Sermon by Fr. Jeremy for Candlemas on Feb 2nd 2020. Looking at elderly people who have shared wisdom and helped us by word and example to become good influences on the people we share our lives with.
Text Luke 2.21-40
The former Bishop of Norwich, The Rt Revd Graham James has written in the Church Times speaking about an American friend that kept her Christmas decorations up until Candlemas. It was her intention says the Bishop to create a talking point. She liked to remind the people that the Christmas season lasts 40 days concluding today with the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. I was happy to see that the Bishop supports (Alongside Pope John Paul 2nd ) the Nativity staying in the church until today.
Bishop James goes on to say that as he has grown older, he has grown in fondness for this feast because of Simeon and Anna, the elderly people who didn’t go far but went about their religious duty.
This has given me the excuse this morning to speak about my grandparents Edgar and Rene Bullock. They lived until they were 89 and 94 respectively. My grandmother was brought up a primitive Methodist, so I didn’t inherit my enjoyment of a pint or two from her! My grandfather worshipped at St John’s Church in Rogerstone outside Newport, South Wales. Edgar served on the PCC although I am not sure how easy his presence was for the clergy as he enjoyed arguing black was white!
When our family went through difficult times in the 1970’s (My parent’s divorce) I remember spending a good deal of time with my grandparents. For a brief time, they had given us a home and then when my mother was at work at South Wales Electricity it was my grandparents that gave us a hot meal on return from school. Before the meal we would be given Smiths or Golden Wonder Crisps and a chocolate bar (frowned upon today) and then a wonderful home cooked meal of meat and potato pie, stews, Fish and parsley sauce and other simple but delicious food. Nearly all this food came from the local shops. My grandmother would love shopping not just to feed her hungry grandsons but also to chat with the village people in the shops. This reminded me of the community clothes washing that I found still happening in Portugal during one of one of my Pilgrimages to Santiago. People would chat over doing their washing just as my grandmother shopped to find out about the neighbours. People seemed to genuinely care about each other.
As for my grandfather, when he finished working for GKN steelworks, after 40 years service, and then continued working into his late 60’s early 70’s for another firm he would enjoy watching sport. It was his love of sport that passed on to me and my brother. I can remember clearly watching the 1974 World Cup with my grandfather watching the great Dutch team of the 70’s. Later I would rush home from school to share the thrill of watching Bolton (My grandfather frequently got names wrong – Botham) smashing the Australians to win the 81 Ashes.
The church life where my grandfather worshipped also stands in my memory. A place where people worshipped, where people celebrated community. The harvest festival still brings a smile to my face as I think of the evening meal followed by entertainment put on by the congregation. It wasn’t always of the greatest quality, occasionally the singing went off key, and the words to the play we were performing often forgotten, but it was fun. For youngsters like my brother and myself, we had, thanks to clergy and willing helpers, holidays on narrowboats and camping trips to West Wales.
You see, I have much to be grateful for particularly to my grandparents. When we pray at a Requiem Mass ‘We give thanks for all those we have loved and see no more, and for our families in past times before our knowledge. We remember all who helped us by word or example and pray that we may be good influences on those we share our lives’. Using today’s theme being a light to the world. None of us want to celebrate a requiem because it reminds us of death, but it should point to the New Life won for us and remind us of the key people that have shaped us.
The wisdom of those who looked after us like teachers and clergy as well as family, give us stability and help shape our lives, to try and live a life with purpose. Simeon and Anna lived a quiet life of prayer awaiting the promise of the prophets that a Saviour would come. When Simeon saw the Child Jesus, he saw hope, yes, suffering for Mary the mother through the cross but hope of transformed lives in heaven and here on earth. Simeon could say after his waiting in prayer ‘Now Lord let your servant go in peace your word has been fulfilled. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou has prepared before the face of all people, To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.’
The wisdom of the elderly point to Salvation and the challenge to pass that light of love to those whom we meet in our lives. Go home today and spend just a little time thinking about and giving thanks for a person who has helped shape you.
In the name of the father, Son and Holy Spirit.