, yellow, brown, green. Carnelian is red-brown in colour. The one is also surrounded by a rainbow – every colour. The God that John sees is not a God that is black and white but one of colour.

There are some things that are of course black and white about God and his teaching. God though in himself is not so black and white but one of colour, creativity and expanse. This is the one that we worship – the one seated on the throne. Who’s the one on the throne then? Well – it’s not us, nor the PCC, the Bishop, the Archbishop and nor Darcy. It is God. Never lose sight of that.

I was once asked by a rather cynical friend: ‘why did I go to church as I didn’t seem like the type?’ I was completely lost for an answer! To my rescue came another church-going friend who happened to be present. Her answer, one of the most brilliant I have ever heard and was quickly adopted as my own was: ‘I go to church to be challenged in my relationship with God.’

The primary reason for coming here week in/week out should be so that you can be challenged in your relationship with God. There are many good and useful reasons to come to church – service, fellowship, socialisation, the list goes on. We can be challenged in the worship of God, the sermon (I hope!), the prayers, in meeting God in the Eucharist, in the commission to go out and make disciples. When we lose sight of our relationship with God and if that is not primarily why we are here then church becomes a social agency, a club with inconvenient meetings times and at worst an inward facing self-serving clique.

Secondly, faith, Christianity and worship takes some imagination, some creativity. It should be a relief to know that these are not prohibited by God or even the Church of England although they can be scarce commodities sometimes. The Bible is full of stories that require some imagination to be fully understood! Don’t be afraid of trying new things or hearing new ideas.

I would be looking for a parish that has some enthusiasm for new things, reaching new people, taking some risks in hopes that the Good News of Jesus will reach the people who need to hear it. Gone are the days of opening the doors and waiting for people to come in.

Thirdly, casting our crowns before the throne. There is always a danger in the face of change to romanticize the past when the future looks uncertain. We long for the old and dress it up, better than it actually was; ‘Oh, for the good old days’ we sigh and become selective in our memories. This goes both ways.

We must cast the crowns we’ve made for ourselves before the throne and trust that what God has planned is actually better than what we could ever ask or imagine.

Underneath all of this we have the one who gets into the boat with us. I love this story of Jesus. Luke 8 is full of the activity of Jesus’ ministry – no wonder he fell asleep in the boat! Jesus had been going through cities and villages proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God, curing people, laid it all out in the parable of the sower and told people to bear fruit with patient endurance, Jesus had some family issues when his mother and brothers showed up. No wonder he needed a nap!

And one day he got into a boat with his disciples and had a snooze. How utterly human. Even what happened next was not out of the ordinary – the Sea of Galilee is known for its quick change in tide – it can be as smooth as glass one moment and then choppy and windy the next. Jesus is also with fisherman who knew that water, had lived and breathed it their whole lives. They are scared! That storm must have been beyond what they were used to.

Beyond what they were used to. We like what we like because we like it! Even if we don’t like it, the pain of change can often seem a better option than the benefits that change can bring. As human beings tend to like security and the familiar, so we get use to things whether they are beneficial or not. Now I am not saying that everything has to change right now but over time. This comes back to what I said about creativity and worship.

I wonder what the disciples in the boat would have done if Jesus wasn’t with them? Rode out the storm I suppose. How much better though to have the one seated in the boat to rebuke the wind and the waging waves in an instant. There was a calm.

Whatever happens over the next few weeks, months and years here – when times of wind and wave sweep down and in times of calm, Jesus is on your side, he’s in the boat. Where is your faith? This is the question Jesus asks the probably sea-sick, pale faced disciples and is not a bad one for us today.

Where is your faith when change comes, when what your used to isn’t what your used to anymore?

Lastly, I want people, my congregation to know Jesus. To know the one who commands the winds and the water that they obey him. Again, takes some creativity and imagination to read the Gospels and understand at a deeper level what he was doing and what that means for us.

