Year B Jan 1 Luke 2
Presented to the Lord
Luke 2 : 22-40
It is fortunate that New Year's Day rarely falls on a Sunday. Many who stayed up last night to greet the New Year are in no condition to worship today. [Though I understand that a few could be heard this morning moaning, "Oh God . . . Oh God . . . Oh God . . . "] And then, of course there is football, the real religion of many in our land. New Year's Day is always a day of worship for the true football devotee. But here you and I are in the house of God. This, of course, is where we ought to begin a New Year.
I want to begin with a football story, but you don't have to be a football fan to appreciate it. It's about a young man named Kyle. Kyle Maynard was born with some of the birth defects that every parent fears--stunted arms and legs and misshapen hands and feet. Most people would consider him to be handicapped. But most people don't know Kyle Maynard. This young man, who chooses not to use prosthetic limbs, constantly challenges himself to break physical barriers. He played middle school football alongside much bigger kids. In high school, Kyle began weight training and joined the wrestling team. He and his coach developed moves that made the most of Kyle's physical assets. Kyle advanced so much that he earned the title, Strongest Teen, for his weight-lifting feats.
In fact, Kyle Maynard has such a positive attitude that a juvenile court judge once sentenced a troublesome kid to spend the day with Kyle. The judge wanted the teen to understand that our lives are shaped much more by our attitude than by our circumstances. After spending a day with the troubled teen, Kyle commented, "People think I have a bad life. Look at my life compared to this kid's. I have a beautiful family who loves me. Everybody has struggles. My struggles are just more apparent."
Isn't that amazing? You and I see people every day with perfectly good bodies, healthy in every way, who are mired in unhappiness. And then we run into a Kyle Maynard with his stunted arms and misshapen hands and feet, and he is so positive. How does that happen?...
Do You Know Your Name?
Passwords. Passwords. And more Passwords.
Passwords are the open sesames to protected systems on the Internet.
Want to pay for on eBay with PayPal? Password.
Want to sign in to AOL, or Yahoo? Password.
Want to micro-blog on Twitter? Password.
Want to see your kids while you talk to them on Tokbox or Skype? Password.
In fact, I can't even get anything to come up on my computer unless I first give it a password.
Every time we sign into a protected system we must provide certain information so that the system knows we are who we say we are. If you don't know your personal "password," the system won't let you in. Geeks in the know caution us to use cryptic number-letter combinations that are totally random. Good luck with that. What we actually use is the name of our first dog, or part of our Social Security number, or our mother's maiden name, or our oldest child's birthday.
It's almost as if we need our "secret name" to personalize us, to make some kind of sense to us, to identify something unique about us. Maybe a personal password, complete with secret meaning just for us, takes away some of the anonymity of the Internet.
The highest level security systems rely upon the biological secret names held by each one of us. Biological secret names? Try retinal scans, or fingerprint analysis, or even specific DNA matches. The higher the level of security, the more biological and less numerical the passwords.
But the ultimate, unrepeatable identifier for each one of us has yet to be mapped out. I call them "soul scans." We do not have the ability to perform "soul scans" on people who come before us. The secrets locked in the heart and mind, the honesty of our words and the authenticity of our deeds, the motivations behind all our actions these are locked deep in the recesses of our souls. The Greek word "psyche" is usually translated as "soul," but can also more extensively mean "life." It is our soul-life that still keeps its secrets.
In today's gospel text there is a public declaration of Jesus' name.