The Rev. Josephine Robertson
All Saints, Bellevue
Feb 2 2020
The Church is a very anxious place right now. Not All Saints, we’re pretty chill, I mean the Big C Church.
Spend any time in a clergy group in person or on whatever social media platform you like and the anxiety will be running all over the place like spilled mercury. There will be endless conversations about budgets, and deferred maintenance, and what percent of churches have no children in them and endless discussions of how we lure those kids back.
So this is where I have to confess that even as a kid I preferred the company of the altar guild ladies over the youth group. And I have way more fun with you all than I do teaching Godly Play.
And I absolutely adore Anna and Simeon.
Our culture is obsessed with youth. Actresses are old and washed up by the time they are 40. Billions of dollars is spent every year on “anti-aging” skincare. And you only have to spend about 10 seconds on any website to see some ad promising to turn back the clock.
The feast of the Presentation is a welcome corrective to all that obsession over youth.
Simeon and Anna have the privilege of age. They are in a unique position to devote themselves to God in a way their younger relatives (who are still working, and raising children) cannot. They have both been freed from the expectations of their society by their age. Even Anna is freed of the cloistered life of women in her day by her status as a widow.
And without these two how different perhaps might Jesus’ life have been?
Despite all that has led up to this moment Mary and Joseph are still surprised when Simeon and Anna take Jesus into their arms and utter prophecies about this tiny baby (who is probably keeping them awake at night and wearing them ragged).
The truth is that Jesus’ life and mission wasn’t a solitary endeavor. God worked with and through more people than we will ever know. Not just Mary’s yes, but Joseph’s leap of faith, and the wisdom and dedication of two elderly people who were maybe a little invisible to everyone around them.
But Anna and Simeon don’t just change the lives of Mary and Joseph, Anna shares her wisdom with everyone who comes to the temple, with all the people who come seeking hope and news of God’s work in the world. Y’all this has always been the role of elders, we moderns have simply forgotten.
Here in one story we have the whole arch of the human experience. We have the infant or child, dependent on those around them for care, safety, and love. We have the tired, striving young parents in the midst of surviving, caring for their children, working and just trying to keep their heads above water.
And we have Simeon and Anna, who have raised their families and done the daily grind and moved on to what Richard Rohr calls the second half of life. A time when the work of a human being is to turn inward, to go deep, to encounter God and to bring the wisdom of that inner work to their community.
This is what Simeon and Anna do for Jesus’ family and the people in their community in Jerusalem.
In this time of anxiety, the church desperately needs Simeons and Annas. While we are all hyper focused on kids and youth the church (and the kids and youth) needs those with the time, the experience, the maturity to go within, to wrestle with God, to read the world around them and to bring us (the Church) the news of the new things God is doing in the world.
I don’t mean to put you all under any pressure but most of All Saints is poised to be a Simeon or an Anna (and we all will be eventually.) So, the church needs you.
This year one of my goals is to help each of us deepen our spiritual lives, to help us each grow and mature in our faith. To do some of that work that Richard Rohr describes in Falling Upward (no matter our age).
Simeon and Anna remind us to have hope. Though we have waited for so long, God is moving in the world.
And keep alert, my friends, for at any time Jesus might be brought into the temple and we, we must be awake enough to recognize him.