I want them to know the one who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and was made man. Who for our sake was crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffered death and was buried. Who on the third day rose again in accordance with the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. In that glorious throne room.

He is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

He is in the boat with us on the journey of each our individual lives but also our communal life as a parish and congregation. Let’s see where he is taking us!


Trust of the Saints

This past Sunday was technically the 2nd Sunday of this year’s Stewardship campaign and I was to preach on that. However, in the last few weeks 2 long-time members of the parish have died. Reg and Ralph were two of the loveliest, funniest and godly men I have met. Both of their wives were in church yesterday and while I initially wrote this with Ralph in mind, I was able to easily make room for Reg as it speaks of him as well.

Trust of the Saints

Jeremiah 17:5-10
1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Luke 6:17-26

I didn’t feel that I could not not talk about Ralph and Reg today. While I, like you, are very sad about this, I have found myself to be very grateful to have even known Ralph and Reg, to have been ministered to by them and to have confidence that they are now in the presence of God – whatever that looks like.

How do we make sense of the things that happen to us or to those that we love? I suspect that a few of us might be trying to work this through in these days. I think that it really comes down to trust. We can all see in Ralph and Reg, lives of faithfulness to God but also a life of trust. Trust also happens to be the golden thread that runs through our readings this morning.

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God’s message was that he wanted his people to trust him alone. No other gods, idols or even humans could replace him. So determined is God to have their trust – he is prepared to curse those who trust in ‘mere mortals and make human strength their only strength.’ Over time the Jewish people had gradually come to trust in other things, in themselves, in novel religious rituals, in wealth – basically anything but God and they are paying a terrible price.

People like these live ‘like a shrub in the desert.’ There is no water, nothing to feed them. They won’t see relief when it comes. Think about for a moment when you are hungry or thirsty to the point of distraction? Can you think clearly? Living like this means a life of constant worry, anxiety and inability to focus on anything other than survival.
Jeremiah uses water as the image of God. God is as essential to life as water is, and to choose to live without him is as dumb as it would be to choose to live without water. Instead of being cursed, those ‘who trust in the Lord are blessed, like trees planted by water, sending out roots by the stream.’ These people are constantly being fed and watered by the stream that is God. They don’t have to fear and be anxious when things get difficult; they bear fruit always.

It would be silly to suggest that Ralph or Reg were never fearful or anxious. We all do – of course! But they knew where their roots where. By the stream, planted by the water that is God. Can we check our root system today? Have near or far from water are they?

Secondly, we need to trust in the resurrection. This is essential to the Christian faith – we can’t avoid it or downplay it. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, is rather stunned by those who say there is no resurrection of the dead. If Jesus was not resurrected, Paul says, then our faith is futile, and we are still in our sins. Those who have died in Christ have perished. That means they no longer exist anywhere – they have come to nothing. Do we really dare want to believe that? This is a very black and white matter of faith.

The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that offers us redemption and is the same power that made us in the first place. This is power that we can trust in! This is the Good News of the Gospel – Jesus has been resurrected from the dead with the power to redeem and restore us. This is what the rest of the world needs to know – it is what the church should stand for, be about, why we give our time, talents and money. It is where we should put our trust. This is where Ralph and Reg put their trust.

Thirdly, the message of the Gospel is where we need to put our trust. Sometimes it is a hard message but first and foremost it is about love. The love between God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit – all equal parts. This is the love that we are invited into, that we were created for.

Luke, like Jeremiah, has a message of both woe and blessing. Blessed are you who are poor, hungry, sad, and expendable. Woe to you who are rich, full, happy, and popular.

