Such Great Heights

I have a confession to make. I really don’t like the Transfiguration all that much. Not the story itself, so much as the festival we remember it on. Even among the biblical miracles, the Transfiguration is a weird story. Were Moses and Elijah visions? Did everyone hear the voice or just Peter? Why did only three disciples get to go? My biggest struggle is that it sometimes feels if I don’t have a “mountaintop experience” my faith is somehow lacking. I know that’s not true, but I don’t like that feeling. So this year, I tried to make my peace with the Transfiguration. Instead of explaining or analyzing, theologizing or simplifying, I just went with experiencing. This sermon is pretty much an extended retelling of the story, with a little commentary thrown in for good measure.

Readings: Transfiguration Readings 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Things have not been going great recently for the disciples. Everywhere they turn, people are seeking them out looking for help or healing, and now the religious leaders are starting to question them, too. No where can they find a place for rest or retreat.

As if that weren’t enough, in the middle of this press of exhaustion and questions, Jesus asked them who they believed he was. Peter spoke up first, as he so often did. “You are the Messiah, the Lord,” he said. Those were the right words, but it turned out Peter didn’t fully understand what they meant. Because when Jesus started talking about a cross, Peter fell apart. The cornerstone became a stumbling block. “How can someone save God’s people if he gets killed?” Peter wondered. It didn’t make any sense.

And what’s more, Jesus told Peter and the others that their journey forward would be difficult. And that it would end in a cross. And that they, too, would have crosses to bear if they followed him. Jesus had been trying to tell them who he was, why he had come, what it meant to be the Messiah. But Peter just wanted Jesus to stop talking. With every word, it seemed the Jesus he knew and loved got farther away.

That was six days ago. Peter hasn’t known what to think since. Still, as Jesus began to climb the mountain in our text today, Peter, along with James and John, followed, up the winding paths to stand with him at the top. From such a great height, they could look back over everything that had happened. They can remember their call to follow. And now, at the top of this precipice, looking down and across the valleys ahead, they begin wondering where Jesus will lead them next.

And it was there, on that mountain, that everything changed for those three disciples. They might have been expecting a break, a respite, but instead got pulled into the middle of a terrifying, mystical experience they never expected. All throughout Scripture, God has appeared to leaders and prophets on the mountaintop. Enveloped in the clouds, Moses is given the tablets of the law. Elijah hears God in the still, small voice, powerful as a thundering silence on the mountain. And here today, Peter, James, and John encounter God as well. In the transfiguration, God knits together the law, the prophets, and the gospel, weaving them into one in the person of Jesus.

Peter’s wanting to stay on the mountaintop makes sense. On the mountaintop, he isn’t distracted by the needs of other people. He doesn’t have to worry about what Jesus meant when he talked about a cross and suffering and death. Here on the mountain, he has the glorified, victorious Jesus he wants, shining in splendor and majesty. It makes sense that he says, “It is good to be here. Let’s stay awhile.”

But then God’s glory pulls back the veil between heaven and earth even more fully and begins to speak: “Look, here is my son. My beloved. Listen to him.” And the disciples are terrified. Falling to their knees, they tremble in fear until the cloud melts away, the cracked door to heaven is again sealed, and they are left there, on the mountain, alone with Jesus. Even as they cower, Jesus reaches out his hand, touching their shoulders and saying, “Get up. Do not be afraid.” The cloud has dispersed. Jesus’ robe is back to its dusty brown. Moses and Elijah have disappeared. And it is almost as if everything is back to normal. But, of course, in reality, nothing will ever be the same.

In the Gospel of Matthew, this moment of transfiguration—this revealing of God’s glory—on the mountaintop serves as a turning point. Jesus now turns his face toward Jerusalem, ready to start down the road to the cross. And the disciples have a decision to make. Will they keep following him on this new leg of the journey?

