The Eve of the Presentation of Our Lord
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Lord is presented in the Temple. Isaiah calls it the House of Prayer for all people. But the Temple segregates. It divides men from women, Jews from Gentiles, and priests from laity. Nor is the Temple in which He is presented the Temple of the Old Testament, the one built by Solomon according to Divine command. That was desecrated and destroyed. This Temple was built by wicked Herod. And yet, still, despite the desecration of a Roman eagle and other sacrilege, God sanctified it. He made it His place. The blood of animals was spilled. The aroma was pleasing to God. He chose to dwell there on behalf of His people. But it was no more permanent, with its brick and mortar, its beams of Cedar from Lebanon, than the roving canvas Tabernacle of Moses. Do not forget that the Temple in which Our Lord was presented and laid in Simeon’s arms, where as a boy He taught the teachers, where He preached and healed and baffled His vain enemies, and from which He drove out the money-changers would not last. It was destroyed. It no longer exists. It has been gone now for 1,930 years. A religion as empty and false as modern Judaism calls it a sacred place. Zealots use it as an excuse to kill and maim on behalf of their wicked, ugly god. And even if a temple like Herod’s should be rebuilt, God will not dwell there again. For He has raised up for Himself a Temple which men did not build, but that men did tear down. He rebuilt that Temple on the third day and now the days no longer count.
So it is that we do not need either the Temple of Solomon nor of Herod. We have the greater Temple. We have a Temple that is older than those others, older even than Moses’ Tabernacle, older than the sacrifice that clothed Adam and Eve as they were expelled from the garden. And more lasting too. Those other places were only shadows of Him who has now come. They are fulfilled in Him who died, but who lives. The good they did they did by Him and He is all of that and more. He is the place of God’s gracious presence. He is Immanuel, God with us, God as one of us for us. He is the Atonement and appeasement of God’s wrath, the Passover Lamb that takes away not just the sins of those whose doors are marked, but the sins of the whole world. It is His Blood that is sprinkled upon us, distributed from the Chalice, which gives us faith, that makes us clean, makes us His own. He is the House of Prayer for all people, interceding for His children, and teaching them to pray. He is greater than those types that went before Him. He does not segregate. In Him there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. And in Him there are no laymen. All believers are priests of the order of Melchizedek, His own order. All who confess His Name are members of the royal family, too. They offer up the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and moved by their request He spares the world of His greater wrath. He is not bound to time or space, to real estate. He dwells in the hearts of men, making them the temple of His Holy Spirit where His own loving Father is addressed by Grace as Our Father.
That being said, do not think that you can just willy-nilly take Christ with you wherever you go. He does not belong to you. You belong to Him. You do not control Him. You cannot just put Him in your pocket and take Him out when it is convenient. The fact that He is omnipresent does not mean that He is always present everywhere. It means, instead, that He has the ability to be present whenever and wherever He pleases. He is not present in Hell. That is somewhere. But He is present when and where He chooses to be. In times of old He chose to be in the Temple, at the mercy seat, between the Law and man that He might shield us from the threat. Now, in the everlasting Day of the Resurrection, He has promised to be present in the Word of Absolution, in the Word that is heard and preached, and in the Sacrament of the Altar, and all that for you. In those places, according to His promise, He is present for you. That is where you need to be. You belong to Him, so be where He has called you to be. The Shepherds when they heard the Good News did not abide in their fields, the Magi from the East did not think on Him from afar, but both groups, Jew and Gentile alike, both went to where He was to worship Him. So also Simeon was Spirited to the Temple. He came to the place where God had promised to be and where God was coming anew that the New Temple might replace the old. Simeon saw and blessed that day and was glad.
God has called you to be where He is, where He has said He would be. That doesn’t mean that where He promises to be is always a gushing, emotional high or a brain thawing revelation of His Grace. Indeed, He gives those times. And we give thanks for when they come and are glad in them. But ours is the life of faith. Living by faith means believing in the Word and His promises. Even when we feel cold and dead inside, when the brain’s gone solid, our soul seems lost in a foggy, make-belief world, and the only emotion is a lackadaisical melancholy, even then we live by faith, we trust God’s Word. In such a case, faith boldly says, “So what of that? The Word is true. I’ll believe in that! No matter what I know that God is good, that God is true, that God is here for me as He has said that He would be. I’ll believe in that. What of that!” So goes Grace. So goes Faith.
Dear friends, time is not without an end, and neither is your sorrow or your pain. Christ lives. Christ is coming back. For now, while we wait, He is here for you in the places He has promised to be. It is that perfect torn-down and built-again Temple which is put into you this evening by way of the mouth, that you yourself would become what He is – the place of His gracious presence, His own beloved in whom He is well pleased, the abode of His Spirit, the Temple not built with hands. He is presented here for you.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana