Today is the day on which the Church observes The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, the event described in the Gospel According to Saint Luke 2:22-40. This event in the life of Christ, and its yearly commemoration, ought to be one of our foremost observances in the International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church because of its Biblical manifestation of Convergence Worship.
In the Gospel, six weeks after the birth of Jesus, the Holy Family travels from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to participate in the ancient rituals required by God in the Law and present their Son in the Temple. While there, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph are confronted by two different worshippers in the Temple who, anointed by the Spirit of God, prophesy over the newborn Messiah. In this one passage of Holy Scripture we see Convergence Worship lived out in the Holy Gospel and Life of Christ.
To begin with, the Holy Family is following a Scriptural mandate. In the book of Exodus the LORD commands Moses, saying, “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.” (13:2) The LORD goes on to command the sacrifice of every firstborn male that “opens the womb,” be it man or beast. Of course, firstborn sons are not really sacrificed but are rather “redeemed” by presenting them to the LORD. This ritual is done in accordance with the Law of Moses as described in Leviticus 13. According to that chapter, a woman who gives birth is ritually unclean for forty days. During this time, “She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.” (v. 4) Later on, Scripture instructs,
“When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then he shall offer it before the LORD, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female. And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.” (Leviticus 12:6-8)
What is important to realize here is that the Holy Family was just and faithful to adhere to the Law as it had been presented to them. Later Pauline arguments about faith versus the Law are irrelevant at that point because Jesus had not yet fulfilled the Law. The Holy Family was doing exactly what they were supposed to according to their Scriptures. This is at the heart of Evangelicalism. As Evangelicals, we believe that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation. Our worship, though liturgical in its form, is Bible based and Bible-centered. That is exactly what the Holy Family was doing!
Saint Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the infant Christ were worshipping in a liturgical fashion based on a series of texts from Holy Scripture. Is that not the heart of what it is to be a sacramental worshipper? Slaughtering a pair of birds did not somehow wash away the “messiness” of the birthing process. No one washes in the blood of a bird in order to get their own blood off of them. Neither did the all-knowing God finally realize where His Son had been hiding because the Holy Family presented Him to the LORD in the Temple. These were sacramental acts. They brought their gifts, along with their Son, the Son of the Most High God, to fulfill what was written in the Law. In doing so, they were assured that a grace had been imparted to them. The Blessed Virgin had been pronounced well enough to re-enter the normal Jewish life and the infant Jesus had been dedicated to the LORD and returned to the care of His parents. What was happening there if they were not participating in outward, visible signs of inward, invisible graces?
Finally, in their adherence to the dictates of Holy Scripture and participation in sacramental worship, the Holy Spirit descended upon two different prophets and the Holy Family received two different inspired Words from the LORD. First, Simeon the Righteous, the man who had been told by God that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Christ, was led by the Holy Spirit into the Temple where he met the Holy Family. Just like Elizabeth before him, the Holy Spirit quickened Simeon and he recognized the infant Jesus as the Messiah. After an inspiring (and inspired) hymn of praise to the Lord, Simeon turned to the Blessed Virgin Mary and declared, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (St. Luke 2:34) Then, the prophetess Anna, a widow of at least eighty-four years old, arriving at that moment, recognized what was transpiring, “gave thanks to the LORD, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (v. 38)
This is what we long for in our services. This is what we beg the LORD that He might cause to happen every Sunday. This is the heart of Convergence Worship. This is worship that is Evangelical, Sacramental, and Charismatic. Would that all of our people knew the Biblical foundations of every aspect of our worship. If only the people realized how much grace was truly imparted to them in the partaking of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ! How many people could be set free by the prophetic Word of God spoken by anointed prophets and prophetesses?
This passage in the Life of Christ is who we are as a Church. Convergence worship is not some idea someone came up with on their own in the early nineties. It is not a product of the Charismatic Renewal movement. It is a Biblical standard where all three streams flow as one mighty river from the Throne of our God. May we all stand where those three streams converge as one mighty river and let the waters of the LORD wash over us.
Almighty and ever-living God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen