Getting The Point - Audio Service 06.02.22
with Revd. David Burrow
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Suggested Hymns & Songs:
'Be thou my vision'
(Lovely instrumental version with lyrics but no singing voice)
'It came upon the Midnight Clear' (Last Carol for a while!) https://youtu.be/bbrrHQlo0fM
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Hello and welcome to this audio service by the Rossendale Methodist circuit. What you'll hear shortly is a recording of a service that usually takes place at Longholme Methodist Church in Rawtenstall on Tuesday mornings at 10am. This is a live recording, so do expect some background noise although we've tried to reduce this as much as we can. The hymns unfortunately have to be removed for copyright reasons but we've suggested some links to versions of the hymns below this video. This week's service is entitled 'Getting the Point' and you'll hear Revd. David Burrow begin the service now.
This morning's service based on Candlemass I've called 'Getting the Point'. Do you get the point? And we've listened to 'this child secretly comes in the night' so let's pray. Let's pray. Almighty God, as we take one last look back at Christmas and remember the birth of Jesus. So our attention begins to switch to his passion his death and his resurrection. And Father halfway through that journey, we want to praise you and thank you for all that is passed. We want to worship you and bow down before you and say thank you for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, born to us in Bethlehem. God in the flesh. And Lord God we want to thank you for the presence in the way, in that Jesus meets us today and we praise you for his presence with us now.
Photo by MJS via Unsplash
Once again when we come to worship. Forgive us, we pray when we take the past and the present for granted.
When we lose sight of this wonderful gift of yourself. Forgive us when we try to do things in our own strength, in the days of today, worrying about all the issues that face us when we should just bring them to you and lay them at the foot of your cross. For we know that you long to share with us you long to walk with us you long for us to take upon ourselves, your yoke that yoke that is easy. Forgive us when we try to carry ourselves, forgive us and set us free from that self centeredness. Forgive us and fill us with your Holy Spirit we pray, that we might indeed walk in newness of life with you.
And we thank you that as we offer you our prayers of confession so you reach out to us you reach down to us and you lift us up. And you draw us again to yourself and we praise you and thank you for the gift of your grace, the gift of your mercy. And Lord as we look to the future, so we pray for the future. And we pray that your Holy Spirit would guide us and give us the wisdom that we need to face each day as it comes. So bless us now we pray as we worship you in Jesus's name. Amen.
So we're in Luke's gospel, chapter two and verses 21 and we'll go through to 38. But as you listen to the reading, I want you to listen to the changes in the atmosphere as it were.
But also a little bit about Jewish law to help us understand this reading. Everybody goes well what, the law, oh now, but the reason why Mary and Joseph were bringing Jesus to the temple was, you know, Jesus had been circumcised on the eighth day, as a, as a good Jewish family would do. But two ceremonies were called for when the child was 40 days old. The child was presented to God because every male child that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord. Exodus 13. And you're redeeming the child back from God, you're paying the price. You know, when you redeem things from the pawn shop and you take something and you buy it back later. So they had to pay five shekels for the male that opened the womb. And then secondly, after the birth of a son, the woman was unclean for seven days, and for 33 more days had to keep away from everything that was holy. Hence the 40 days. It was twice as long for a daughter, Leviticus chapter 12, that is, and in order to be cleansed, to offer, a sacrifice had to be offered either a lamb or a dove or a pigeon. If you were poor, a second dove or pigeon would be offered instead of a lamb. And because Mary and Joseph are offering the birds it shows that they are poor.
And then we come to Simeon. Simeon, is acted upon by the Holy Spirit in three different ways. He receives by divine revelation, that he shall see the Messiah and under the influence of the Holy Spirit, he is led to encounter and recognise Jesus as the Messiah and then under the influence of the Spirit, he utters a wonderful prayer and a prophecy. And then we get to the change of tone, as Simeon issues a warning. So listen for all of that, as I read it. So Luke chapter two and verse 21.
'After eight days had passed it was time to circumcise the child and he was called Jesus the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.' So that's eight days. Now moving on to 40 days. 'When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses. They brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord, every firstborn now shall be designated as holy to the Lord. And they offered a sacrifice according to what he stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.' So there we see the poverty of Mary and Joseph. 'Now, there was a man in Jerusalem called his name was Simeon, and 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 servants in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples alight 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. And 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 shall pierce your own soul too." And there was also a prophet Anna, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asha. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of 84. 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. Amen.'
So it's like, wow, and then - oh, and then wow, isn't it? You know, Simeon offers his prophecy about the sword, then Anna comes along. I just watched a young woman delivering, delivering her baby to the nursery. Next Door, little, little baby there, in his car seat, smile on his face as he's bobbing along.
Just imagining Jesus there you know, not in a car seat, but yeah, being carried into the temple, proud mum and dad coming to do what is required of them by the law.
Now I wonder if you've ever heard a story or a joke perhaps. You know, somebody comes along at a meeting and you're standing around you're having a chat at a party or something and they tell you a joke and everybody else laughs and you don't get it. And you pretend you do. You laugh a lot. You think, what on earth was that all about? My granddad was brilliant at telling jokes that nobody else got, Why is a piece of string when it's wet? Because there's white railings around the park. For the last 60 years I think I've been trying to work that one out. You know just don't get the point, do you? Just don't get it. It's like, it goes flying over your head.
