Saturday, January 30, 2010

4 Epiphany Yr C

In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, all spoke well of Jesus and said, “this is Joseph’s son.” I’m imagining the conversation something like this. “We watched this boy grow up, he was so helpful to his father in his carpenter’s shop. He has always been so faithful and pious, attending synagogue, reading the Torah, knowing his place. Ahh, such a good boy, we’re proud.”

And then, the next thing that happens is that they drive Jesus out of town and they want to toss him over a cliff! What’s up with that? How do these people go from being proud of the neighborhood boy to tossing him over a cliff? What filled them with such rage?

What’s this all about? And, what can it mean to us?

I’m never really sure what this story is all about, my wonderings are as good as your wonderings, but I have a little information that might be helpful in figuring this out. Remember that this story, the Gospel or Good News, is recorded here for a purpose. Part of the purpose of the writer of this gospel is to convince the reader that Jesus is a prophet in the line of prophets. The line of prophets includes Elijah and Elisha. Every Jew who heard this story knew this, and every Jew who heard this story also knew that all prophets in their stories are rejected in their hometowns. So, the writer of this story needed to have Jesus rejected in his own town in order for him to be a prophet in the line of the ancient prophets. Another part of the purpose for the writer of this Gospel is likewise to convince the reader that this prophet, Jesus, is the fulfillment of the scriptures, Jesus is the One who has been promised.

The writer accomplishes his purpose of placing Jesus in the line of the ancient prophets by invoking Elijah and Elisha, and the stories that Luke chose to have Jesus refer to are the stories about widows and orphans. Now, stay with me here for just another minute while I tell you why I think this is important. Widows and lepers are the two groups of people that are invoked in relation to the prophets Elijah and Elisha. In the cultural schema of Greek society, in the first century, when the story of Jesus was told, widows and lepers are as low as it goes.

Let me give you a brief picture of this culture. The patron of a household owned everything. He owned his wife, his concubines, his slaves, his children. He owned land and everything and everyone on it. He and his household were at the top of the pyramid, and he owned everything and everyone in it. There were artisans and farmers and smiths that were beholden to the patron. They were able to sustain a life because the patron allowed them to be part of his household. He was good to them, as long as they were loyal. Underneath the artisans and farmers and smiths, were the women and children. The women had worth only as measured by the men to whom they belonged, their father, or husband, or brothers. A woman owned nothing, and she had no means for protection outside of the man she belonged to. For all intents and purposes, a woman was dead if she did not belong to a man. When a husband died, the widow must be married to a brother to gain protection once again. So a widow was worthless, she had no means of support and no protection. Lepers were those cast out of this system because of disease. They too were worthless, they had no means of support and no protection.

Now let’s get back to the story. Jesus invokes these two groups of people. Two groups of people who were the lowest of low, who had no worth, no value in this first century culture. The people first hearing this story about Jesus already know where Jesus is going with this story. They’ve heard this one time and time again by the time it’s written down.

And they know about this Jesus. He’s the one who gave new life to the lowest of low. He’s the one who ate and talked with the widows, the lepers, the unattached women, the tax collectors. He’s the one who claimed that new life, value, worth, dignity, is theirs through God, his father. God, who loves them so much he was willing to come and be one of them. Jesus is the one who they say suffered, died, and appeared again to his friends and even strangers. Jesus is the one who they claimed is the new King.

And therein lies the rub. Jesus is the one who empowers the powerless. Jesus is the one who offers life where for all intents and purposes there is death. A woman without protection is as good as dead. A diseased person is surely dead. Jesus is the one who brings dignity and respect to all, including those whose culture judged them worthless and outcasts.

In this story Jesus claims to be a prophet in the line of the prophets. Jesus claims to be the one who gives new life where there was death. And that claim, by this young man who was just Joseph’s son, enraged the powerful people. It made them so mad, they wanted to toss him over a cliff. A prophet must be rejected in his hometown.

And yet, Jesus goes on to Capernaum, and people were astounded by his teaching, because he spoke with authority. Who’s authority? God’s authority.

What does this story have to do with us? It seems to me that the reason Jesus is rejected in his hometown is that his message is so shocking. If you were one of the power brokers of the town, one of the leaders of the synagogue, you may be thinking to yourself, “I thought this was Joseph’s son, but he’s become a young upstart, telling us how we ought to go about our business, how we ought to order our lives. He’s no son of ours.”