The transfiguration is also a turning point for us. It is positioned between the season of Epiphany, a time characterized by light and revelation, and Lent, a season of repentance as we too journey to the cross. From this mountain, we too can look behind to see Jesus being baptized, Jesus beginning his ministry, Jesus teaching, preaching, and healing. We can also look forward, seeing the rocky and winding path to Jerusalem. We can see, from this place, the ways that Jesus will continue to open his arms up to the world, reaching out to each of us, until those arms are stretched out across the beams of a cross. And from this mountain, we are even given a glimpse of the end of the story, when Jesus will once again stand robed in glory as he is raised from the dead.

I think most of us have had turning points like this in our lives, too, not just in the church year. Perhaps we see them more clearly looking back, but we often have seasons where things are bright, going well, full of new discoveries and experiences, that turn to seasons which feel like that long trek to Jerusalem. Times when we don’t feel hopeful or can’t see God as clearly as we did on the mountaintop. Mountains and valleys are part of life. But from this reading, we can see one purpose of the mountaintop experience. It helps prepare us for the valleys of life. When the going is hard, we have that moment of revelation to hold on to.

I think God knew that, to endure the coming trials, the disciples, and perhaps even Jesus, needed this moment of clarity, of affirmation. We need those moments, too. Where we can clearly see how God is working in our lives. We can’t stay in them forever, but we need them to keep going.

Like any experience of the divine, the transfiguration is shrouded in mystery—a burning bush that is not consumed; a still small voice; a cloud and pillar of fire—these are all ultimately “you had to be there” type of events. Even for Peter, James, and John, part of the story, part of the meaning eludes them. And they come back down the mountain not quite sure they know what just occurred.

On this day, we, like the disciples, are invited to remember all that we have come to believe about Jesus. And at the same time, we are asked to allow Jesus to transform those beliefs and reshape them. For just like Peter, when we think we have made progress, when we think we have finally figured it out, we are often brought up short by God, reminded that our journey of faith is not yet over. There is still more to Jesus than we had allowed ourselves to imagine.

There’s a beautiful quote from C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia that speaks to this. Aslan, the great lion, Lewis’ stand-in for Christ, is speaking to the Pevensie children. It is just before he leaves them. He says, “Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”

Remember the signs–for Jesus is already on his way back down the trail. Back into the crush of people waiting for healing, for vision, and for hope. Back into the middle of all that need and all those questions. Moving forward to what lies ahead. Remember the signs. He has put his hand out to us. Told us to rise up. Told us not to be afraid. Remember the signs. He has invited us to come and follow him once more. We better be on our way. Amen.

Salt and Light

In this week’s selection from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares his disciples to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” But what does that mean? What are the purpose of salt and light anyway? Read on to see my thoughts–and a little baking advice!

Readings: Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I think we’ve all heard stories about great baking mishaps around salt, right? People confuse salt for sugar in a recipe and end up with salt-licks instead of cookies. There was a memorable one on a cooking competition I was watching where the contestant was making chocolate mousse and got the salt and sugar mixed up. He did not make it to the next round.

I’ve never had such a terrible mix-up myself, but I will confess, when I first started baking, I wasn’t nearly as careful with salt as I should have been. If the recipe called for just a teaspoon, or even a half of a teaspoon, I would often leave it out entirely. I couldn’t be bothered to go the pantry and get one more ingredient. And how much difference could that little salt make? I didn’t want my cookies to taste like salt, anyway.

Now, I know better. You don’t add salt to baked goods, or any recipe really, so that you taste salt. You add salt so that you might taste all the other flavors better. I take salt very seriously now. We have around six or seven different kinds of salt in our house, from table salt to kosher salt to finishing salts.

But it’s also easy for me to take salt for granted. With the exception of our French sea salt, it was all readily available in the grocery store. And even that we could probably find at Whole Foods if we tried. Jesus telling the crowds gathered around him, and by extension telling us, his followers, that we are the salt of the earth is not terribly exciting. The phrase has even come to mean those without pretensions, the not special people.

