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Proclaim Faith - December 31, 2017

Luke 2:22-39

Who in your faith life do you trust? I mean really trust? You know they are faithful, they are prayerful, they listen to God, and they genuinely hear from the Holy Spirit? They're not in the "they sound crazy but they could be faithful" category, but the genuinely faithful category. And their faith extends beyond the basics such that if you had a new experience in faith you could go to them to see if you are crazy or if you experienced God. Who is that person? Maybe you know someone personally,

or maybe they're a friend of a friend. Or, maybe, you have yet to know that kind of faithful person.

I'd say I have 2 of those people in my life that I go to semi-regularly and trust implicitly. Two. That's not many. There are many others who I know are faithful and would pray for me or give me godly wisdom. I go to them for lots of spiritual things. But passing the litmus test of faith experiences that move beyond the everyday to teach and lead and guide me into new territories...there's only a couple. And it has taken years of building those relationships...of asking them for prayer or wisdom and seeing how God worked through them for me to know how and when to call on their gifts.
One is Greg, he lives in Mississippi, though spent about a decade in California as a pastor. He and I did camping ministry together and he focused a lot on prayer ministry and was regularly teaching me about the charismatic side of faith (which I was not raised with and have always been very skeptical of). God often gives Greg holy insight into a situation by offering him an image that is a metaphor for the situation. Often the image helps shed light both on what is happening and what I should do next.

The other is Betty. She came to one of my churches and before she even visited she called to vet us—asking about our willingness to listen to and respond to the Holy Spirit. She has the gift of intercession and the gift of knowledge. Betty has prayed for us many a time. And she has given me two strong Words over the years. The first came in January of 2015. It had been about 18 months since we had miscarried and were praying and trying for another baby, and seemingly our prayers were falling on deaf ears. I was despondent and not sure we would ever have another child. But when I texted Betty to ask her to pray she told me to call her, so I did. And she had a handful of sentences that God had given to her in prayer to tell me, including that God would answer my prayer like God had answered Hannah's. (Hannah being the woman from the Old Testament who could not conceive a child. Who God blessed with a baby whom she named Samuel and dedicated to the Lord). A little over two months after that I got pregnant with Steven.
The second prophecy came during a challenging time in our lives. There was a lot that was stirred up and I had asked her to pray for us. She didn't know the details but said she would pray. And again, after I had texted, she told me to call her. So I did. She told me to get a piece of paper and take notes. God gave her 12 points, 12 things to tell me that related specifically to our situation. She used language that was precise to our needs, even though she didn't know what was going on from anything I had told her. She wasn't simply offering counsel after I had spilled my guts, God had given her holy insight and I trusted it because I trusted her faithfulness.

As I read this text, I think that Simeon and Anna were like Greg and Betty. Both were faithful and trusted—-though not just to one or two people, but to many. Think about it, we aren't reading their memoirs and their accounting of what happened when they saw baby Jesus. We are reading the account that was shared by others, for years, one of the only stories of Jesus' childhood to be thought worthy of being included in his life story. It had to be pretty powerful. And, they had to be considered pretty reliable.