But maybe it was also necessary for Jesus to be rejected in his hometown because if he had been accepted, maybe he would never have left. Maybe his message of God’s love for all, regardless of power and prestige, would never have made it out of Nazareth. Maybe his message of dignity and worth, regardless of what you look like or how you smell, would never have made it out of Nazareth.

Maybe his message of new life, instead of our culture’s message of “it’s all about you,” would never have made it out of Nazareth. Well, then, we would be in a very sad state of affairs.

Jesus’ message is universal. It’s for all of us. You and I are part of this story. We have power brokers here, people looking for meaning and for a way to understand life beyond themselves. We have young people here, wondering where they fit in, wondering how to juggle all the balls. We have parents here, wondering how to keep it all together in a world that demands such busyness. We have elders here, wondering what it is they have left to give. We have children here, wondering why the rest of us are so serious all the time.

We, all of us, fit in to the story. The story is about God, and God’s love for us. God gave up all power to live as one of us, and through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we are brought back into relationship with God. We, who sometimes feel worthless, are valued. We, who sometimes feel broken, are made whole. We, who sometimes feel like no one cares, are loved. We, who are hungry, are fed. We, who are tired, are given rest.

Jesus shows us God’s love is for every one of us, even if that reality makes many folks mad, mad enough to throw Jesus right over the cliff.

The Lord shows forth his glory: Come let us adore him.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

3 Epiphany Yr C

I remember the days when we had one telephone line in our house; maybe we had two telephones, one on the kitchen wall and one in my parents’ room. I also remember being yelled at to get off the phone, because my dad, being a self-employed block layer and cement man as we called him, depended on receiving phone calls at home regarding work. I didn’t really spend that much time on the phone myself, but there were eight of us, I imagine it was hard for dad to get his calls.

I would watch my kids, talking to two and three friends at a time while listening to music and allegedly doing homework while sitting at the computer. If I need to make or receive a phone call I can do it from my cell phone, or even from the landline that gets very little use. From our computer we can keep in touch with friends that have been dispersed all over the country and all over the globe. Away from the computer we can facebook from our blackberry’s and iphones. Doctors can take pictures of our insides and send them anywhere instantly for another doctor to take a look at on their computer screen, and tell us what’s up almost instantly. It’s an amazing world. It is a world I lament and a world I rejoice in all at the same time.

When the words of I Corinthians were written, could anyone have imagined this world we live in today? In 200, and 2000 years, will anyone be able to imagine the world we live in today? Just the other day, there was a group of us meeting, and we were talking about language, and how the meaning of words we have taken for granted has changed, because the experience of people today has changed. Some of the words we talked about are community and body of Christ. How do you talk about these things in this world when community can as easily mean a group of people gathered together in a church to rehearse the story of salvation, as a group of people logged into virtual church in second life, miles or even countries away from each other connecting the dots of their own stories?

For some time I have lamented what I have perceived to be the lack of community and connection between people because of the internet and all it offers, good and bad. I have decided no longer to lament but to rejoice in the ability of people to connect not only face to face, but keyboard to keyboard. I am able to keep in touch with classmates by e-mail and facebook, and when we meet face to face it is as if we have never been apart.

I know all of this has not diminished, but in fact expanded how I understand community, how I understand the body of Christ. We are all connected, maybe even now more than ever. What we do here in Rapid City matters to people as far away as Haiti. Maybe if Paul were writing today he would use a metaphor like the one that James Cameron uses in the new movie Avatar. Maybe you’ve heard of it; maybe you’ve seen it. Avatar is a story about the “outsider” coming into a world of “insiders,” becoming one of the “insiders,” and saving them from destruction. The people are hunters and gatherers, and have a great spirituality of connection with the planet, the animals, and the plant life. Each can literally connect with creation through appendages from their heads. They can connect to their ancestors, they can connect to the beasts they ride, and they can even connect to their Creator. Our main character gets separated from his team and taken in by the indigenous people on the planet Pandora, and eventually learns to become one. Through the process, he learns to love them and become one in more than just his appearance. They accept him as one of them until he must go on his own journey of self-exploration to fight for the people and culture he loves. By becoming one of them, he ends up saving them.