But for most of history, salt was incredibly important. As Mark Kurlansky writes in his book, Salt: A World History, “from the beginning of civilization until about one hundred years ago, salt was one of the most sought after commodities in human history.”   The ancients believed that salt would ward off evil spirits.  Religious covenants were often sealed with salt.  Salt was used for medicinal purposes, to disinfect wounds, check bleeding, stimulate thirst, and treat skin diseases.  Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt — hence our English word, “salary.”  Around ten thousand years ago, dogs were first domesticated using salt; people would leave salt outside their homes to entice the animals.  And of course, in all the centuries before refrigeration, salt was essential for food preservation.

And Jesus says to the crowd, this is what you are. You are precious. You are needed. You are important. We have to remember who Jesus is talking to at this moment, too. This follows right on the heels of last week’s reading. You know, the Beatitudes. Jesus is talking to the poor in spirit, those in mourning, those who long to see justice given to them. Those who are reviled. “You,” Jesus says, “you are the salt of the earth.” You are worthwhile and you have an important role to play.

This is completely descriptive language. Jesus isn’t telling the people that they need to become the salt of the earth, or the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. It’s not a command. It’s not a hope. It’s a declaration. You are salt, and you are light.

Imagine how this sounded to those gathered around him on the mountain. The poor, the lame, the bedraggled and forgotten. They probably couldn’t believe that Jesus was talking about them. You who are not cleaned up and shiny and well-fed and fashionable. You who’ve been rejected, wounded, unloved—you are essential. You are treasured. And I am commissioning you. Them—important and precious and needed! How does it sound to you today? To hear Jesus say to you, gathered here around his word: you are the salt of the earth? You are the light of the world? You, me, all of us. With our imperfect lives and flaws and struggles. You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth. You are crucial to God. You have an important role to play. You are needed.

It is just who you are. You haven’t earned it, because you can’t. By virtue of being God’s beloved children, you simply are salt and light. But even though we don’t have to earn it, even though Jesus simply declares that it is true, being the salt of the earth, the light of the world, it does have consequences for our lives. It’s a wonderful gift that God has given us, but it has implications for us. What does it look like to be salt? How exactly do we go about being light in this world?

An interesting thing about salt and light is that, as important as they are, they don’t exist for their own sakes. I don’t need to put salt in my cookies so that the cookies will taste like salt. The salt is there to make everything else better. To bring out all the other flavors. Eat salt alone, and all you get is a huge thirst. Stare directly into the light, and it damages your eyes. These two things that Jesus calls his followers, that Jesus calls us, exist, not for their themselves, not to be used for their own sakes, but for the difference they make to other things.

It’s not the light we want to look at—it’s the world that the light brings into vibrant focus and color. It’s not the salt we want to taste—it’s the variety and richness of the flavors already in our food that the salt brings out.  When Jesus says that we are salt and light, it’s not for our own sake that he names us these things. It’s for the sake of the world. To be the salt of the earth is to lift up those around us. To enhance the lives of others. To heal, to preserve. To be the light of the world means to shine so that others might be seen. That we might shed God’s light in dark places. That we might be light and signs of hope in the midst of despair.

The other thing about salt and light, and Jesus lifts this up, is that they need to be shared. Salt does its best work when it’s poured out. When it’s scattered. When it dissolves into what’s around it. We don’t do our cooking any favors if we keep the salt-shaker locked in the cabinet. Salt isn’t meant to cluster. It’s meant to give of itself. It’s meant to share its flavor. The same with light. A lamp can’t go under a bushel basket. It will not survive. Flames don’t survive unless they have room to breathe.

If we are salt and light—and Jesus says we are—if we want to enliven, enhance, deepen, and preserve the world we live in, we have to be poured out. We have to be shared.

