The audio quality is a little lower, as we met this Sunday in the education building when the church had no heat.
Depart in Peace
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Simeon was waiting for what St. Luke calls “the consolation of Israel.” Indeed, he was promised by the Lord that he would not die until he saw it. The Lord promised Simeon, and once he had seen and held baby Jesus, he could die in peace. You should know that when your pastor tells you to “Depart in peace” at the communion rail, he’s not telling you that you can get up and go back to your pew. He’s telling you that it’s okay to die. Depart in peace. That’s what Simeon looked forward to: the fulfillment of God’s promises.
The Old Adam doesn’t want to die. The world goes kicking and screaming into death. Admit it: you hate the thought of death—the death of another person, yes, but especially of your own death. We try to explain death away: “God wanted another angel.” “It was her time.” “Death is just a part of life.” That’s all hogwash. Death is the sting of sin, plain and simple. But Simeon teaches us that once you have Christ, death is nothing. In fact, having received Christ, we go to death in the peace of Christ.
Simeon tells Mary that a sword will pierce her soul. This little baby is going to die. All of those things neither Mary nor Joseph could anticipate when Gabriel told Joseph to give the baby the name of Jesus, Simeon now lays out before them: pain, suffering, scorn, hatred, blood and agony would be the lot of this Child. What mother would want to see that happen to her son? No mother should have to bury her own son, but this is a death that is no accident or disease. This is the hatred of sinners putting her Son to death. It is her sins and your sins and the sin of the whole world. But what Simeon knows, what Simeon confesses and sings, is that this is salvation. “My eyes have seen your salvation.” This baby in Simeon’s arms is not just some tragedy waiting to happen years later. He is the One whose death saves sinners. His is the death and resurrection by which our death is transformed. His is the death and resurrection from the dead which take the sting out of death. It is the victory over sin and death that enables Simeon to sing, “Lord, let your servant depart in peace.”
Now you haven’t held baby Jesus in your arms like Simeon, but you have Christ come to you in equally mystifying ways: in the water and Word of the holy font; in the absolution and preaching of your pastor; in the Word given in the Scriptures; in His own body and blood given in His Supper. Here in these gifts, Christ saves you, forgives you, even prepares you for death and gives you the gift of everlasting life. No one but God knows what will happen to you when you walk out that door. I hope and pray that each of you live a long and happy life and fall asleep peacefully in Jesus at a good old age. But we all know that anything can happen. And whether it’s an accident or disease, or something else, death is there. So before you get up and walk out that door, I shall tell you these words after the Sacrament: “Depart in peace.” And we shall say them with Simeon, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.” And when I say those words and when we sing them together, we are confessing, right in the face of death, that death has no more power over us. It is merely a passage to the everlasting life which Christ has in store for us. This Child was born so that sin and death would be thrown down. Now that He has come and done His work of dying and rising, washing and feeding and forgiving, death has no power over you…ever. Therefore, like Simeon, and like all of Christ’s lambs before you, you can depart in peace. In other words, you can die in the peace of Christ. In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.