Debie Thomas: ‘As Luke tells the story, Jesus has just spent the night alone on a mountainside, praying before he chooses his twelve Apostles. As morning dawns, he and the newly called Twelve descend from the mountain to find a vast crowd waiting for them. The multitudes have come from everywhere, seeking help, and Jesus — in his element, with power literally pouring off of his garments — heals them all. Then, standing “on a level place” with the crowd, he tells his would-be disciples what discipleship actually looks like. Blessed are you who are poor, hungry, sad, and expendable. Woe to you who are rich, full, happy, and popular. Yup, that’s the fabulous Good News of the Kingdom of God. A world turned upside down. An economy of blessing that sounds ludicrous. A reordering of priority and privilege that the Church will find awkward and even offensive for centuries to come.’

Again this is about trust. What is our trust in? Being rich, full and popular? These are good if used in the right way, not to be taken lightly or misused for our own personal gain. Woe to you if this is what your trust is in. Blessed are you who are poor, hungry, sad, and expendable. Why are they blessed? God’s favour falls on those who have nothing to fall back on – no pension, no credit line, no NHS, no social care, no credit card. Jesus is standing with people who are hungry to benefit from the power that streams from him, and he announces through his healings and his words that God cares for the poor, the hungry and the suffering.

The power of God is a power that is used to comfort and renew. It is the power of the cross and resurrection. It is the power that has raised Ralph and Reg and will one day raise us too.

Where then is our trust today? Maybe in light of what has happened it has been shaken – but that doesn’t mean that God’s power is less. Ever so fortunately, God’s power and love is not conditional or contingent on how we might be feeling in a particular moment. There is no better alternative to his power. Until we are powerless ourselves; we cannot truly understand his power. Find your roots again today and stay close to the waters where fear and anxiety are taken away. Our dear friends Ralph and Reg have been strengthened and healed by the power of the resurrection. There is no fear in that but only trust.

4th Sunday Before Advent: Follow Me!

Those are my feet in the Sea of Galilee on a very hot July day! I marvelled at the beach that day – not because I wanted to walk on the water but because of the stories of Jesus preaching from the beaches and boats. It is the parish Stewardship Sundays at the moment so had to tie all this together. Think I did okay with the help of Journey with Jesus (https://www.journeywithjesus.net)

Luke 5:1-11

I wonder if you have ever worked hard at something, really put effort in and found that after all your graft – the net was empty at the end of it.

There is a scene in the Jack Nicholson film ‘About Schmidt’ that shows the retirement party and speeches of Warren Schmidt as he ends a rather uninspiring career as an insurance salesman. The following week, Warren returns to visit the office to see how ‘the new guy’ is getting on. As he walks by the garage of the office, he spots box upon box of his life’s work stacked next to the bin waiting for collection. It’s quite a depressing scene and the rest of the film shows Warren trying to overcome the futility of his working life.

Sometimes the things we plan for in this life don’t pan out the way we thought they would or wanted them too.

As Luke describes the scene in this week’s Gospel story, it’s early morning, and Simon Peter is cleaning his fishing nets after a bad night on the lake. Simon Peter and his partners (James and John) have worked hard from dusk until dawn (they fished at night). Morning has come and they have nothing to show for their night’s work. The nets are empty, their backs were probably very sore. There won’t be any money today.

Then Jesus shows up. He’d been preaching on the lake shore when he saw the two boats further down the beach. Even from a distance, Jesus was paying attention – he had met those 3 fishermen on previous occasions. He goes over and steps into Peter’s boat and tells him to ‘put out into the deep water.’

Jesus is telling Peter to do the same old same old one more time, with no guarantee that he’ll see better results. Simon Peter’s first response is to protest: ‘Master, we have worked hard all night long.’ But then he obeys: ‘Yet if you say so, I will.’ Peter does obey and suddenly his nets are bursting at the seams.

I like this Gospel story for a few reasons, here are a few of them:

Firstly, we might not know what it is to be fisherman but I’m sure we know what it’s like to work hard at something that matters and have nothing to show for our efforts when it’s done. We can have poured ourselves into jobs, relationships, the church, a club, a ministry, a dream – and come away exhausted, frustrated and done.