So on this cold winter morning, hear the promise of God: you are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. May we go forth from this place, pouring out our lives, our love, our actions as we might pour out salt on top of French fries. God has made us salt and light so that we might be shared. So that we might flavor and protect, enrich and enlighten. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Blessed are they…

As I think I’ve shared on this blog before, I find preaching on familiar passages to be a bit of a mixed bag. While people know them better and might be more engaged and interested, it’s also true that they can take on a life of their own. They get removed from context, put in cross stitches and wall prints, and can lose some of their power. This week, we had a couple very familiar passages from Micah and Matthew. While not everyone is as familiar with the reading from 1 Corinthians, it is one of my favorites. And this turned out to be one of those (rare) weeks where I touch on all the readings.

Readings can be found here: lectionary readings
Nadia Bolz-Weber’s sermon can be found in its entirety here:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

It is rather appropriate that the day of our annual meeting, we hear these words from the prophet Micah: And what does the Lord require of you? What does the Lord require of us? What does God want from us, as individuals, as a congregation, as a people at large?

You might be familiar with the final verse of this passage from Micah, because it gets quoted a lot. It’s short and sweet, like any good mission statement: Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. What we’re less familiar with is what leads up to this oft-quoted verse.

God is angry with the people. This is not earth-shattering news in the prophetic books. The people have wandered from God’s way for them, and God has chosen the prophet Micah to speak a word that will help bring them back. But the people are also frustrated with God. They claim that they’re doing their best, but really, what does God expect from them? What does God want?

What we read this morning is God’s frustration bubbling over, and God putting the people on trial. God calls on the mountains and the foundations of the earth to bear witness to the Lord’s complaint against the people. “Oh my people,” God cries, “what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me!”

God lists all the things that God has done for them throughout the generations and searches for a sign that the people are living into who God has called them to be. The people respond with a question of their own, “With what shall I come before the Lord? Shall I come with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with rivers of oil? Should I offer my firstborn?” In other words: what do you want from us?

And God answers: none of that is what I want. I have shown you time and again what is good: to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly in my way.

What does the Lord require of us? Jesus offers his own vision of what God is interested in, his own mission statement of sorts in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew. This is his inaugural sermon, the very first thing he chooses to teach in the gospel. And he starts with words of blessing. Blessing comes first. Blessing, not terms and conditions. Not judgment. Not even mission. But blessing.

And what blessings they are. This is another set of frequently quoted verses, and because we’re familiar with them, we sometimes miss how very shocking they are. This is a list that shouldn’t make any sense to us. It certainly isn’t how the world works. The world says– those who are wealthy and successful are blessed, those in power are blessed, the famous, the popular, those who seem to “have it all together” are blessed, those who are beautiful or attractive or strong are blessed.

But Jesus flips that upside down. Instead, he says, THESE are the blessed ones –those who don’t have it all together, those who are bullied, dispirited, or fleeing their homes as refugees, those who are grieving, those who hunger and thirst for the common good, those who are merciful and compassionate, those who work for peace and reconciliation, those who have a single-minded devotion to God’s kingdom, those who don’t back down from working for justice, even when they are misunderstood and challenged. Jesus calls THESE people blessed.

In his very first chance to teach the disciples, Jesus lavishes blessing on the people around him on the hillside. People who his world—like ours—didn’t seem to have much time for: people in pain, people who work for peace instead of profit, people who exercise mercy instead of vengeance. Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber imagines what it would be like if Jesus were standing among us, and what blessings he would give today, writing:

  • “Blessed are they who doubt. Those who aren’t sure, who can still be surprised…
  • Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.
  • Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion.
  • Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.
  • Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean.
  • Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like.
  • Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried.
  • Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted anymore.
  • Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else.
  • Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.”
  • Blessed are those who no one else notices.
  • Blessed are the kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables.
  • Blessed are the forgotten.
  • Blessed are the closeted.
  • Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the underrepresented.
  • Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like them.
  • Blessed are those without documentation. Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.
  • Blessed are foster kids and special-ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved.
  • Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people.
  • Blessed are the burnt-out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers.
  • Blessed are the kids who step between the bullies and the weak.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it.”

