07-29-18 – “Faces of Our Faith: Anna” – Rev. Kevin Hay

07-29-18

“Faces of Our Faith – Anna”

Rev. Kevin Hay

Luke 2: 21-38

21After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; 

and he was called Jesus, 

the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22When the time came for their purification 

according to the law of Moses, 

they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 

23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, 

“Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 

24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; 

this man was righteous and devout, 

looking forward to the consolation of Israel, 

and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 

26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit 

that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 

27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; 

and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, 

to do for him what was customary under the law, 

28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 

29“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word; 

30for my eyes have seen your salvation, 

31which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 

32a light for revelation to the Gentiles 

and for glory to your people Israel.” 

33And the child’s father and mother 

were amazed at what was being said about him. 

34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, 

“This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 

36There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, 

of the tribe of Asher. 

She was of a great age,

 having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 

37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. 

She never left the temple but worshiped there 

with fasting and prayer night and day. 

38At that moment she came, and began to praise God 

and to speak about the child to all who were looking 

for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Leader: For the Word of God in Scripture,

For the Word of God among us,

For the Word of God within us

ALL: Thanks be to God

Sermon –   “Faces of Our Faith” Rev. Kevin Hay

One of my favorite songs is by a band called Mumford and Sons

I may have referenced them in a sermon before

they are a Britsh, quasi-bluegrass, folk, rock band

and while they are a secular band

the lyrics to the songs often have a bit of a spiritual influence to them

as the lead singer – Marcus Mumford

is a preacher’s kid too…

maybe that’s why I like them so much!

I even had the privilege of hearing them play a few years ago

at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland

it was quite the production, almost like being at a U2 concert, 

but for folk music…

but one of their songs really speaks to me

both in the tone of the song

and in the lyrics…

especially the chorus to the song which says:

Keep the earth below my feet

For all my sweat, my blood runs weak

Let me learn from where I have been

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn

it’s a song that I often find myself reflecting on

as a reminder to stay grounded, humble, connected to the earth

it has almost become a prayer of sorts

as I say over and over to God

Keep the earth below my feet…

I pray as I  go throughout the ups and downs of ministry and life…

Keep the earth below my feet…

but of course, with a song that speaks to me so much

I often find myself reflecting on the words

maybe even too much…

and I’ve always been really intrigued by the last part of the chorus

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn

what in the world does that mean?

Eyes to serve and Hands to learn?

it almost seems like it’s backwards…

it would make more sense for our 

hands to serve and our eyes to learn, wouldn’t it?

but maybe our passage today would say otherwise…

Today, we begin a series for the next few weeks

on Faces of Our Faith – Bold, Untold Stories

we’ll be focusing in on lesser known stories

of more ordinary people of faith in the Bible
who do what they can with what they have

to make a difference

not necessarily the big heroes of the bible

but the more ordinary people of faith

just like you and me…

last week during the opening to Sunday school, 

John Dan talked about Christmas in July 

and the white flowery things blowing in the air like snow…

well… we really do have Christmas in July

as today’s passage takes us all the way back to 

right after the Christmas story

and the birth of Jesus…

and over the next few weeks we’ll move forward in the story of faith exploring various characters in the New Testament…

this week, we have the story of Anna

a story that just takes up a few verses of our passage today

as Jesus’ parents take their son to be committed to the Church

to be circumcised just after his birth…

just like we often take our newborn babies to be baptized…

and the Prophet Simeon was there

a righteous and devout man

who proclaims that the prophecy is being fulfilled in Jesus

providing hope and fulfilling God’s promise with the people of Israel.

and then enters Anna into the story

for just a few verses, 36-38

She was also a prophet, the daughter of Phanuel

and it says she was of great age

she was married for 7 years to her husband

and then lived as a widow to the age of 84

now 84 years in today’s time is certainly an accomplishment

but in those days, 

before all our medical advancements and technology

and understanding of health and the human body

84 was much more like living past 100…

and we’re told that…

She never left the temple but worshiped there 

with fasting and prayer night and day. 

and as Jesus’ parents brought him to be committed to the Church

after Simeon proclaims the prophesy being fulfilled

Anna enters the story

as Lisle Gwynn Garrity says in her artist reflection 

“Luke could have easily left Anna out of the story.

But she leans in – from the margins, from the shadows,

from the edges of the scene to approach her newborn king.”

here we have an ordinary woman of faith in Anna

whom Luke could have easily left out

yet, he chose to include her in the story

as Lisle Gwynn Garrity continues

“Perhaps Luke knew that those on the outside

seemed to have the nearest access to Jesus.

Those on the margins saw what others could not yet see.

They knew without really knowing, 

because it was the kind of knowledge 

that shifts the chemistry of your heart.”

