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January 1, 2017

Luke 2:21-38

Psalm 121

Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman

In our gospel passage from Luke this morning, we hear of two people, Anna and Simeon, encountering the Christ child as he is brought to the Temple to be presented to the Lord.

Anna was a prophet, who never left the temple, “but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day.” (Luke 2:37) And, the Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he “would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” (Luke 2:26).

Guided by the Spirit. Anna and Simeon were both guided by the Spirit to the Christ child, and because they were open to God’s Spirit, both were blessed to be some of the first to behold the long-awaited Messiah.

In the United Church of Christ, we believe that God is still speaking. We believe that we too are being guided by the Spirit; however we also know it is challenging to hear God’s still speaking voice and to discern the Spirit’s direction.

It requires a single-minded focus that we wish we had but often lack.

On this New Year’s Day, I am not going to encourage you to be more focused in your Christian faith so that you might always hear God’s still speaking voice. Although it’s a good resolution, it’s also really challenging, and it makes us feel guilty instead of good about our relationship with God.

Instead, I would like to give you the opportunity to start the New Year off feeling good about your relationship with God by creating an intentional space for us all to listen to God’s still speaking voice.

Lectio Divina is an ancient Christian practice of encountering God through scripture. It literally means “Divine Reading”.

There are different approaches to lectio, but I am going to lead you in the one I am most familiar with.

I am going to ask you to make yourself as comfortable as you can and to close your eyes. Then I am going to read you Psalm 121, which I always think is appropriate for Bristol because we have lots of hills.

I’m going to read it slowly and pause every once in a while. When your mind gets to a word or phrase that captures your attention, pause there – even if I am continuing to read.

Dwell on this word, this phrase of scripture. Dwell on what God is saying to you.

When it feels right, return to listening, and wait again for a word or phrase that the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. You might linger on a word from the very first verse and not hear the rest of the psalm; you pause over three or four different words; you might not be captured any of the words and phrases. All of these ways are the right way to do Lectio Divina.

I invite you now to close your eyes and be comfortable, to be guided by the Spirit.


I lift up my eyes to the hills-

From where will my help come?


My help comes from the Lord,

Who made heaven and earth.


He will not let your foot be moved;

He who keeps you will not slumber.


He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.


The Lord is your keeper;


The Lord is your shade at your right hand.

The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.


The Lord will keep you from all evil;

He will keep your life.


The Lord will keep your going out

and your coming in

from this time on

and forevermore


The Lord will keep your going out

and your coming in

from this time on

and forevermore


I invite you now to open your eyes.

In his Still Speaking devotional from December 28th, Tony Robinson wrote about truth. He wrote:

Truth is elusive and hard to come by. Figuring out what is true, listening for truth, speaking truth; it’s hard work. Often today we settle for some odd substitute, something Stephen Colbert called “truthiness.” “Truthiness” is something that sounds true, something we (or someone) wish were true, but is not, not really. It only sounds like truth. [The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians calls] us to something harder and better; to listen for, struggle to find, and work to speak truth.

God is still speaking. God is still speaking to us, and in God’s Word, there is truth. May we always have ears to hear it, the persistence to struggle for it, and the boldness to proclaim it.