What does the Lord require of us? God invites us into a worldview, into a world, where these blessings are true. Where we see things from this upside-down perspective. But beyond seeing things that way, we are invited to live these blessings. Jesus starts his ministry by pronouncing blessing, but he doesn’t stop there. His life lives out these blessings. He empowers the meek, he feeds the hungry, he cares for the poor, and he demands justice for the oppressed.

Jesus invites us to live in this vision of God’s community, of communal wholeness. We are called to be hungry and thirsty for God’s justice when we see it is absent. We are called to show compassion instead of only looking out for ourselves. We are called to follow the voice and vision of Jesus above all the other desires of our hearts. We are called to be an active force for peace in the world. We are called to walk humbly with our God.

To the rest of the world, this looks like a completely foolish endeavor. But, as Paul wrote, “Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?” “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”

What does the Lord require of us? Foolishness. God asks of us foolishness. God requires of us foolishness, for the sake of the world God loves. Our God is a foolish God. A God who sees people who don’t have it all together—the weak and powerless, the confused and doubting, the mourning and the lonely—people like you and me, and says, these people are blessed. These people are going to be the basis of my kingdom. Our God is a foolish God who came to us, not in power, but in weakness. Who offered love in the face of hate and rejection. Our God is a foolish God who loves us even when, perhaps especially when, we don’t deserve it. Our God is a foolish God who calls us to follow in that way. What does the Lord require of us? Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God. Even if it might look foolish. Amen.

Presentation of Our Lord

Unlike some recent passages, the Presentation of Our Lord is one that only comes up once in a blue moon. Well, it comes up every year on February 2, but that doesn’t often fall on a Sunday. Sometimes I struggle to find something fresh to say about familiar passages, but this week I struggled not to try to pack everything I had to say about this often overlooked reading into one sermon.

As much as the reading is overlooked, sometimes I feel that Anna is overlooked within it. She doesn’t get a fancy song like Simeon, and we don’t have her words recorded. It just says that she “spoke about the child to all who would listen.” So I decided to focus on Anna and others like her who might get overlooked.

