‘Nunc Dimittis’ – Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.
Evensong, and as Sunday drew to a close, the words of the Nunc Dimittis, words familiar to generations, floated through the church. It had been another busy day, as Sundays tend to be. Now we asked God’s leave to depart in peace – the day was almost over, supper beckoned, time for home.
For all its busyness, it had been a pleasant, peaceful day. The sun shone; the air was warm. In the morning I had baptised a young girl, introducing her into the Christian family. Later we had enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the garden. At this time of year our garden is full of new life. Young squirrels exploring their surroundings, chasing each other up and down trees; a family of starlings feeding together on a freshly mown strip of ground; juvenile robins already solitary and staking claim to their space. Less common, and therefore all the more eagerly awaited, last week the turtle doves returned. Even a young muntjac popped in recently for a look round, munched a few fallen leaves, then left quietly.
Sunday’s gospel had opened with Jesus telling us that Those who love me will keep my word and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. (Jn 14:23) This promise of God with us is also a promise of peace. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (Jn 14:27)
This peace extends far beyond a peaceful close to a busy Sunday. Just a few days earlier, I was reciting these same words for someone’s final journey; which is their original context. (Lk 2:29). When Simeon uttered these words, he was acknowledging that his life was complete, God had fulfilled his promise; Simeon was now ready to die. Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace
Baptism and burial; new life and old; human, animal and avian; Jesus died and rose again. If we love him, he, in his love, will make his home with us; and being with us, will give us peace.
Rev’d Philip Payne The Notice Sheet for Sunday 29 May can be found here