presentationSermon offered at
St. Nathaniel’s Episcopal Church
North Port, Florida
Presentation of Our Lord – Stewardship February 3, 2013
Luke 2:22-40

All things come of thee Oh Lord, and of thine own have we given thee . . . AMEN
I speak to you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . .

Do you all know this prayer – “All things come of thee Oh Lord, and of thine own have we given thee”? It’s the prayer we often say when the offering is brought forward at the Eucharist. When we pray it we’re acknowledging that all we have comes from God. And when we give, we’re actually giving not what is ours but what has been entrusted to our care. This prayer sums up what stewardship is all about; it’s an especially appropriate prayer for us here today as we come to the end of these couple of weeks when we’ve been focusing on Stewardship.

And do you know who first said those words? Who first prayed this prayer? David – King David – recorded in the 1st Book of Chronicles – at the end of David’s life – as his son Solomon is about to succeed him as king of Israel. David is offering up his treasure, his gold and silver, that Solomon will use to build the temple in Jerusalem. So the words from the Old Testament . . .

Today we’re celebrating the Presentation of Our Lord. The gospel reading is about Mary and Joseph taking the baby Jesus to the temple to present . . . to offer up . . . to dedicate Mary’s son to God – this in obedience to the laws of Judaism.

Over the past week as I was living with this gospel reading, this prayer “All things come of thee Oh Lord and of thine own have we given thee” – these words kept coming back to me. I think these words might well have been ringing in Mary’s heart and mind as she offered up her first-born son. We know that Mary was steeped in the Old Testament Jewish tradition. And in this sense Mary is a kind of pivotal figure, tying the Old Testament “law and the prophets” to the New Testament covenant that springs to life in the birth of Jesus.

The other two players in the story about the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple are Simeon and Anna. They are also bridges between the Old and New Testaments. Both Simeon and Anna are well along in years when the meet up with Mary and Joseph and Jesus in the temple. And they both have distinctive roles to play:

Simeon seems to be a very devout man – particularly sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s voice. At the Spirit’s direction, he’s been on the lookout for Israel’s consolation, the Anointed One, for quite some time. And somewhere along the line he has been assured that he will live to see the Messiah. At the urging of the Holy Spirit, Simeon is lead to the temple on this particular day – and he discovers, he recognizes what he has been waiting for. He takes the baby Jesus in his arms and prays these words:

     Lord, you now have set your servant free
          to go in peace as you have promised;
     For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
          whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
     A Light to enlighten the nations,
     and the glory of your people Israel.

At this meeting with Jesus and Mary and Joseph in the temple God’s promise to Simeon is fulfilled. Simeon is ready to die in peace. His role in the Presentation has been to recognize, to identify Jesus as the universal light and saviour of the world. Simeon bridges the Old and New covenants: the glory of Israel is now the light of all the nations of the world.

Anna, the aged prophetess in the gospel story, is a widow of many, many years. She embodies that same deep Old Testament faith and piety that we see in Simeon – and like Simeon she also recognizes Jesus as the redeemer of the world. Anna’s distinctive role on the day of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple is to give thanks.

Mary and Joseph come to the temple to present Jesus exactly forty days after his birth – and that’s the reason we’re celebrating the Presentation today, forty days after Christmas. But what do you suppose this Feast day celebration means to us today?
Perhaps this mile marker, forty days after Christmas, is a good time to stop and reflect on the last forty days since Christmas – to reflect on personal questions about God’s gifts in our lives . . . and about our response to God’s generosity. . .
•   Have we thanked God for all he gives us – for all the blessings of this life?
•   And in response to God’s generosity, what are we called to present to the Temple of         Christ – to His Church?

These questions are the same stewardship questions we’ve been focusing on over the past few weeks – in the cottage meetings and in the Sunday sermons. Today is the day to present our offerings of time, talent and treasure to the Church – to God – and to ask his blessing on our offerings. Would you bring forward the pledge cards?
The Lord be with you . . .
And also with you . . .
Let us pray . . .

Gracious and loving God, giver of all that is good and true and beautiful and life-giving.
These cards represent the fruit of our work . . . they represent our lives . . . they represent our dreams.

The pledges which we make on them are only tokens of the awesome gifts that you have given us, and we pledge them in thanksgiving for all we have received . . . for all we are inspired to be . . . for all we are challenged to become at St. Nathaniel’s.  May we all recognize these pledges as our offering to you, sacred and holy, yet earthy and filled with possibilities.

May we see our very selves in these offerings . . . presenting to you ourselves, our souls and bodies . . . as a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto you.
May we hold this image in our hearts and minds – and may we watch our offerings come to your table each week . . . for the work of your mission among and through us.

All things come of thee oh Lord  ✜ ✜ ✜  and of thine own have we given thee

. . . AMEN.

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