Don't know if you remember Primary School nativity plays, a lot of fun they were and at least twice as far as I can remember when I was 10 and 11. I was dressed up in that dressing gown that you have to wear, the tea towel placed on your head, the head band, rubber solution glue all over your face, and the sheep's wool taken directly from the sheep I'm sure, because it still smelt stuck to your face to give you a beard. It was all right, putting it on, getting it off was a different story altogether. My poor mother spent hours just sort of gently soaking it off. I'm sure there's a thing about child abuse in there somewhere. Rubber solution, peeling it off. Anyway, and there I was dressed up ready to play my part as Simeon in the school nativity. I don't know why the teachers thought we had to have a Simeonn but obviously, it was a church of England school so we always had a full on story even though there was only 11 pupils to play all the parts. And hopefully this Simeon, me, had learnt his Nunc dimittis. 'Lord now let us thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word for my eyes have seen thy salvation which thou has prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.' I had to learn it in the King James version, of course, in those days.
It's called the Nunc Dimittis by the way because in the Latin the first two words are Nunc Dimittis. See, simple as that. Do you know the story of Nunc? An alien who came to live at St Wilfreds, Adrian Plass, I can recommend the book, yeah, Nunc's an angel, first thing he sees in the church is a Bible and he opens it up and he sees Nunc Dimittis so he calls himself Nunc, when he's discovered by a group of children they ask him what his name is, he says, Nunc. But that's by the by.
So I played my part as a 10 year old as Simeon. But I didn't understand it. I didn't get the point of all those words that I had to say. I didn't get the point at all. So let's get to the real Simeon, in the real temple. Who was he? Well, to be honest, we don't know a great deal about him. We don't even know if he was old. We assume that he was old, probably because Mary and Joseph listened to him respectfully. And in those days, of course, people of a certain age were respected for their wisdom. And he was certainly cheerfully ready, once he'd seen Jesus to die. He was ready to die age. Let thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. So we assume that he was going on in years a little bit. Was he a priest? We don't know that either. Though he was a regular in the temple, was an important citizen? We don't know! There's a lot we don't know about Simeon. We do know though, and this is important bit of course, that he was righteous. He had a relationship with God, he was in good standing with God he was without prejudice. He treated others well. He was devout. He was cautious and careful about recognising the presence and the claims of God. He was a holy man. God's spirit rested on him continually in a rather special way. We also know that Simeon was someone who didn't miss the point. He did not miss the point.
I wonder. I do a lot of wondering. Have you ever looked at something or heard something that left you full of wonder? A glorious sunset? Is it just a glorious sunset? Or is it a visual feast that points you to the creativity of God? The newborn baby. Just another reminder of the sanctity, is it just another baby rather? Or is it a reminder of the sanctity of, the holiness, the preciousness of human life, made in the image of God and a gift from God. Amazing technology, just more technology simply to be accepted and used or ignored? Or is that technology a reflection of the human race and the ingenuity and again, the creativity of God, after all, God made us, I'm sure he understands all the technology. I've said probably more prayers over my computer than over certain people. But it's possible to wonder something and go wow. And then miss the point of it, isn't it? See the sunset. Wow. And walk away. See the sunset and think, wow God. You see the stars at night. Wow. Look at all those, planets and lights and stars and then walk away or go, God who am I that you created me? You made the heavens and the earth. So many people miss the point. You know the Pharisees, they were amazed at some of Jesus's miracles. But they missed the point. They were amazed at some of his teaching, but they missed the point. The point being of course, that Jesus's miracles and his teaching pointed to him as the Son of God, but Simeon through the power of the Holy Spirit did not miss the point. His sense of wonder at holding Jesus in his hands, the power of the Holy Spirit resting upon him. Let him not simply to move on to the necessary sacrifices, but to praise God, and he praised God for keeping all those wonderful promises that God had made to him, that he would see the Messiah, God's Son, the one who would mean the salvation of the world. And now, now he can die happily in peace. And that word now is important for Simeon. Now it's happened, here is Jesus. Now, now he gets the point.
And as Simeon looked down at this 40 day old baby he saw so much and he certainly didn't miss the point of what he saw. His words are a prophecy of the life of Jesus, Jesus, the salvation of God, Jesus, the one who will offer people the gift, the free gift of forgiveness for their sin. Through his death, and resurrection. Belief in and acceptance of Jesus will mean there's no need to fear the judgement of God. And this gift is not just for the Jewish nation, but it's for the whole world, a light for the Gentiles for everybody. In a darkened world full of sin, there now shines the light of Christ, the light that will reveal that will show everyone the way to God. And it's all there in this baby. Simeon praised God, because this was the best news the world had had since creation.