There’s another story with the same archetypes, one that we Christians know pretty well. One about a true outsider who comes to our world, becoming like us in order to save us. We know this as the Incarnation. God, in the form of human flesh in Jesus Christ, becomes one of us, in order for us to be connected to God in a way we have never experienced before. Avatar’s story is one of incarnation, one of love for God’s creation, one of transformation in order to understand.

Many would say that the Messianic archetype stretches far beyond the story in which Christians have placed their faith. It’s a story that has been told in many religions pre-dating Christianity. But that’s what makes the story so good. It’s a story that will never end. Humanity will always need its saviors. Movies like Avatar create fantastic parables to help us understand the world around us. That we are in need of something greater than ourselves and how blessed we are to have a God who loves us so much that God wants to become one of us. Avatar may not be a factual story, but it is a true story. The people are connected as a web, to each other, and to the entire environment around them. Much like the body that Paul describes.

Jesus embodies, enfleshes, incarnates, and proclaims God’s love in ways that make a difference for the lives of others. This is what we mean by body of Christ. Transformation is something that doesn’t happen to us like magic, transformation is something that is effected by our participation in the body of Christ, the community of faith, by proclaiming and making a difference for the lives of others on Jesus’ behalf.

And transformation doesn’t happen unless all of the parts of the body participate; all of the parts of the body, even the stinky feet. We tend to place limitations on parts of the body. We tend to think that participation in the body has to be on our terms, and by that I mean on the terms of those of us who are already here, who already claim the salvation of Jesus, but the truth is that there so many who could contribute so much to the body of Christ but don’t, because we look at them like they are stinky feet. These are people who find community through the internet, through texting, and at coffee shops. These are also people like you and me who refuse community because it doesn’t meet their needs. Community is not meant to meet our needs, community is meant to meet the others needs.

But, the body of Christ is not complete, it only limps along when we are all not present, and I mean present in the relationship sense of the word. I can be present with someone even when I am not physically in the same room with me.

We are transformed by the telling of the story, the telling of the story of God’s creation and blessing, of God coming into our world as one of us to show us the way. We tell this story and we hear this story and it becomes our story. It becomes part of us and we become part of it and it makes us different, it transforms us into the people God intends us to be. And God intends us to be people who love and serve one another. Not only do we tell the story of God’s activity in the lives of God’s people when we gather together in whatever way we gather together, we also need to tell our own stories of God’s activity in our own lives. It is when all of us, all parts of the body, contribute our own stories that the body can be complete.

The challenge to us right now is how we build up the body of Christ in this world without walls, in this world without limits it seems, in this world where community no longer necessarily means the gathered people. How do we show forth God’s love and wholeness in the body of Christ, in a broken and fragmented world? How do we invite people into this web of relationship with one another and with God?

We do it by showing God’s love in the world, by being God’s love in the world. We are God’s face, and what we do and what we say matters to the web, to the body of Christ. Let us be the embodiment of Jesus in this world; let us manifest God’s love in ways that make a difference for the lives of other. Let us make visible God’s justice in every part of our lives, in our work, in our schools, and in all our conversations. And let us invite others into the work that God is blessing here at St. Andrew’s.

The Lord has shown forth his glory: Come let us adore him.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2 Epiphany Yr C

Many of you know that each fall I travel to my seminary in Austin TX, the Seminary of the Southwest, to attend the alumni lectures, and to meet with five of my classmates. The bond we formed while in seminary goes deep and was formed through much conversation, joy, heartache, and food. We ate in one another’s home at kitchen tables, we ate in the seminary refectory, we ate at Trudy’s, and Rudy’s, at the Red River CafĂ©, Kirby Lane, and the Posse. When we graduated, we promised one another we would gather once each year for mutual support and encouragement. Well, that’s the excuse anyway. One of our professors observed and proclaimed, “I’m really not sure what y’all do together, but I do know you eat and drink and have fun!” And somehow in that, Jesus shows up.

At our Epiphany Evensong, we heard Fr. David tell us about the season of Epiphany, the little known and oft forgotten season. During these few weeks sandwiched between the Season of Christmas and Ash Wednesday and Lent, we read gospel stories that show us who Jesus is. That’s what Epiphany means, showing or revealing. Traditionally this story of Jesus changing water into wine at Cana has been called a miracle story, the gospel writer himself writes of signs, Jesus speaks of them as his works. The word sign indicates that its purpose is to show, to be a sign of or toward something beyond itself. Signs speak of why Jesus is significant and why his identity matters to human beings. The gospel writer’s purpose is to evoke a faithful response in us, the readers. When we call this story and the others in John that are like it, miracles, and emphasize that they are deeds which defy the laws of nature, we actually miss the point of the event as it may have been understood by those who originally told the story and heard the story. I think this story is much more about Jesus showing up when people are gathered for mutual support and encouragement, and to have some fun.

