This sermon is some ways continues the contemplation between fortune and blessing started last Sunday, but it stands by itself, that continuation is just the pattern of the Chistian life. One person’s praise becomes the next person’s blessing and promise. This sermon focuses on the characters of Simeon and Anna, and specifically how they receive the blessings of God. There are three different ways we might respond. The pattern of Simeon is for us. He is “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” If we receive the blessing, this is the pattern. (I’ve also left in a couple verses of a couple of the hymns sung. You forget how good “See Amid the Winter’s Snow” is.)
This sermon first examines what a blessing is. Elizabeth blesses Mary, and she blesses all those who believe the words of the LORD. A blessing is far more than fortune or well-wishes. A blessing is a form of promise. And it is that promise that is part of a cycle of the Christian life. Promise gives way to fulfillment which brings about praise. Promise, fulfillment and praise is something like vocal round in the Christian life. It starts with one, and the praise of one might become the promise of the next who hears. The great crescendo of that is the promise of the resurrection. This sermon attempts to place us in those blessings and that praise.
The Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor in spirit, etc.) are the poetic introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. In Epiphany, the liturgical season given to coming to know who Jesus is, that sermon is assigned reading over five weeks. I won’t call it a sermon series for a couple of reasons, mostly because that phase annoys me, but also because I’d be worried by week 5 that even my regulars would be ditching services. More seriously, the sermons will be connected because the text is naturally connected, but it isn’t a forced connection.
So this sermon attempts to do three things:
1) Re-introduce into our imaginations the “Blessed are…” statements. We hear them, but they don’t engage the imagination as to what they actually mean because “blessed are…” is both too well known and too little understood. We’ve been inoculated to it. I want us to be infected with the Kingdom that Jesus is preaching.
2) Hear the gospel in these statements and not just a list of “well, I gotta do that.” Part of prodding the imagination is seeing a world where I would freely choose what Jesus describes.
3) Start laying the ground work for the connecting theme of compulsion vs. freedom.
Worship note: You can hear our recently growing choir in a couple of spots. This was a 5th Sunday where our choir supports the liturgy. I didn’t include the Chanted Intoit, but you can catch the gradual and the verse in the midst of the Alleluias. I have left in our closing hymn, LSB 690, Hope of the World. We sang stanzas 1-4. The tune is the workable EIRENE which grows on you once you grasp its internal stress and direction. The text is an deep contemplation not on the simple hope of a Deus ex Machina, but of the hope of becoming fully human in Christ.
When to Our World the Savior Came (LSB 551)
Wonder at the miracles, power to forgive and heal, uncomfortable truth, Our freelancing efforts and God working within the brokenness