Now Your Servant Can Depart in Peace – Mary Bellis

Text: Luke 2:25-32

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord of Life, Jesus Christ. Amen. May the peace of Christ’s resurrection and the hope of our own in Him be of special comfort to you: Bob and Jean, (Carolyn); and to all of Mary’s family and friends gathered here today. Though we grieve the loss of our beloved Mary, we do not grieve as those who have no hope, as St. Paul says, for we know that Mary has been received into the loving arms of her savior. She is alive now with Him, with Earl, and with all the saints who’ve gone before us, including Simeon, of whom we heard in the Gospel text.

I.

Our text today is from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2. This passage relates to us the events that took place 40 days after our Lord’s birth. In the Church, we celebrate these events with a holiday called the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord. This falls every year on February 2nd, this past Sunday. Under the old covenant of the Law, the Lord God gave various commands concerning childbirth. One was that, 40 days after giving birth, a mother would travel to the Jerusalem temple and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving for the gift of a child. Another command of God was that every firstborn male was to be dedicated to the Lord. Therefore, trusting in the Lord’s Word and obeying His commands, the holy parents brought our Lord up into the temple.

Now, in the temple there was a man named Simeon. Simeon, as tradition holds, was a well-aged man. And yet, he had received this promise from the Lord, St. Luke relates, “it [was] revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” (Luke 2:26, English Standard Version) Simeon was a righteous man by faith, and was waiting for the consolation of Israel. What that means, is that Simeon was awaiting the promised Messiah. The Messiah is the one promised by God to come and destroy sin, death, and the devil; to bring forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and peace to those who trust in Him. When the holy parents brought Jesus into the temple, Simeon took the baby up in his arms and sang, “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace…for my eyes have seen Your salvation.” (vv. 29-30) Simeon knew that, in Jesus Christ, the salvation of the world had come. He saw in Christ, with his own eyes, the peace of forgiveness and eternal life and, thus, Simeon knew he could die in peace.

II.

When I was visiting with Bob and Jean the other day, they shared with me a conversation they had with Mary. I won’t try to give the whole of it, because I’d butcher it, but the gist is: when the topic of Mary’s age came up, she was likely to say she felt more 1,096 than the actual 96 she was. When Mary and I had similar conversations, I would remind that she was “only” 96; she would reply, “if you say so.” Certainly, using Mary’s own feelings, she would qualify as well-aged, just like Simeon. And, also, like Simeon, Mary received many blessings from the Lord. She was united by Him in holy matrimony to her beloved Earl on February 12th, 1943. From their union came the blessings of children: Bob and Carolyn. The Lord blessed Mary with grandchildren, and with a long and fulfilling career. The Lord also blessed many others in the community, including ourselves, through Mary. 

The chief blessing which Mary received, though, is what she now enjoys: eternal life with Christ and those who have gone before in the Christian faith. Mary was born May 16th, 1923 and was baptized in Fairbank as a young child. In her baptism, Mary was united to Christ and became a member of His body, the Church. Through the witness and encouragement of a friend, Mary began attending here at St. John’s while still a child and was confirmed in this sanctuary in 1937. She publicly confessed her faith in Christ and her hope in life everlasting. For 83 years, Mary received the body and blood of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of her sins and the strengthening of her faith. Through her baptism, in the Word, and in Christ’s Supper, Mary saw the Lord’s Christ, and in Him, she has departed in peace. She has passed from this earthly life, to eternal life. She awaits with Earl the day of Christ’s coming and the resurrection of the dead.

III.

In the reading from Isaiah, we heard the words of Christ – that He has come to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, and to lift out of sadness those who mourn. We confess today, that these words describe us. We are poor before God because of our many sins. We are brokenhearted at the loss of our sister, and we mourn her passing. Yet, it is for these reasons that Christ came. These reasons are why He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. These are the reasons why He was brought into the temple while still a child. Jesus came to fulfill the will of God for us and to die on our behalf. He was “pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities,” St. Isaiah says. (53:5) Jesus did not just die for us; He also rose for us. This is why Simeon sang he could depart in peace, and why Mary could as well. They both saw Christ and knew He died and rose for them.

Simeon and Mary both saw Jesus and departed in peace. Simeon held Him Him in the temple; Mary saw the Lord through His Word and Sacraments. The same peace which Christ became for them, He is for you and me. It was not just for the world, and not just for them that He died and rose, but for you and me, too. The forgiveness and eternal life which He secured for Simeon and Mary, He won for you. He sets no condition on it, but gives it freely to those who trust in Him. Those who believe in Him, will live, even though they die. Such is true for Mary. We give thanks to God for the blessings bestowed on Mary, for the blessings we received through her. We know that, though she has departed from this life, she departed in peace and is alive with Christ. 

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