However, it seems that in these moments of loss and defeat is exactly when Jesus shows up. He doesn’t just stand on the shore and wave us on but gets in the boat with us. Maybe he has good reasons for asking us to return to places of pain and failure – maybe we missed the lesson or we weren’t done there yet.

Simon Peter’s first response was not one of wanting to head back out on the waters. Jesus’ timing is maddening sometimes; but it is also perfect. Simon Peter, James and John had nothing left to lose by saying yes to one more attempt at fishing – this time with Jesus at their side.

Secondly, this story honours the same old same olds of our individual lives. Jesus’ call in this story is specific and rooted in language, culture and vocation that the hearers will know best. Simon Peter knew fish and knew the water – Jesus calls Simon to use his experience and intelligence to fish one more time.

We don’t follow Jesus in the abstract or ‘in general’ as if Christianity comes down to nothing more than attending church, giving money and being a nice person. If we follow him at all, we’ll have to do it in the particulars of our lives, communities, cultures, families and vocations we find ourselves in. We have to trust that God prizes our intellects, backgrounds, educations, and our skills and that he will bless and multiply the daily same old same olds of our lives for his purposes. We though, have to want to be used, want to find out the plans and purposes, work at it.

Thirdly, the purposes of Jesus. There is a plan and purpose for your life. This day that started with failure ended with a huge, life changing event for Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. They left everything and followed Jesus. So much to gain but so much to lose! These four were business partners along with James and John’s father Zebedee.

Think of old Zebedee for a moment! He was probably banking, like most Jewish father’s did, that his boys would take over the fishing business when he was done working. Even better there were four young, strong men to take over – his retirement is sewn up!

But then one day this Jesus comes and stands beside the lake and everything gets thrown up in the air! Retirement plans up in smoke, his sons and business partners have turned in their oars, left everything to follow this guy! I don’t know how you do when change comes likes this! I would struggle with this.

The question that gets me though, that burns in my thoughts every time I read this passage: is what was so attractive about Jesus that made these four, ordinary fishermen leave their nets and boats to follow him? Give up fishing – a lucrative family business, where you always have something to eat and not to mention the shame, they would have brought on their family by leaving Zebedee literally holding the net. We never hear about what happened to old Zebedee! Trust he was taken care of.

On this day, Jesus is going to really change the lives of his first disciples Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus invites these four ordinary fishermen to a specially favoured place beside him.

They are not going to be fishermen anymore but ‘fishers of men.’ Or people – just to be gender neutral! We see Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John change and grow in the Gospel stories as they follow Jesus.

Fourthly, I love the abundance at the heart of this story. In Jesus’ day the fishing industry was under full control of the Roman Empire. Caesar owned every body of water and all fishing was state-regulated for the benefit of the rich. Fishermen had to get licenses to fish and most of what they caught was exported – leaving communities impoverished and hungry.

The image of boats so full of fish that even Simon Peter is overwhelmed is amazing! This is extravagant, bountiful generosity. Food for all, food security for all, justice for all.

Jesus is showing Simon Peter what God’s kingdom will look like when it’s fully established. There will be no empty nets, no empty tables and no economic exploitation. God’s kingdom means good news for all.

This is what we should be working for as a Parish – God’s kingdom being good news for all. We are the builders! We use our time, talents and yes, our money in this building. Unlike Warren Schmidt, if you remember my story from the beginning, our life’s work isn’t going to end up in the bin, judged by others as unworthy. Our life’s work is judged by God and we will be rewarded for it.

‘Master, we have worked hard all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.’ It occurred to me that I often feel like I live between these sentences.

Come on God, I’m working hard enough! Don’t want to do this! Yet, if you say so…

I think that we all live in that gap between weariness and hope, defeat and faith, resignation and obedience. Sometimes life is a grind, the same old same old of monotony!
The hardest thing to do at these times is to make that leap of trust that Simon makes, Yet if you say so, I will.

Yet if you say so, I will work hard when I don’t see the results.