Who are those people in our lives?

those ordinary people of faith?

those faces of faith?

those people leaning in from the margins, from the shadows

who just seem to have access to Jesus in ways we can’t seem to find?

who see what others can’t yet see…?

the artist says about the image on the front of our bulletins…

“When drawing this image, 

I referenced photographs of Mother Teresa

because I imagine her, like Anna a few centuries before,

having eyes for the divine and devoting her entire life 

to the pointing it out for others.”

eyes for the divine

faithful devotion

Keep the earth below my feet

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn

as I’ve worked through the devotion on this story

that we’ll be using for our Bible Study that starts back up August 7th

the devotion asks you what parts of the image are you most drawn to?

and as I look as this image of Anna the Prophetess on our bulletins

that is inspired in part by Mother Teresa

what I’m most drawn to first

are her eyes

she seems to have such patient eyes

kind eyes

eyes that are pointing to the divine

to God’s love

just as the artist describes it

“having eyes for the divine and devoting her entire life 

to the pointing it out for others.”

and next I notice her hands

prayerfully clasped together

held up to her mouth as she prayerfully seeks God’s will 

through years of faithful devotion

and finally

I notice her skin, full of such distinguished layers of wrinkles

on her hands and her face

around her eyes, mouth, and nose…

showing years of perseverance and wisdom…

eyes for the divine

faithful devotion – prayerful perseverance, 

waiting for her moment to come…

Keep the earth below my feet

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn

Lisle Gwynn Garrity describes Anna saying…
“Perhaps being at the end of her life 

helped her to see the world with eyes sharpened for the holy.

Perhaps living most of her years as a widow 

kept her hiding in the shadows,

to keep from taking up too much space, 

when Simeon approached first 

to announce praise and prophesies on behalf of the newborn child.

Perhaps being a prophet made her both patient and persistent, 

trusting that the right moment to share her wisdom 

would, indeed, come.

and that moment did indeed come

that moment for her to share her wisdom

wisdom developed over many years

of having eyes for the divine

years of faithful devotion – prayerful perseverance, 

finally came

and our story says that:

38At that moment she came, and began to praise God 

and to speak about the child to all who were looking 

for the redemption of Jerusalem.

We often talk about how the first evangelists were women

on Easter Sunday

as they left the empty tomb

sharing the good news of the Risen Christ

but perhaps we forget about people like Anna

ordinary people of faith, just after Jesus’ birth

leaning in from the margins, from the shadows

after years of having eyes for the divine

after years of faithful devotion – prayerful perseverance, 

praising God and proclaiming to all who were looking, 

the redemption of Jerusalem

Who are these people in our lives today?

people with eyes for the divine?

people of faithful devotion and prayerful perseverance?

how might God be calling us to follow their example?

I remember a man at the church where I grew up in Birmingham

who seemed to have eyes for the divine

a man of faithful devotion and prayerful perseverance

his name was Bob Hunter

much like Anna who never left the temple but worshiped there 

with fasting and prayer night and day. 

Bob Hunter was always at the Church

he was there every Sunday morning

always serving as an usher and greeter

passing out bulletins, taking up the offering

unlocking the church before worship and locking up after…

and he seemed to always be there throughout the week as well

faithfully devoting himself to the Church 

in whatever ways he could…

I can think of a few people around here 

both men and women…

that remind me of Bob…

and he was always so kind and welcoming

he always had a look in his eyes that could calm your spirit…

as if he too

had the nearest access to Jesus

as if he too

saw what others couldn’t see

as if he too

knew some things, without really knowing that he knew them…

I remember coming home after graduating college

moving back in with my parents

as I began looking for a job

and I bounced around waiting tables and doing temporary jobs

while I kept searching for my career to really get started…

and every time I went to church on Sunday

which wasn’t necessarily every Sunday in those days…

Bob Hunter was there…

and every time I saw him at Church

he was so eager to talk to me 

about what was going on in my life…

how was the job hunt?

was there anything he could do to help me?

and offering me words of encouragement and support…

and after a few months of this

as I continued to bounce around and search for what was right…

sadly – Bob was diagnosed with Cancer

and began undergoing treatment…

but the next few times I went to Church

Bob was still there

being the same person

welcoming me as I entered the doors

handing me a bulletin

and he was still so eager to talk to me 

about what was going on in my life…

how was the job hunt?

was there anything he could do to help me?

and offering me words of encouragement and support…

and I remember thinking to myself

why is he still doing this?

he has so much bigger things going on in life… 

than to worry about what’s going on in my life…

one day, I went to Church and the struggles of searching 

was really beginning to weigh on me

and I think he could tell when he asked me how I was doing, 

that I didn’t really wanna talk about it…

and I was getting pretty discouraged

and Bob turned to me and said…

“Well, maybe God’s just got other plans for you.”

“… maybe God’s just got other plans for you.”

and it turns out God did have other plans for me…and in those simple words

this man who had so many other things to be worrying about

than poor Kevin and his job hunt after college

became a prophet to me

seeing things that I couldn’t yet see

and pointing me to them…

having eyes for the divine 

and devoting his entire life to pointing it out for others.

we’re not all called to be super heroes in the Church

but God calls each one of us to a life of faith

where we seek to have 

eyes for the divine

God calls each one of us to 

a life of faithful devotion – prayerful perseverance, 

waiting for our moment to come…

and when that moment comes, 

just as it did for Anna, or Mother Teresa, or Bob Hunter…

God calls us to

praise God and proclaim to all who are looking, 

the redemption, hope, and love, in Jesus Christ.

Keep the earth below my feet

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn

Keep my eyes to serve and my hands to learn

AMEN

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