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  • Writer's pictureThe Rev. Beth Knowlton

The Value of Showing Up

Many years ago, I heard an unlikely rescue story. It is the story of Jean Wilson, an 82-year-old woman from Memphis who was so regular in her habits that we might describe her as boring. For three years, every morning at 10 a.m. she would call Dominos for delivery of one large pepperoni pizza, along with two Diet Cokes.

It turned out that daily order very well may have saved her life.

When the local Domino’s didn’t receive her order one day, Susan Guy, her regular delivery driver, became concerned. In much less than the 30 minutes Domino’s promises, Guy made a beeline to Wilson’s home and banged on the doors and windows. When she received no response, she called 911. Paramedics arrived to find Wilson lying on her floor and unable to reach the telephone for help.

After calling 911, Guy returned to work at Domino’s. When she returned to Wilson’s home a short time later, she said, “I saw the paramedics, and one of the police officers was leaving, and he stopped and said, “Are you Susan?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, she’s OK.’ ”

This Friday, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation when we celebrate Jesus' being brought to the Temple according to Jewish Law. It is rarely Jesus, or Mary, or Joseph, that capture my attention, when I hear this passage from Luke. It is Simeon.

Luke tells us that Simeon is a righteous and devout person who has the Spirit of God upon him. He has discerned that he will see the Messiah in his lifetime, and so he has structured his life in the expectation of that arrival. His speech when he sees Jesus is one of the most beautiful in scripture.  He says,

"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,

according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles

and for glory to your people Israel."

This is a text particularly well known to those of us who love choral evensong, since we hear it sung as the Nunc Dimittis. When I hear it, I like to imagine all the days that led up to Simeon's proclamation, because there is something about him that is actually rather ordinary. He is quietly going about his business at the temple, but inside he has a hopeful expectation that is forming the core of his life.

How many days did Simeon have to get out of bed when he didn't feel like it, to search for this Messiah? How many children were presented until he saw the One? There is much we can learn about a spiritual life from Simeon. 

Our vestry had a wonderful retreat last weekend where we did some deep and holy work with one another. We imagined how spiritual practices might deepen our connection with God and one another.

The first step for most of us is to simply show up. Simeon gives us a pretty good model to follow. He says his prayers regularly. It is not dependent on his mood; it is as regular Jean Wilson's pizza order. But it isn't just about saying his prayers. He uses the fruit of that prayer. The fruit is the discernment to see what is in front of him in a different way. It is the discernment that nudges a pizza delivery person to not just let a passing concern stop there but hear it as a call to action.

What ordinary practices undergird your spiritual life? And how does our community support them? I give thanks to the many faithful Simeons in my life who recognized the divine spark within me. I pray you have some Simeons in your lives as well. 

Peace, Beth +


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