Yet if you say so, I will follow you despite the costs.

Yet if you say so, I will work out the plans and purposes you have for me.

Yet if you say so, I will live out of your abundance and not my poverty.

Yet if you say so, I will trust your presence in my boat is better than anything else I can want or need.

Yet if you say so, I will cast my empty net in the waters and look with hope for your kingdom to come.


Candlemas: Faithfulness & Sacrifice

I’ve fallen off the wagon again so time to get back on it! I love the story of the Presentation of Christ in the temple – this richness, the tradition and the symbolism of the Jewish tradition. More striking is how Jesus comes to fulfil these things and as a baby at that! This would likely have been so beyond Mary & Joseph to even begin to comprehend. I find it still beyond comprehension! This story also talks about the faithfulness of God in the lives of Simeon and Anna in a real and loving way. Faithfulness beyond comprehension!


Presentation of Christ

Malachi 3:1-5
Luke 2:22-40

The readings over these Sundays have shown us the different Epiphany experiences of various people – the Wise Men, Eli & Samuel, Mary, Joseph and young Jesus, grown-up Jesus and John the Baptist, Mary and the disciples at the wedding at Cana, Jesus speaking publicly in the synagogue of Nazareth and this morning we are in the temple at the Presentation of Jesus as an infant.

On this outer edge of this season we see the Epiphany experiences of Mary and Joseph; Simeon and Anna which show us the goodness and faithfulness of God.

What does Epiphany mean? In the everyday it means to have ‘a moment of great or sudden revelation or realization.’ Those moments when something new blows through your mind – you see the world, people, a situation in a totally new way. Epiphany moments can cause a fundamental change in one’s life.

The Epiphany stories of the people we have met in our Bible readings are the stories of their revelations and realizations of God the Father and Jesus the Son. I wonder if Mary and Joseph realized who they were holding in their arms?

Today we come to the finale of the Christmas story as we re-join Joseph, Mary and Jesus in the early days of their family life. We also meet Simeon and Anna as they experience a meeting of God in the baby of Jesus as he is presented in the temple and to the world.

What I think is fascinating is that this story began a few hundred years before it actually took place. Malachi is the last prophet of the OT, hence his is the last book as well. At its closing there was roughly a 400-year gap when God was silent.

The opening verses of Malachi tell of the Lord’s messenger to be sent to prepare the way and then the Lod will suddenly come to his temple. This is what is happening in Luke – first with John the Baptist but also with the presentation of Jesus in the temple.

The story of Jesus beyond Christmas begins with the three typical Jewish rites – circumcision, redemption and purification. We will look at each one of them briefly. What is atypical is that Jesus is the infant that would ultimately fulfil the prophetic representation of each of these rituals as he grew up.

Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day of his young life – this has already happened as this was the first action of devout Jewish parents for a firstborn son. Circumcision is first commanded in Genesis by God. It would serve as a sign of the covenant (a promise) between God and Abraham. The rite of circumcision was God’s way of requiring the Jewish people to become physically different – by cutting off – because of their relationship to Him as the chosen people of God.

The New Testament also talks about circumcision, but this is of a spiritual nature; not a physical. Colossians 2:11 ‘In him (that being Jesus) you were also circumcised, in the putting off the sinful nature.’ We too, like the Jewish people, are to be different because of our relationship with Him.

We all have bits of ourselves – if we are honest – that could be cut off. Those things in our characters or personalities that are difficult or unpleasant, that make life harder than it needs to be. We also have areas of sin that need to be cut out – this is what Paul is talking about have cut off with the reference to circumcision. This is what Jesus came to do for those who believe in Him.

The second rite is the Rite of Redemption. There would have been a period of time between the circumcision and the presentation of Jesus. This is what is happening in the passage today – Jesus is now 6 weeks old.

