Helen Dare's Whitley Lecture
Book Review: Honey From the Lion by Doug Gay


The following is an attempt to imagine the way Simeon might have told his story of meeting Jesus in the temple (Luke 2.25-35), that my friend Miriam and I wrote for this morning's Candlemas service.

I had been waiting a long time …
more than a minute, more than an hour, a day, a month
I had been waiting years upon years,
waiting like Abraham for a son

I was beginning to thing that the promise
the promise spoken when I was young,
full of possibility full of hope and passion
had been more my imagination than God
that’s God promise to save
was more a wish rather than a word
I had been waiting with no sign, no fulfilment

Most of my friends, old now like me,
will say that the highlights of their lives were all in the past
when they were younger
For me the highlight of my life,
the day that gave all the days before it meaning,
has come near the end of my life
I know I don’t have many more days left,
well at least less than I’ve already lived …
but this day last week puts everything into perspective,
my life has been worth living …

The day itself began as a fairly ordinary one
I got this tired body up from its sleep
washed, dressed, ate, brushed
the usual morning pattern …
and made my way to the market square …
It was about mid-morning when I had the strangest feeling
an urge, an impulse to go to the temple.
I say my prayers, I follow God’s laws
but I’m not the kind of person who just goes to the temple on a feeling
however, this felt like more than a feeling,
this felt like being lead and so I followed …

The temple courts were busy,
they always are, people coming and going
wanting God to hear their prayers
wanting to pay their dues

following the traditions and the rituals.
It was amongst the crowd I saw them …
their was nothing too remarkable about them
you could see the man was slightly apprehensive
his eyes were darting in every direction
not quite sure what to do.
The woman was huddled close
her face half hidden by her shawl
but tight in her arms I could see the tiny features of a
new born baby.
I was moved,
both in my heart and in my legs
and I found myself drawn closer
hesitant – they were strangers to me after all –
I greeted them …

I hadn’t expected it today.
that promise, that word meeting
its intended point
there was nothing that made it obvious
no crown, no label tag saying ‘salvation trade mark God’
but I knew,
deep down
something was revealed in that moment
something that was not in my grasp to know
but still I knew
and knew with an unwavering assurance.
Here with tiny legs and arms
was God’s salvation for Israel
God’s comfort and relief for Israel
the word of Isaiah ‘comfort, comfort my people’
spoken to our people in Israel long ago
now finding new meaning
God’s comfort, his deliverance was at hand
and just as Isaiah saw this was not just for Israel
but the whole world,
so I believed that God here in this child
was going to comfort everyone – Jew and Gentile alike.

Holding the baby,
feeling the excitement and joy well up inside me,
I couldn’t keep silent.
As my heart leapt,
any attempt at respectability set aside,
my mouth shouted out:

“God over all things, you have answered your promise to me,
I can die a happy man
because with my very own eyes
I have seen you answer your promise to save the whole world:
the light in whom all the Gentiles will see you clearly,
and so that your people Israel can glory in you.”

Have you had a moment like that?
when you’ve been so overwhelmed with joy
and living
with God …
a moment so etched into memory
that you can live it again.
Meeting Jesus
was like that for me.

“You are blessed”
I said to the parents.
Mary and Joseph were their names.
“You are blessed”
They seemed overwhelmed themselves,
not expecting this.

That moment of knowing
that revelation of God to see
that this child was everything I had been waiting for
grew a deeper sense in me,
grew a deeper knowledge in me,
and to Mary I said,
with words that seemed to come from beyond me,
I said:
“This child, so blessed,
this child will impact everyone, one way or another …
controversy will follow him
he will expose people’s true thoughts
and suffering will be his and yours.”*

*This wording of Simeon's words to Mary is borrowed heavily from Rob Lacey's The Street Bible.



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