June 22, 2011

Fritz Peterson Memorial - June 22, 2011

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Luke 2:25–32 (ESV)

25 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. 26 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. 27 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, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We’ve talked a bit about Fritz Peterson today. About his birth. About his life. And now we direct our attention to another man. To a man named Simeon.

This section of Luke, which we’ve just read, contains the only information that we have about Simeon. Nowhere else in Scripture is anything mentioned about this man.

Luke tells us that Simeon lived in Jerusalem at the time when Jesus was born. In the eyes of his neighbors, Simeon was a good man. A righteous man. He was a devout follower of the Lord. Frequently coming to the temple to worship. Above all Simeon was waiting for the “consolation of Israel”. That is, he was waiting for the Savior whom God had promised would rescue sinners from eternal punishment in hell.

Luke also tells us that the Holy Spirit had made a very special promise to Simeon. Ever since the first two humans turned away from God by their sin, the world had been waiting for the Savior. The Holy Spirit promised Simeon that he would not die before he had laid eyes on that Savior.

There a number of characters in this story. But two stick out. This story is all about Simeon, and Jesus. In one sense, Simeon’s life was all about this one moment, the moment he saw salvation arrive.

And so we see Simeon coming into the temple. There are many others bustling in the temple courts on this day. In the court of the Gentiles there are people selling animals for the temple sacrifices. There are money changers exchanging currency for the temple shekel. There are people from far away lands making pilgrimage to the house of their God. So many different people with different purposes.

But through the crowd Simeon moves with singular purpose. He is going where the Holy Spirit is leading him.

Two others move through this same crowd with purpose as well. Mary and Joseph have come to offer the customary sacrifices in behalf of their newborn child.

Simeon sees them. Two travel worn young people in simple dress. In no way sticking out from the rest on this day. But when Simeon’s eyes fall on the little child in Mary’s arms, it is clear to him that this is no common Child. Joy floods into his heart. Here is what he has been waiting for. This is the Child on whom all his hopes and dreams rest. On whom his very life rests. This is the Child who will reunite sinners with the Holy God by His self-less sacrifice in their place.

Approaching Mary and Joseph, he asks to hold the Child and, lifting Him up in his arms, Simeon praises God.

When Christians grow old and frail, the question is sometimes asked: Why doesn’t God just take them home? Isn’t it time yet? But the times and dates of such things rest in the heart of God, far from our comprehension. God alone knows the purposes he has in letting us remain for long years.

Here we find one of God’s purposes for old Simeon. Joy and praise. He was to be one of the first to direct praise to God because of the Christ Child. He was to be one of the first to be filled with joy over what this Child was to do.

With Simeon’s newfound joy and praise also came peace. Holding his Savior in his arms, Simeon said,

“29 ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:29-30 ESV).

Simeon had a good reputation. He had lived a long life. He had health and strength enough to make his way through the temple courts. But his peace was not to be found in these things. His peace was found in this – that all was right between him and God, because of what this Child would do in his place.

Through his own actions, Simeon had peace with his neighbors. But through Jesus Simeon had peace with his sinless Creator.

And here too, we find another one of God’s purposes for Simeon’s life. He was to experience this peace in this way before exiting this broken world for the shores of heaven.

If one thing flows through all Simeon’s words and actions here, it is this – readiness. He was ready to depart in peace. And Simeon would have us be ready also.

In the Christ Child Simeon saw the salvation that God had prepared for the whole world. In the Christ Child Simeon saw the savior of Jews and non-Jews alike.

God’s Word says that all people are born into this world sinful. Because of our sins we are destined to spend eternity apart from our Creator and all His goodness. We are sinners, unworthy of God’s love. But God’s Word also says that through Jesus the way back to God has been opened. In Romans 3, it says…
“21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:21-24 NIV).
Essentially Paul says here - even those with the best of reputations, fall short of God’s standards. But even the worst of the worst are redeemed through the blood of Christ.

This is the “light for the Gentiles” which Simeon saw in Christ. This is the “glory of Israel” which Simeon saw in Christ.

And this free salvation was the source of Fritz’s greatest joy in life. The source of his unshakable peace. This gift of free and full forgiveness given through Jesus was the reason he was ready to depart this life whenever the Lord saw fit to call him home.

Earlier I said that this reading from Luke has two characters that stick out. It’s all about Simeon and Jesus. And the same is true about our service today. Our service today is about two people. It’s about Fritz, and his Savior.

There was purpose in Fritz’s long years, just as there there is purpose in this day. The purpose is this, that we would remember what made him joyful, at peace and ready to leave this world. And that we also would be ready to leave this world in peace – because in Christ we too have seen our salvation.

Prayer: Father in Heaven, on this day we remember Fritz Peterson. Thank you for showing him your salvation. Thank you for blessing him with strong faith in Jesus, and with dedication to your Word. Raise up more godly examples like Fritz so that the message of sins forgiven through your Son might be received by many. As we grieve Fritz’s passing, pour out a deep peace upon our hearts. For through your Son we have become your children. And as your children we do not grieve like the world which has no hope. We know the future that you have for all who cling to Christ. Amen.

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