Presentation of Our Lord 2 February 2014
Malachi 3:1-4 Psalm 84 Hebrews 2:14-18 Luke 2:22-40)
“The Story behind the Story!”
There once was a time when homiletics professors taught that a good sermon always had three points, and it was up to the preacher to make sure those three points were clearly explained. I’m not sure if any of that is still taught in preaching classes today, but I will admit that I never was very good at organizing my sermons in such a manner.
However, today will be the exception! The three points to my sermon today are: 1.) the Olympics; 2.) the Super Bowl; 3.) the Gospel text. The title of my sermon is: “The story behind the story!” So:
Part One: I’m giving you a story behind the Olympics.
Part two: I’m giving you a story behind the Super Bowl.
Part three: I’m giving you a story behind the Gospel text.
The Olympics. Less than a week before the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Games, the “story behind the story” I share this morning is the journey of the Olympic Torch. This light began its 39,000 mile expedition on October 7. It is the longest journey of any Olympic Torch! There are to be 135 stops along the way. I think they’re at 132 as of today! The torch has flown into outer space, has traveled to the North Pole, and has been submerged into the world’s deepest lake in Russia (notice the baptism imagery!). The torch is scheduled to arrive at the opening ceremonies within a few days. More than 6,000 people will have assisted in carrying the torch, the oldest person being 93 years old and the youngest 14 years of age. The journey of light is my “story behind the story.”
The Super Bowl. My “story behind the story” of the Super Bowl is not a pretty one. My story is not about the commercials. Rather, it is about human trafficking, very often child trafficking, that has become so prevalent in and around the cities where the Super Bowl game is being played. There is the haunting reality that in our society our children are not being protected. There is way too much ready and ugly evidence of those who have been caught vandalizing the souls and bodies of children. Human trafficking was reported in every one of the 50 States last year.
Last year’s statistics from unicef are staggering: 21M people trafficked around the world; 5.5M were children. That includes everything from prostitution, to pornography, to sex tourism, to sweatshop, to begging, to forced marriage. In all, an estimated $32B made in profits.1 To the credit of NYC, there has been lots of information shared in and around Times Square this past week on this topic. (For those who wish to know more, I will share more information when I download this sermon on the St. James sermon blog later today).
The Gospel. My “story behind the story” of the Gospel text is to take a closer look at the adults in the picture. Today we see three: the old man Simeon, Mary and Joseph.
This text, although focused on Jesus throughout, also records the responses of the adults surrounding the child. This is my “story behind the story.” Luke paints a picture of innocence, hope and adult concern for the infant Jesus. Three adults are part of the scene today, eager to see this child unleashed into the world through the faithful hopes and practices of his parents and Simeon.
We are given a clear picture of the deeply pious Simeon. “Simeon took the child in his arms, saying…my eyes have seen…a light for revelation to the Gentiles…” The Light has come. The journey of Light has come to fulfillment in the arms of this prayerful prophet! As bright as the Olympic Torch may shine, it is only a dim reflection to the Light Simeon now holds in his arms!
This Lucan story has more to say. The destruction of children through sexual trafficking stands in absolute contrast to the Lucan story of the nourishing and flourishing of this child. In too many places today, children’s bodies, instead of being blessed and protected, are being bought and sold.
Luke’s story has at its very center a child surrounded by adults who want the very best for this child. Surely this picture raises in every one of us the consideration of what it means to cherish and value children. Questions confront us such as:
+What expectations and hopes do we have for our children as they grow toward adulthood? +How do we utilize the resources of our faith communities to support children? +What protection and guidance do we offer children so hopes and expectations can be realized for their flourishing? +What responsibilities do all adults have for children, regardless of whether or not they are related to them in any way?
Within this Gospel text, we unmistakably hear the note of justice sounded clearly and forcefully! In the actions of the adults who bless Jesus in this Gospel text, Luke offers us both a comforting and a challenging “story behind the story.” First: that the Light has come, and now we are to be the torchbearers carrying the Light of Christ. Second: If, indeed, we are torchbearers of the light of Christ, there cannot be a more crucial place for us to begin being such Light than with our children. Now is the time to begin our “story behind the story” that all children, all children are blessed and made holy by God. Our story now is to make sure all children are treated in this way! Amen.
- unicef Infographic: A Global Look at Human Trafficking. International Labor Organization: Trafficking in Persons Report, 2013.
Other partnerships with campaigns include Polaris Project and Clear Channel Outdoor, Palermo Protocol Groundswell, and unicef to raise awareness.