Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”” (Luke 2:25–32, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
Friends and family of Al: It’s just not going to be the same around here without Al. He was a one-of-a-kind kind of guy. He and I had one thing in common. He worked at the theatre, I love old movies. We got to talk about that a bit. He saw them all.
When I read this passage from Luke 2, I can't help think of Al. That's the man mentioned in our text. It seems to me that they have some things in common. Although the bible doesn’t say how old Simeon was, I imagine him to be about Al's age, and just like Al a little eccentric. If you could walk by the temple; maybe you’d see him sitting there waiting every day. Carefully looking over every child that passes by him on its way to be circumcised, hoping that this is the day when he would see what God has promised him. I’m sure that many people would have thought that his behavior was just a little strange… maybe even a little dangerous. But, Simeon was faithful, believing exactly what God had promised. He believed that he would actually physically see the Messiah before he died. So when the Holy Spirit told him that his search was over, he especially rejoiced taking the baby in his arms and singing the beautiful song that we use as part of our communion liturgy.
I see the faithfulness of Simeon in Al, too. You see, he believed in God’s promises. He lived in them his whole life; from the time he was baptized way back when, right up to right now as he sees his Savior face to face. Al believed that Jesus was truly present in Holy Communion. He knew that when he approached this altar, when he held out his hand it, just like Simeon at the temple, he could hold right there the very Son of God. He rejoiced in God’s presence there. He rejoiced in God’s promise of salvation for all people. Just like Simeon, Al came to God’s house to see Jesus.
He told me about how his mother didn't let him use his feet as an excuse for anything. How he was taught to work hard anyway. He talked about his family, his life, and even his faith. These last days were difficult for all of us as we saw him slip slowly away. On the other hand, I was always very encouraged when ever I met with him. You see two things always clearly came out. There was always a bit of a smile on his lips. And he always said how God had taken very good care of him. "How are you Al?" I'd ask. "Could be worse, Pastor." He'd say. "I can't see how that could be the way you are breathing," I'd reply to myself.
But before you begin to think I’m speaking too highly of Al, I don’t want you to get the impression that I thought he was a perfect person. I'm sure he had faith crisis, just like all of us do, but even in his darkest moments he faith clung to the promises of God. “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Joshua ) God told the Israelites in the desert, and he never left them, and he never left Al. “I am with you to the very end of the age.” Says Jesus. Al looked for Jesus where He could be found, and drew strength from Him. On my last couple of visits I sang hymns for Al. He especially liked "Rock of Ages." You see, just like all of us, Al too, was a sinful person. Every day of his life, even though he lived faithfully under God’s promises, he struggled with sin. Every day he battled the temptations of Satan. Some battles he won, by God’s grace. But some battles he lost. Al knew as much as anyone, how much he needed a Savior. He could see it played out every day of his life, all 89 years. That’s what made communion so important for him. There he could be with Jesus. What he knew, what made seeing Jesus so important, was what Jesus Christ had done for him. Jesus Christ, the baby held in Simeon’s arms, the body placed in Al’s hand on Sundays, that very same Jesus was the very same one who shed his blood on the cross for Al.
for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.
What Simeon saw, what Al saw, and what we see too, is God’s salvation for all people; God’s salvation found in Jesus Christ. It’s important for us to see it, because just like Al we all need a Savior too. Without Jesus our sin would completely separate us from God forever. Without Jesus life would be hopeless, and death would be a hopeless end to a hopeless life. But we have Jesus. Jesus brought salvation to the world, by his birth that we just celebrated, by his perfect life, and most especially the shedding of his holy and precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.
That’s what we celebrate today. That’s why we can celebrate today. Because even though we loved Al, even though we will miss him, today isn’t about Al at all. Today is about Jesus. Today is about Jesus victory over sin and death. The victory he will bring to Al and the victory he will bring to everyone who believes in him.
I think the hymns says it very well:
He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.
Thanks be to Jesus, for what he has done for us… for what he has done for Al. Amen.