Sunday 2nd February 2020
4th Sunday after Epiphany

Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40; Psalm 84

(Alternatives: Psalm 24:7-10)

Like many of the readings in the current lectionary sequence, it is easy to become quite inward looking as we seek to apply today's set passages. It is through their devotion to being in God's house that Simeon and Anna become witnesses to the coming of Christ. This is echoed in Psalm 84 which celebrates the opportunity of being in God's house.

But the reading from Hebrews reminds us that the presentation of Jesus embeds his life in the same rituals and routines of our humanity. Jesus is presented in the temple as the son of a carpenter, with the ritual offerings of a poor, artisan family. A core message of this episode is that God has come to us, God is with us in the normality of life - and this includes our engagement in the world of work as employees, customers and services users.

We might look at today's readings as forging some key connections. The purification ritual of the human Jesus' temple presentation offers an echo of the atoning sacrifice that the writer of Hebrews recognises Jesus to be. This comes about through Jesus embracing our humanity and all that this entails. The Old Testament reading draws on metaphors from the workplace as purification is depicted through the work of a metal refiner and a fuller. Our everyday lives, our engagement in worship, and the identity of the God we serve are not separate entities but come together in the person of Jesus.

Another approach to today's readings might focus on the role of people who help and support individuals, particularly young people, in finding their purpose and career in life. Simeon and Anna were able to see more than just another young couple with an infant child - they saw in Jesus an identity and vocation that went well beyond immediate appearances. We might thank God for those who work today to help others to discover and pursue their true and full potential.