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Thought for the week - 30 January

The compilers of our lectionary decided that we need two chances to look at today’s Gospel, today and the Feast of Candlemass on Wednesday. We should be grateful to them, for this passage is full of meaning for us.

One such meaning is to remind us that older people count! The Church is constantly bombarded with initiatives aimed at children and young people. The three clergy study days one of which is here on Friday is one such. Our diocese is investing several millions of Church Commissioners money on projects aimed at children and young people. But where is the investment in older people? We are a rapidly ageing society.

Statistics suggest that around one-fifth of the UK population (19%) was aged 65 or over in 2019, or around 12.3 million people. ... The proportion of the population aged 75 and over is projected to rise from 8% in 2018 to 13% in 2043, while the proportion aged 85 and over is projected to rise from 2% to 4%.3 (ONS 2020)

That is a huge number of people. Many of these people will have complex needs – including spiritual needs.

So what are we told about Anna & Simeon?

Well, Anna we are told, “was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[d] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

There was a time in the life of the Christian Church that such women as Anna were much valued by the Church. No longer it seems in the church at large. The use of resources show us that. But women, (or men for that matter), who are willing to commit themselves to prayer and worship, who are willing to serve the church in any concerted way are to be cherished. That surely is a real lesson for us.

And Simeon. Well again, he was an old man. He was willing to wait, pray and encourage.

Simeon wasn’t in a rush – that is often a lesson the elderly can teach us! Simeon was willing to commit real time to prayer.

And above all Simeon was an encourager. But he was realistic too – he pulled no punches in telling Mary & Joseph how things were going to be:

“The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.””

Now that isn’t always a skill the Victor Meldrews of the world can offer us! But when it is a well used skill, it is enormously valuable. For many years when Helen & I have led confirmation classes for children we have encouraged the children to choose prayer companions from among the older members of the congregation. Over and over we have seen what a fruitful relationship that can be – benefitting both parties enormously.

So, brothers and sisters who, as the Prayer Book puts it are ‘of riper years’ can you be the Simeons and Annas of our church family?


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