The same seminary professor I have already quoted writes in her book on John’s gospel,
Jesus’ glory means something very concrete. Jesus’ glory means that Jesus provides wine when it is needed. Jesus gives an abundance of wine, one hundred and twenty gallons, even if the guests are already inebriated, and Jesus gives an abundance of excellent wine. Wine is wine. At the same time, wine is a symbol of Jesus’ gifts to human beings of joy and life, grace upon grace.
She continues,
The first sign confirms that Jesus is the Word made flesh who provides from creation and engenders life and joy. The confirmation ….. comes from the story of these friends in this village.

-- Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, Conversations With Scripture: The Gospel of John (Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars), p.41-42.
God shows up as people gather and revel in the abundance that God has provided. God’s abundance is not dependent on any one of us; God’s abundance is not lavished on the privileged and withheld from the poor. In fact, as this story shows us, God’s abundance may show forth in odd and unusual places and when least expected. The Lord shows forth his glory.

And yet today I am all too aware of the tragedy that is so apparent around us. War, devastation, earthquake. We are faced with the reality of Haiti. It seems like a place without abundance and only with sadness and tragedy. How does God show up then? Where is God in the midst of the rubble?

Tragedy and devastation no matter where or when it is does not attest to God’s absence. Some may say that tragedy is a result of God’s judgment, but that is not true. We know that disaster and accident are a part of our world, part of human existence. God does not magically remove suffering. God comes into our suffering, God is in our midst. This season of Epiphany is all about God showing this to us. Incarnation is about God showing up. The work that Jesus did and does in his life and on the cross is to walk with us, and to let the suffering of tragedy wreak it’s fury on him, and to take it out of the world with love.

God shows up in you and me and in our prayers and in our help for the people of Haiti. This is about being able to suffer together, and we either suffer together or we suffer apart. Incarnation is about accompanying one another through the suffering we personally feel, or that we feel on behalf of those who seem so far away. And I believe that God suffers with the people of Haiti and with us. I believe that God weeps at the loss of human life, as you and I weep at the loss of human life.

The abundance that God shows is not of riches, nor of the absence of suffering, the abundance that God shows is the abundance of compassion and love. You and I and the people of Haiti are the face of God. If God provides wine when it is needed, then God provides love and compassion when it is needed, and you and I bear that love and compassion into a broken and fragmented world, whether it is lives that are broken, or whether it is buildings that are broken, or whether it is bodies that are broken.

Water that is now wine, bread that is now the body, death that is now life. God shows us in the midst of joy, and in the midst of sorrow, that it is life that has the victory. God shows us that abundance is to be shared. We must provide the water, so that it may be turned into wine. We must provide the prayers that turn into abundance.

Let us pray,

O God, our hearts ache for lives lost
Suddenly
For families’ swallowed
By water and earth
For home and hearth gone
And memories forever changed
In an instant. O God, our eyes look to you
For healing
For comfort
For hope
For direction.
O God, our arms reach out to do all that we can in whatever ways that we can for as long as is needed for neighbors and friends and for those so far away.
Amen.

(Prayer borrowed from St. James on the Parkway, Mpls MN.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

1 Epiphany Yr C Baptism of Our Lord

Remember your baptism! Remember each day who we are, and whose we are, and how beloved we are. Many, if not most of us cannot remember the actual day of our baptism, but whether we can remember our baptismal day or not is less important than whether we can remember that we too are blessed and beloved. We too are blessed and beloved. God has interrupted our lives to show us that we are blessed and beloved.

What if we lived our lives every day believing this truth? We are blessed and beloved. This is our identity. This is what God says about us. We are blessed and beloved; we are marked as Christ’s own forever. We understand that the work Jesus did in his life, love, suffering, death on the cross, and resurrection was to stand by our side, and ultimately take our place, so that death does not wreak its havoc on us, so that death does not have the victory, but that the victory is in new life. If this is so, and I do believe that it is so; our reality points to death and resurrection, then, what God says about Jesus, you are my beloved and with you I am pleased, then it is true about us, you and me, as well.