There's no wonder is there that Mary and Joseph were so amazed at Simeon's words. So that was all wonderful that was the good news. Well, now came the change in tone, the bad news if you like. Because what Simeon had to say, what he saw was not all sweetness and light. Because salvation doesn't come cheap. Salvation costs. Because of Jesus, says Simeon, many will fall. They will reject what Jesus offers. Some people when faced with the goodness and the love of Jesus remain unmoved. Others are even hostile. And to reject Jesus is to bring condemnation upon yourself. As William Barclay puts it, 'there is a great refusal. Just as there is a great acceptance,' those who refuse to accept Jesus, but those who accept Jesus, Simeon says, will rise. This is the language of resurrection. Seneca, who was a Roman philosopher who was alive at the time of Jesus said that what people needed above all was a hand let down to lift them up. I don't know if you remember the adverts for the lottery, you know the hand coming down, saying you, people being lifted up. A lot of people even to this day still believe that that hand will come down and they'll win the lottery, and it will lift them out of their suffering and their struggles. It wasn't. It isn't. And it never will be.
The only hand that can lift people up is the hand of Jesus. The hand of Jesus lifts people out of the old life and into the new, out of sin and into goodness, out of shame and into glory. Jesus is able to offer us his hand because he's willing to die to take on himself the cost of our sin. Salvation is costly. And Mary herself would experience the pain and the anguish of seeing her son die. A sword, a large sword would pierce her soul. Simeon saw that there will be those who oppose Jesus and those who would surrender to him. Yeah, there's no neutral ground with Jesus is there, you either surrender to him or at war with him. We're either for or we're against. Simeon held the baby Jesus, he looked at him in wonder and through the power of the Holy Spirit he saw it all. Simeon certainly didn't miss the point.
So what about you and me? What about us as we look back at Christmas and gaze in wonder at the baby Jesus do we see all that Simeon saw, do we get the point? And if we do, how about sharing that with others Simeon stood up in the temple in front of everyone and told them all that he saw. You know at Christmas as we know many people come into church to different services and celebrations. People who normally don't, come along. They celebrate, they party. They give and receive gifts, but they miss the point of it all. That's a tragedy, and I don't know what gets in the way. Maybe it's ignorance, maybe it's just pride sometimes. Whatever it is, that keeps them from making that all important surrender, the surrender to Christ. It's the only surrender in the history of the world, that brings freedom, victory and joy. Do you get the point? Amen.
2000 years of wrong is a long time isn't is, and the wars continue to be fought and wars continue to be threatened and there's lots of other things in the world that we need to pray about. In the Sunday morning service this morning. They were talking about praising God for what is past but always praying, praying for the future, praying for the present too I guess. So it's important that we pray so this morning I brought those candles. So during this time of prayer, please feel free to light a candle from the main candle, mind you don't burn yourself please. And you can do it as you name somebody or a situation or you can just do it in silence entirely up to you. Got a few more candles if we run out. But feel free to do that. You don't have to it's entirely up to you. Okay, so I'll start with a prayer and then I'll just lead into the candles if you like so let's pray.
Father God, thank you so much for this time of year for the gift of Candlemass the celebration of light of love, celebration of Jesus's birth. And that final look back to all the wonder and the joy of Christmas and father as we turn now towards Lent and Easter. So we want to offer our prayers for the sufferings of the world, we want to bring to you, as many people in the past have brought to you those situations, those people, those places where there is so much pain, still so much darkness. And so as we light a candle as we pray in our own hearts and minds as we pray out loud. We ask you to hear our prayer. And where possible may we be the answers to those prayers, take us and use us, to be a light in the darkness and to show others the way to you. So in Jesus's name, we offer our prayers. Amen.
And Lord today we pray for all those who grieve, we pray for Alan's family and for Joan's family, two people who lived many years and in all those years, walked with you like Simeon and Anna they knew the joy of your presence in their lives. And we thank you for their faith and for their example. And we thank you that with so many of our brothers and sisters, they are with you at peace. And Lord as Simeon looked forward to his own death and to die in peace, so we pray for that peace for all people. A peace of a relationship with you. And the knowledge of your love in their lives and Lord may the example of Simeon, of Joan, of Alan, of Alf and so many others, may the example of their faith be caught by the members of their families, Lord we know that there are so many in all our families who do not yet walk with you, have not yet got the point. Lord, we pray that they would have open hearts and minds that your Holy Spirit would work in their lives and that their minds, one day in your time, come to know the joy and the wonder just in the same way that Anna expressed it and proclaimed it to all people, to everyone who was there, she shared the good news of the coming of Jesus Christ.
So Lord as your church in this valley, whole church, each and every building filled with all your different people. May we be witnesses to your kingdom. May we draw people to you. And as we do so we pray too for those who were regulars before lockdown and yet have not returned. Pray for them. That they might be drawn back, again by our words of encouragement, by the working of your Holy Spirit in their lives. Lord may your kingdom come, may your will be done on earth, including Rossendale. Lord, we ask it in the name of Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray together, Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever, Amen.
Thank you for all your prayers spoken and unspoken. So let us share the grace together, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the holy spirit be with us all evermore, Amen.
Thankyou for listening and we hope you enjoyed the service. You can find us online on www.rossendalemethodistcircuit.co.uk and also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Please do let us know what you thought of this service in the comments below. And you can always contact us by email at email@example.com.