Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
Fourth Sunday of Epiphany
Text: Luke 2. 22-40 "Being Present "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Can you recall an older person who is really with-it, perhaps someone who remains full of hope for the future, or who keeps abreast of current events and reads the signs of the times. What effect did they, or do they have on you?
Share your perceptions of these people within the group. What are the common features?
A Window on the Text
A young couple, following the traditions of their religion, take their first-born son to the Temple to offered him and his life to God in a ceremony of naming and circumcision; at first sight, nothing very unusual about that. Except that the master storyteller, Luke, says very little about the ceremony, the core part of the pilgrimage from Galilee to Jerusalem (vv 22 & 39) and much about two incidental encounters that happen as the family pass through the temple courtyard on their way to the ceremony. When Luke gathers up the fragments of memory to write his gospel, 40 years or so after Jesus’ death, the encounter with Simeon and Anna is what is remembered. We might speculate why this was.
An old man and an elderly widow, known as a prophetess, both open to, and full of the Holy Spirit (vv25, 36, 37) find themselves drawn to engage with a young couple from the country, who were perhaps a little overwhelmed by the Temple and looking a bit lost. During the encounter, might Mary have told them something of the miraculous nature of the baby’s conception, about the birth, and about the visits of shepherds and Magi? It would have been much easier to tell that story to the open-hearted old strangers than to the priest
Whatever was said, the result is a double blessing as Simeon takes the baby into his arms. Somehow, through this brief encounter, Simeon discerns that in this tiny child lies hope for the future of Israel, that his disturbed and traumatised nation is to be restored as a light to the other nations of the world, that his life’s work is now over and he can die at peace.
Once again in the incredible story of Jesus’ early life, the significance of this child is recognised, honoured and blessed by people from the edge of society, first shepherds, then Magi and here in Temple, the house of God, by elderly, spirit-filled ‘lay’ people.
At the end of this story, we read that “The child grew up and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him”
Responding as a community
- Imagine yourself as Mary & Joseph. What effect might this recognition, honouring and blessing from such diverse and surprising parts of society have had on your parenting of this child. Do you think that it played a significant part in developing his openness as an adult to people on the edge of society?
- How do you read the signs of the times and keep yourself open to the spirit, full of hope for the future?
- How do you convey that hope to those on the edge of our society with least reason to be hopeful, particularly the young?
An Opening Prayer:
Abraham and Sarah
celebrated old age
by selling up and going travelling
OLDER PEOPLE ARE LED BY GOD.
Sarah and Tobit
celebrated old age
by loving and growing closer together
OLDER PEOPLE ARE BLESSED BY GOD
Anna & Simeon
celebrated old age
by discovering what they had yearned for
OLDER PEOPLE ARE GIFTED BY GOD
God says, ‘In your old age, I will take care of you.
When your hair is grey,
I will give you help and support
OLDER PEOPLE ARE CHERISHED BY GOD
- Light candles for, and name, the older people who have influenced your life.
- Give thanks for their lives and for the ways in which they helped you.
- Name and pray for any young people in your sphere of influence and pray for the spirit of wisdom and discernment to know how best to engage with them.
(Opening and closing prayers by Ruth Burgess taken from Hay & Stardust,
As Anna and Simeon recognised you in the temple
MAY WE RECOGNISE YOU IN THOSE WE MEET
As Bridget kept your light shining in times of darkness
MAY WE BE LIGHT FOR THOSE IN NEED
As Jesus grew and became strong and wise
MAY WE GROW IN WISDOM AND WONDER AND JOY. AMEN.
published by Wild Goose Publications)
- In her book, “Journeying Out”, Ann Morisy has a wonderful chapter entitled “The Significance of a Story-rich Life. It connects with the themes of this passage from Luke in a remarkable way. She writes about generative stories, of which Simeon and Anna are examples, that
Further on in the same chapter she writes of the vocation of age noting the idea that older people have a special capacity to shape positively the lives of the next-but-one generation. They do so by re-telling the stories of their lives, of success and failure and hard-learned lessons. In so doing they offer a counter-balance to the parent and teacher emphasis on right and wrong. The older person can paint shades of grey onto a black-and white world of the teenager adding realism and depth.
- speak to a person’s specific and unique pattern of encounters
- can become a building block of a persons identity
- combine the themes of hope and struggle
- Carry the imperative to make a response
- Carry emotional potency
- An article by Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian on January 11th, headed “Increasingly, the rarest experience in family life is undivided attention”, offers another perspective on current issues around engaging with others in a meaningful way. She expresses concern about a growing issue of poor human communication citing well-established evidence about family breakdown, inability of some young children to speak in sentences, emotional problems in adolescence and that loneliness now affects one-fifth of people. She notes that ‘children are spending on average six hours a day in front of screens’, that ‘interaction with their parents is subject to interruption from mobiles & BlackBerrys, and that ‘increasingly the rarest experience in family life is undivided attention – being present in the sense that Simeon and Anna are present to Mary, Joseph and their baby son.