The Rite of Redemption was a reminder to the Jewish people that ‘the Lord brought them out of Egypt with his mighty hand’ (Exodus 13). God had redeemed His people from their slavery in Egypt. Young Jewish parents would then present their firstborn son to God, symbolizing the act of giving him up to God by saying ‘He is Yours and we give him back to You.’ Then they would immediately redeem him or buy him back effectively.

In the New Testament – Jesus fulfils this very rite as he came to redeem us. Ephesians ‘in Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.’ We must all be redeemed! For us non-Jews, we are not bought with birds from God by our natural parents. Rather, it is Christ who buys us with his life from our sinful, natural states and gives us to God.

Thirdly, the Rite of Purification. This is the last of the baby birth rites. After a baby was born, the mother was ceremonially unclean for a period of time after. When this time was over (33 days for a boy and 66 days for a girl), the mother was to bring offerings to the priest.

The required sacrifice was a lamb plus a turtle dove. However, if the mother could not afford a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves. This is what Mary and Joseph bring, the offerings of poverty – they brought the least sacrifice permitted by Jewish law. Yet they had in their arms the greatest sacrifice that God could ever make for purification – Jesus. They brought the least and were given the greatest. Jesus came to purify a people for himself that are his very own. That means us.

Malachi talks of the Lord being like a refiner’s fire and fullers’ soap. These are both painful ways of being cleaned – a refiner’s fire is incredibly hot to burn off the impurities of gold and silver. If Mom or Nan has ever had a go at you with the soap and a brush – you will know the pain of being cleaned with a hard scrub.

Again, these OT images of physical purification are translated into spiritual purification in the NT. What do I mean? We are made clean through the confession and repentance of sin. That is how we are made clean and restored into a right relationship with God. This is not to be taken casually or lightly. We are all of course imperfect individuals who will get it wrong and live to sin another day – but that is not reason or excuse enough to keep on sinning!

Repentance means to turn away from, to go in the other direction. It is making a conscience decision to stop and turn around. We make the decision to put the fire or soap or whatever metaphor we want into His hand and he does the burning and the scrubbing – far more gently than we could ever hope for. Painful yes. Necessary – absolutely!

Where do Simeon and Anna fit into this? They were at the temple the day that Jesus was presented. They are proof of the faithfulness of God.

Simeon was told that he would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Simeon held on to this promise by living a devout life and waited – maybe for decades until finally the day came. Simeon got himself ready through devotion, worship, prayer, watching and waiting. Anyone wanting to experience the glory of God, want to deepen your relationship, strengthen your faith – be like Simeon and work at it!

Simeon’s faithfulness is rewarded by God’s faithfulness as he responds to seeing the baby. He praised God but also spoke painful prophecy – the sword piercing your own soul too.

The faithfulness of God also features in Anna’s story. I don’t think you can talk about Simeon and then ignore Anna. She was the next person Jesus is presented to. Her life has been defined by death – as Jesus’ would be. Anna was widowed probably when she was 20 or 21, she would not have had children – and now she is 84 – so spent 65-ish years in the temple.
Anna has lived a life of patient hope; as has Simeon. She didn’t waver, didn’t give up but daily lived with faithfulness and expectation until the day the Messiah arrived.

On this day of presentation, we too can present ourselves again to God. We don’t need to sacrifice any lambs or birds we can go directly to the Father. If we can hold the three rites: circumcision, redemption and purification as what Jesus ultimately came to do for us; we will come to fuller understanding of Jesus and a richer life in him. We too will live in patient hope.

We need circumcision to cut away those things in us that do not bear fruit. Jesus will do a much better job of this than we ever will. We need redemption to be brought into the family of God. Only Jesus can do this for us with his blood. We need purification as we need clean hands and a pure heart. Again – it is in the death and resurrection of Jesus that we are cleansed.

God is faithful in all of these things and all through our lives if we look to the example of faithfulness of Simeon and Anna. This morning we again get a chance to present our imperfect yet profoundly and deeply loved selves to God as we share in the body and blood of Jesus at the communion rail.