Salvation - FOR YOU
Historically Lutherans don’t mess around with the Liturgy much. We don’t really have a “Lutheran” liturgy – we have what has been passed down through the ages. Yes, Luther made some alterations and removed the theologically objectionable elements – but for the most part we Lutherans have kept what has been handed down to us.
Except in this one case – the Nunc Dimittis.
This is a Lutheran contribution to the Liturgy. We sing the Nunc Dimittis after having received the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. But why? Why add it at all? And why do we sing it there and then in the Liturgy? It’s important to know what we do and why we do it. The Liturgy teaches us so much. It forms us. It delivers to us the gifts from Jesus. However, if we don’t understand the “Whys” of what we do – what we do loses its significance. So, what’s up with the Nunc Dimittis?
Joseph and Mary go to the Temple for the purification 40 days after Jesus was born (Luke 2:22-39). When Simeon is given the 40 day old Jesus – he speaks these words:
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
Simeon had been waiting for the promised Saviour. After seeing him and holding him in his hands he spoke these words. With Spirit-wrought faith he knew he had seen Jesus, the promised One. In his hands, in this 40 day old baby boy, was the salvation of all people. Therefore, Simeon knew he could depart in peace for he had seen and held his salvation.
This is why this canticle fits so well for us to sing after receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion. Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, comes to us. His Body put into our hands and mouth, His blood poured down our throat. With the same Spirit-wrought faith that Simeon had we too can say that we have seen Jesus, the promised One. We too have received the salvation of all people. And therefore, just as Simeon did, so we can depart in peace for we have seen and held salvation.
We can depart from the altar after having received the Body and Blood of Jesus knowing that in Jesus our sins are forgiven. And there is no room for doubt here – the Body of Jesus was put into your mouth, the blood of Jesus was poured down your throat. Not someone else’s. Yours. For you. The Body and Blood of Jesus – FOR YOU. The forgiveness of sins – FOR YOU. Salvation – FOR YOU. Life – FOR YOU. Not the next guy… FOR YOU. So, why can you leave the altar in peace? Because you know that from Jesus forgiveness, life, and salvation has been given to YOU. Personally. Individually. FOR YOU.
We Lutherans don’t mess with the Liturgy that has been handed down. This small Lutheran contribution, however, is a beautiful confession of faith and trust in Jesus. It is a strong and powerful “Amen” to what Jesus has promised with His Body and Blood in this sacrament. That is why we sing the Nunc Dimittis when and where we do.
His gifts – FOR YOU. Depart in peace.
Rev. Michael Keith serves as pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church and SML Christian Academy in Stony Plain, AB Canada.
Created: May 25th, 2017