Seriously, Jesus met a lot of people in his life. And not all of them were trusted. Their stories could have been and sometimes were easily dismissed. Yet these two were talking about someone who couldn't do anything more than nurse and be cuddled. It wasn't as if they were healed and others witnessed the miracle. Yet, somehow, what Simeon and Anna saw and believed about that little baby boy stuck in the minds of many and became a permanent part of his story. That's a big deal. And so it is that we take time with it today. Asking why it mattered and what it showed them and what it shows us.
So what did they see? What was visible to them from the very start? Simeon's first exclamation was: "Lord, now I can die content! For I have seen him as you promised me I would. I have seen the Savior you have given to the world. 32 He is the Light that will shine upon the nations, and he will be the glory of your people Israel!" Simeon saw something about Jesus—not because he was big and robust and able to lead the people....he saw something with divine clarity—something about who Jesus would become. It had to be God-given since there's not much a baby can prove to us. And he knew and believed with such certainty. Jesus was the Messiah he had been praying for. He was the one who would be the hope for Israel...and be a light for all nations. I'm not sure I can express well how powerful that is. Let's pause for a minute and imagine a little baby, no more than 6 weeks old. what can you discern or divine about that child? Not much! She'll be smart. He'll be creative. Most of the time we don't know any of that...we hope for it....we pray for it to become true in their lives. But we don't really know any of it. And if someone told us that about a child....especially a baby—-he's bound for greatness. What would we say?! Ok, sure, I'll believe it when I see it. We might shrug in half-hearted agreement, or believe it because her parents are great....but to believe it with real conviction...?! it's not likely Yet Simeon saw it and knew it and believed it with full assurance. He could die in peace because he knew it would be true, not right then, not in any time he would see....but he truly believed Jesus would be the one the Holy Spirit said he would be. And it wasn't just something Simeon believed...because of who Simeon was...because of his faithfulness....because people could respect who he was as a man of God, they believed it too. And maybe that's the more impressive a world where we all want proof....Simeon's faith was contagious and enough for others to hold onto too.
But that wasn't the only word he had that day. There was more...he offered a blessing to Mary and Joseph and then told Mary: "A sword shall pierce your soul, for this child shall be rejected by many in Israel, and this to their undoing. But he will be the greatest joy of many others. And the deepest thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed." In essence, this boy will become great—-he'll become God's agent of salvation, that should give you great hope. Many will be saved by him. But remember this, with greatness comes trials....while many will be saved, others will have their truth revealed and it will be heartbreaking. Not exactly what you want to hear, especially as a new mother. But it's not really surprising either. People who do great things face great trials and often huge would be no different for Jesus.
Then Anna drew near....convicted about who Jesus was, and maybe already about what Simeon had said and she began to sing praises to God. She believed and trusted and her first response was to praise God. She didn't lament the hardships that would come but instead praised God for the hope and light that was there before them. She knew it was good news and people deserved to hear be some of the first to see that boy before he became someone great. If they saw him, they would know and could celebrate that God had forecasted hope for all of Israel. So she told anyone who would listen.
So, the extension that I draw is if we believe that Jesus is and can be all that God said he would be. Do you believe that? That Jesus saves us? That he is God's anointed? That he is a light to the world? That many will be saved by him and yet others will become known for who they really are? And if we do believe it, are we sharing it as good news to those who will listen? And if we don't, who would have to be the messenger? Who would have to tell us those things in order for us to believe wholly and fully? Who are the faithful that you trust? That allow you to believe even that which stands outside of your own experience?
And what might grow in us if we carried conviction into the new year? What if we didn't simply know it in our minds, but trusted it with our hearts...that Jesus is the Savior God sent to save the world....that he serves as a light to the world...those who believed before and those who would come to believe because of him?

Let us pray.

Current Church News

  • Christmas Eve Services - Dec 24, 2018

    4:00 PM Family Christmas Eve. This service is especially designed for wiggly, giggly children and is intentionally kept shorter. It will include music by Children's bell choir and leadership from children.

    7:00 PM Traditional Christmas Eve. This service includes music from Choir and Bell Choirs, plus Holy Communion and the Candlelight Ceremony. Child care is provided.

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Sunday morning parking at the church is available in the high school parking lot on Third Street across from the church and in the city lots west of the church. These lots are available only on Sunday mornings. A small lot for handicapped parking is available just off of Adams Street on the north side of the church, with an accessible entrance directly into the sanctuary. A lift operates between the Fellowship Hall (3rd Street level) and the Sanctuary . William Sound System Receivers and Headsets are available to assist with hearing problems.

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The First United Methodist Church of Moscow, Idaho takes as our mission to be the body of Jesus Christ, ministering to a community which draws strength from its diversity. Our mission centers on the worship of God, expressed through varied forms of prayer, preaching, music, and ritual.  See more...