Growing Old Gracefully

rabbi

For people of great or low stature, there tends to be a drive that their lives matter.  Some people have moments that encapsulate that sense of meaning that their interaction with this world has meaning above themselves.  For some, they peak early.  Others have that moment way later.  For those with a low, burning fire of spirituality going on that sense of meaning or interconnectedness stays beyond a moment but through much of their life span.

One man who had a sense of meaning was Simeon.  Here is his story and how it connects to living life.

 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go

in peace, according to your word,

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and glory for your people Israel.”

(Luke 2:25-33).

a man—- This is loaded if we think about it right.  Typically when someone thinks of Bible characters they think of pomp and circumstance as kings, fighters or wise people.  The first key here is that God wants to use normal people.  “A man” like him shows that “normal people” can have an encounter with the divine.

righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him—- This is also loaded in meaning.  He had that low burn in keeping and seeking a relationship with God and engaging his faith into God’s restorative agenda for Israel.  With the amount of revelation he had he was faithful to the jist of where the Old Testament points to.  The key point is that he centered on God’s agenda beyond his own interests.  With that, the Holy Spirit was on him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit—  this was key in the sense that such a life would meet with a meeting point of wholeness that is not only a pass off gift of God but that of personal presence of God.  The Old Testament was pointing to an anointing by the Holy Spirit that would write God’s law in people’s hearts.  The Messiah to come would bring it all together but relationally.

He came in the Spirit into the temple… he took him into his arms and blessed God

This is beautiful.  Simeon in the first place is able to recognize Jesus for who he is because he engaged in his understanding in the ways of God as matter of spirit.  Much later Jesus explained to a racially marginalized woman that the coming true worshippers would worship the Father in spirit and truth.

he took him into his arms and blessed God

Although it was a point of contact with what he prayed for, the beauty of Simeon’s response was in true worship to God.

Now, Master, you may let your servant go

    in peace

Simeon finds that his greatest treasure to attain is that grace from heaven would be realized on earth before he leaves it.  Somehow Simeon knows that this grace of the Father in the Messiah is for the world beyond Israel.  I can only guess that Simeon, true to the Hebrew meaning of his name, was “one who hears”.  In hearing God through a lens of sustaining grace it is made known to him that the true light has come that the light of creation is only a glimmer of.

Also it is worth noting that Simeon does not see that the universal application of the Messiah is at the detriment of Israel.  Simeon may likely have known that the successive covenants of the Old Testament increased in the number of people they effected (family, tribe, nation, kingdom).  Simeon saw the day of Jesus meaning salvation to the Gentiles and he embraced it.

One more thing I see in this passage is that in addition to Simeon seeing God’s grace beyond bigotry was that he turns in a moment to the next generation.  I heard once from a former pastor of mine named Jess Strickland that often the vision God brings to his people are not for their generation but the next.  He is ready to die in peace and pass something on in joy to Joseph, Mary and the newborn Jesus.  In other words we see that Simeon was  man who, like the twilight of the Old Testament, that grew old gracefully.

As I write this I ponder that I am a 45-year old man.  I am not at the end of my life as far as I know but I pray that I can cherish Jesus in all he is.  And pass on the knowledge of him in any way I can to my next generation.  What is stopping you or I from being “ righteous and devout”?  Only our own self-centeredness.

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Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

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Where we last left off, God spoke to Simon Peter, a Jew, and Cornelius the centurion, a Roman to get together. For this to happen, there was hardness of heart to get through but not in the Roman surprisingly. 

            So now Peter shows up as directed and is taking a step of faith.  Due to the deeply entrenched oppression by the Romans for a few generations  Peter may have longed for the leap of faith in walking on water to Jesus.  After all, the water never did anything to him personally. 

Acts 10: 34 “Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

            Right here Peter talks about how God provides equal justice.  He will not tip the scales over any person over another by superficial standards in terms of His judgment.  Next, Peter recognizes signs of light in those that are different from him.  More than that, those who have faith and does what is right are acceptable to what he used to think was only a Jewish God. 

            Peter then brings in a serious drive to the point.  He quickly says Jesus is Lord of all.  This is not an authority trip.  Yes, authority is part of Jesus being Lord, but it also involves how he is personal and not a person on the other side of the universe.      

43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”  If you remember from last post, Jesus tells Peter to not call unclean what He calls clean.  Forgiveness is there even for those people.

But the teaching and experience that Peter brings to these gentiles is not just an emphasis on what American Protestants called, “Confessing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.”   If people come into Jesus, then it is meant to be lived out in a corporate context and on the other side of a solid, measurable dividing line. 

44 “While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46 for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47 ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.”

            The Holy Spirit falling down on the gentile crowd is powerful.  Peter sees that grace of God on the people that confirms not only redemption but a call to communion in fellowship.  You see, in the Church, knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior is a start.  But with the Holy Spirit active and crying from our hearts, we can call God “Daddy”.  Peter sees that they share the same Daddy.  I long for the day that no Christian fellowship on earth is an ethnic or racially based church! 

            The next part is about recognizing the grace of God in fellowship.  This is why the Catholic Church recognizes the coming of the Holy Spirit to enlighten one to be a fully active member in the visible body.  The gentiles received a touch of God’s grace in their hearts, but baptism would further enlist their experience as a solid context for their bodies too to experience the New Covenant (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 to see that passing through inspired water is covenential). It is baptism that seals the mark salvation (1 Peter 3:21). 

            So Peter has come a long way.  He swallowed his ethnic and religious pride. Further change is happening and Peter had to roll with it.  Do we?  Where is our prejudice?  Are we content to keep the Other, Other?  Or do we want to be like Simon Peter or the Good Samaritan and take our own part of being a bridge to those that are yet seeking God in their understanding.