Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Sermon: The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord - 2011

2 February 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Luke 2:22-40 (1 Sam 1:21-28, Heb 2:14-18)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“And when the time came,” says God’s Word concerning the Lord and His mother visiting the temple. That phrase is better translated “when the time was brought to completion,” or “in the fullness of time.”

For what we see in Mary’s purification and in Jesus’s presentation is the universe being changed. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, the new has come and the old has passed away. The Old Covenant with its sacrifices unto the forgiveness of sins, with its static location, and its longing for the time of the coming of the Messiah is being brought to its fullness. For the Messiah has come to be the sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins, and the temple has been brought into the world to all nations.

Our Lutheran confessions speak of Mary as being holy and pure. And that she is. For she has been sanctified and cleansed by the One to whom she gave birth. Even as she brings God to the temple to present Him, Jesus brings Mary to the temple to purify her. Even as Mary seeks forgiveness from the temple where sacrifices have been made for thousands of years, the One who will go to the sacrifice of the cross in 30 years brings eternal forgiveness to the temple that bore Him.

“Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” And our Lord Jesus is the first of the first, for He is the first to open the virgin’s womb, even as He will later be the first to open the virginal tomb. He is the first of our race to emerge from the sinful flesh, from that which found its ancestry in Adam’s body that was made of the dust of the earth, and our Lord opens that womb and is uniquely holy among men – in order to offer the gift of holiness to all men.

Our Lord emerged from the fleshly temple of His mother in order to be the sacrifice for His brothers in obedience to His Father.

But before He fulfills the Law on our behalf, He brings the Law to completion by His own presence. And Mary, being too poor to afford the customary sacrifice of a lamb, offers pigeons. But nevertheless, the Lamb without blemish is there, the very fulfillment of the thousands of lambs whose blood was spilled on the temple’s altar has come Himself in the flesh to consecrate the altar, even He whose blood would be shed on the cross to sanctify all of us whose sins are covered by the blood of the cross.

Indeed, we see the old become new, the sacrifices become the Sacrifice, and we see a woman born of her sinful father Adam being made pure by her sinless Son Jesus.

The old man Simeon has become the new man Simeon, fully prepared to depart this world in peace, according to the Lord’s Word. His eyes have seen our salvation prepared in the presence of all peoples. Simeon’s song is our song, and like Simeon, we are prepared to depart in peace when our days have reached the fullness of time.

Old Anna also became new Anna, spending her years of widowhood praying the temple and waiting for the Christ. “And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

The word translating “waiting” really means “to watch out for in expectation.” Anna and the others in the temple were not just idly waiting around, they were prayerfully anticipating the fulfillment of the Word, and they were to experience the Word in the flesh, the Word made flesh, the Word carried in flesh from the flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.”

Dear friends, like Mary, we have been purified by our Lord. We have been made holy through the flesh of Him whose flesh is the holy and living Word of God. Indeed, our Lord has Himself “performed everything according to the Law of the Lord” and has brought reconciliation and forgiveness between us “poor miserable sinners” and our Most High God. And even as we sing with St. Simeon, “Lord lettest now Thy servant depart in peace,” we do depart in peace and go to our homes. We go out upon the highways and byways of the world. And like Mary, we bear Christ in our bodies, His flesh connected to ours, His blood mingled with ours, His righteousness having become ours, and His eternal life given to us by grace as life eternal which is also ours.

And when the time comes for us to leave our home, to “depart in peace” according to the Word of God, when we are called to our fullness in heaven to await the resurrection of the body, we will do so by the sacrifice of the cross, the purity of the temple cleansed by the physical presence of Jesus, and the presentation of His very flesh and blood before the Lord that wins for us purification and everlasting life.

The time has indeed come. The fullness of time has been brought to completion. The old has passed away, and the new has come! Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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