Lectionary Texts: Presentation of Our Lord

 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sister Monica Joan was one of the first people to qualify as a nurse-midwife in Britain. In 1904, she joined the order of St. Raymond Nonnatus, the patron saint of expectant mothers and midwives, and was shunned by her wealthy family as a result. Sister Monica Joan helped found the order’s mission in the East End of London, taking care of the poorest of the poor. Helping women deliver babies and care for themselves when they had no access to doctors or hospitals.
She worked there, amongst these women through World War One, the Great Depression, and the Blitz of World War Two. The East End, housing most of London’s docks, was hit particularly hard during the bombings. Through it all, Sister Monica Joan was there, delivering babies and providing care.
Now, though, as the world moves into the 1960s, they tell her that she’s too old. She’s in her eighties, she knows she’s old. But they take her off the nursing rotation. They tell her that her body can’t do what it used to. They don’t have to tell her that. She feels that every morning when she gets up. They tell her that she shouldn’t answer the phone anymore, because she gets confused. She’s doesn’t think they’re right about that one, but maybe they are, she’s not sure. She does know that she desperately misses the times when she felt she had a purpose.
She still lives at the convent, she prays and goes to worship, she knits clothes and blankets for those in need. But all her life, she’s been busy, active, needed. And suddenly they say they don’t need her anymore. They tell her that she has earned her rest.
Anna has lived by the Temple for many, many years now. Close to sixty in fact. She was married for only seven, when her husband died too soon. And instead of going to live with her brother’s family, and being a burden, she decided to devote herself to the Lord. She worshipped at the Temple, day and night, with fasting and prayer. Some called her a prophet. Some took notice and were impressed by her dedication and devotion. Most just passed by at this point, though. She was just an old woman, and most people took no notice of her at all. The people in the Temple were busy, they were there for prayers and offerings, and had other things to get back to. Their lives moved on, but Anna’s stayed still. It had stayed still for quite some time.
The Presentation of Our Lord is kind of an odd festival. We don’t really celebrate it, unless it falls on a Sunday, like it does this year. It’s the fortieth day after Christmas, and in some ways marks the end of the Christmas season. It’s sometimes called Candlemas, because this is when all the candles to be used in church for the year would be blessed. That’s because Simeon sings about Jesus being a “light to the nations.” And it’s come to be associated with all kinds of folk traditions that don’t have much actual foundation in the biblical story: in Mexico it’s good luck to eat tamales, in France it’s crepes, and the Germans (and German immigrants to Pennsylvania) had a theory that if it was sunny on Candlemas, it meant a longer winter.
But amid all of the traditions and folklore, we get introduced to these two elders in the temple, Anna and Simeon, who are present for Jesus’ presentation. The presentation included a sacrifice, because all firstborn sons belonged to God, and the sacrifice was a way of redeeming them from the Lord. So Mary and Joseph, being observant Jews, have gone to the Temple to present their son.
This would all be rather routine, forgettable even, if Simeon hadn’t swooped in and taken the baby Jesus in his arms. We don’t know much about Simeon, just that he is very old, and had been promised by God that before he died, he would see God’s salvation. He takes Jesus, and he declares: Master, you are dismissing your servant in peace, your word has been fulfilled. Mine own eyes have seen your salvation, a light to reveal you to the nations.
It’s couched in fancy, poetic words, but Simeon is declaring that he is ready to die now that he has seen, has held, the fulfillment of God’s promises in his hands. Since at least 1531, Lutherans have sung Simeon’s song, called the Nunc Dimittis in Latin, after receiving communion. For in communion, we too hold the very promises of God in our hands. We are reviving that practice at St. Paul’s today, so don’t be surprised when there’s an extra song after communion.
And Anna follows Simeon, seeing the child and prophesying about him to all in the Temple who would listen. I’m sure the Temple was crowded that day, there were probably a lot of young people with young children. But Anna and Simeon realize that Mary and Joseph, and especially Jesus, are the ones that they’ve been waiting for. These two elders see something that the others are missing—they see the fulfillment of God’s promises in their midst. They see God making real mercy, and love, and justice, right here in this tiny human. It’s just a start, but they see it happening right in front of them. Something small, something insignificant, not fully formed in the grand scheme of things can be life-fulfilling and transformative to people who are dying for good news.
I wonder what the other people in the Temple that day thought. If they even noticed at all. Did they stop and consider these words of Simeon, the prophecy of Anna? Or did they dismiss it as merely a couple of eccentric old people and a poor young family?
Sister Monica Joan isn’t a real person, although she is based on one. She’s a character in Call the Midwife, a series of books and a TV show. She is constantly dismissed as merely an eccentric old woman, losing touch with reality. In some ways it’s true: she is eccentric, and she does seem to be forgetting things more and more. But she has a way of seeing what others miss. The same way Simeon and Anna did. Perhaps she, too, is guided by the Holy Spirit to see God active in ordinary things. She is able to remind the other nuns and midwives, so caught up in the busy-ness of their work, that small moments are meaningful, too. Small things are beautiful and holy.
What about you? If you were in the Temple that day, would you have noticed Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus? Would you have stopped to revel in the presence of God in your midst? Do you do it now?
I think that sometimes the very old and the very young have a special gift at seeing the holy in our world. It’s a gift that all of us can cultivate, but it does seem to come naturally to small children, amazed and wondering at every new thing they encounter. It does seem to come more naturally to our elders, shaped by experience and understanding where true meaning is found.
God is present in our lives every day, often in tiny, unexpected ways. Moments that we sometimes miss because we’re not paying attention. But God is there. God is there in waking up each morning, in a friend reaching out in a time of need. God is there in acts of love and kindness, no matter how small. God is there shepherding us, reminding us of God’s promises. Guided by the Spirit like Simeon and Anna, may we be awakened to the ways that God is present in our lives. And may we also not hesitate to share those moments, with our thanks and praise. Amen.