Malachi 3: 1-5 Psalm 24 Hebrew 2:14-18 Luke 2:22-40
I’ve told you before about when God invited me to Australia to create holy chaos, but I don’t think I’ve told you about what came next. I heard this invitation – you can come to Australia if you want – and I said yes…so the job hunt began. I went onto the diocesan website for Perth and found the bit where it listed the vacancies. Let me tell you, there are lots of them, or there were when I was looking. And I clicked on each one and began to read. Some were immediately discarded because they had heavily coded messages that indicated they wanted a men or someone who was conservative or an evangelical minister, and that clearly wouldn’t have been a match, but even so, a short-list began to emerge. And then I’d message Craig – things like, what about Kwinana, where’s that? How about Bassendean? And Craig would – literally every single time – say no. I’m not moving there – it’s too posh or too far or too whatever and he was pretty determined to stay in Alkimos, so I’d go back to the drawing board.
And then one day – actually while the time difference meant Craig was sleeping – I saw the advert for this little place called St Paul’s, in Beaconsfield. And I clicked on the link, and it took me to the church website and I read the first sentence on the home page and knew, in less than 3 seconds, I was home. It said something like, ‘come and join us as we search for the Divine together’.
The fact God was not being described as He, and I was being invited on a journey – with others – to figure out what this crazy life as a God-chaser might look like was enough. It was everything. And I messaged Craig and distinctly remember it said something like ‘I’ve found the place. I don’t know where you’re going but I’m moving to Beaconsfield’. And that one sentence – come and join with us as we seek the Divine – was the key.
And I’ve been thinking about that this week, as we approached today – Candlemas – when we remember the presentation of the baby Christ in the temple, and the epiphany to faithful Anna and devoted Simeon, and as we heard those wonderful words from the prophecy of Malachi – because all of it is all about seeking the Divine, together.
So hear again, the words of the prophet Malachi, echoing down through the ages: The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple…
This prophecy speaks of who Anna and Simeon, and the whole Jewish nation, were waiting for: a death-defying, devil-slaying, high priest, in the service of God. And it foreshadows this day, when the Holy Spirit propelled them to the temple, inspired their vision, and revealed the Lord, in their very midst.
And they found a baby. Just an 8-day old baby.
Was this really what had been promised for more than 500 years? Was this the hope of the world? The one who would judge and redeem and purify and refine? The one who would set the oppressed free, defend the widow and the orphan, and care for the alien? Could this little person really turn the whole world upside-down? It seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? Could this baby be the Divine?
But Malachi’s prophecy continues, this one who suddenly comes to his temple ‘…is like a refiners fire…he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and will purify and refine like gold and silver’.
And this bit blows my mind, every time, because do you know how a silversmith refines and purifies their metal? They sit, for long periods of time, holding their metal in very intense heat and they hold it there until the dross burns off. They hold it until it is free from impurity. And they only know it is pure when they can see their reflection perfectly in it. When the face of the one who is creating it can be fully seen.
Malachi’s prophecy promises the Lord is coming and will refine and purify like gold and silver. And on that day, in the temple, prayerful Anna, and spirit-inspired Simeon, recognised the image of God in the face of the baby Christ. And they took the child and saw the future salvation of God, God’s very self, reflected in that pure unadulterated face of Christ. And they believed.
And that is what we remember today – that the image of the creator was revealed in the face of that tiny baby who was brought to the temple. But what this place – this temple – has shown me is that the image of the creator is revealed in one another as we journey together to discover more of the Divine. It’s like this place is another of God’s refining fires – where we are each held to the light, held in the fire, until God can see God’s face in each of us – until our own reflection is the image of God. That’s the journey of this place.
That might sometimes feel like a big ask – being held in the fire doesn’t sound comfortable and trying to reflect the image of the divine sounds like something I fail to do every single day. But, friends, we are baptised children of God and everything that needs to be done happened right there in those waters. In the waters of our baptism, we were cleansed and purified and made holy – in those waters we were made to fully reflect the face of the Divine – and we were given a holy calling, symbolised by the gift of the lit flame: shine as a light in the world, to the glory of God, we were told.
And today, Candlemas, is the festival of light; it is a day to celebrate this light. And, as Rumi says, we are stars wrapped in bodies, thoughts and feelings and the light we seek is right here. We cannot fail to reflect something of the Divine because it is in our very DNA, it is the foundation of who we are; our life’s work is simply to allow it to shine more brightly, more clearly, that others might see and, like Anna and Simeon, believe.
So, on this festival day, where we think of light and fire and our call to shine and reflect the image of the Divine, even as we are seeking after them, let’s have a visible reminder of this.
Candles – light one from paschal candle – pass along – light one another’s with ‘let the image of the divine shine through you’
You have found us, but what is even more marvellous is that we have found you.