So baptism shapes us, our baptism matters as Jesus’ baptism matters. We need to live our lives out of this truth, this reality. Our baptism matters. It matters because out of it we may life a moral life. It is our baptism that may guide and direct us as we navigate the turbulent waters of moral decision making. We live in a world where it appears moral decision making is largely absent. You only have to watch the news, which no longer is news but entertainment, to see that. All over our television screens, newspapers, magazines, are stories that cause me to wonder, what were they thinking? The answer probably is, they weren’t.

In a culture where people are tempted by savvy marketers to form identities around consumption and branding, how can the church provide an alternative identity that frees us from being consumed by commodities? Money is a moral issue.

The ubiquitous refrain of "I'm bored" suggests not so much a lack of interesting possibilities as a false notion of what fulfillment looks like; how can the church invite people into the adventure of Christian living? Boredom is a moral issue.

People are not immune to the general sense of anxiety arising from a feeling of political, economic, and global insecurity; how can the church help us learn to fear rightly and live courageously? Fear is a moral issue.

As most of you know, I don’t offer much in the way of absolute certainty; I approach most answers to questions with a certain amount of humility. But in this case, I know the answer to these questions. The answer to these questions lies in taking our baptism seriously. The answer to these questions lies in living as a community of faith in which baptism matters. Our baptism frames and shapes our moral life. The over arching principle of our moral life is, “I will with God’s help.” This Christian life is not something we attempt on our own. It matters too much to try it by ourselves. This Christian life is always with God’s help, and it is always supported and loved by this particular community of faith. Once again we fall into the sin of narcissism when we attempt the moral life on our own. It just doesn’t work, it just can’t work. We see that played out before us over and over again. At the core of who we are, whose we are, and what we know about Jesus, is the body. We look to the body of Christ to bear us when we cannot walk on our own, to pray for us when we can no longer pray for ourselves. Baptism binds us together, baptism makes us accountable to one another. Baptism reminds us that we never enter the water alone; we always use the buddy system. That’s a lesson we all should have learned at summer camp. Our moral life arises out of our life together as the body of Christ.

Secondly the Christian moral life is to continue in the practices, “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?” I find the use of the word practice incredibly liberating. Doctors practice, lawyers practice, we practice this moral life and we are immersed in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. This is what we do, it is not nothing. We read and study scripture, and we read and study what those who have come before us say about scripture. We gather around kitchen tables, and living room tables, and restaurant tables and we exchange ideas, we hash out arguments, we bring up pros and cons, we talk! We learn from one another.

There are two pictures that I hold as models for Christian practice. First is actually the rabbinic practice of Torah study and interpretation. The rabbi’s would gather together to read and discuss scripture, they would raise point after point, apply scripture to this situation and that, they would argue and fight, and then they would agree to disagree, and live their common lives together treating each other with dignity and respect.

Secondly is the practice of communion and common prayer. We come together in the breaking of bread and in the prayers. At our center is Jesus Christ. What we do and what we say forms and frames our practice. We are fed and nourished by a loaf of bread, bread that has been prepared by the loving hands of a man who shares his gift of baking. Bread that is blessed and broken for all of us. Bread whose fragments join us together as a whole, healed and forgiven. Bread in which the main ingredient is wheat, wheat whose seeds have been planted in the dirt, seeds that must die in order to emerge from the ground as a new creation, the plant that gives us our sustenance. We meet, shoulder to shoulder, and share this bread, Jesus, this new creation that makes each of us a new creation. It is in this action that we may find our identity, blessed and beloved.

And together we pray, not just us, but God’s people all over this city, this country, this world. We may not agree on much, but still we pray. Our practice of prayer is our identity. In and through our common prayer, our morning prayer, our noon day prayer, our evening prayer, our spontaneous prayer, our prayer under our breath, we are healed, the fragments of our lives are brought together and made whole, made new. Our moral life arises out of our practice of study and prayer.

Resisting, Repenting, Returning, “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” Missing the mark is part of who we are as human beings; turning back toward God is our identity as blessed and beloved of God. Baptism does not make us perfect, but the grace of baptism does woo us back, it helps us and causes us to turn our eyes back toward God even when we’ve blown it so badly we can’t imagine God ever taking us back. There is nothing we can do that separates us from God’s abundant and amazing grace. Our moral life arises out of forgiveness.

Embodying the Good News, “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” You hold the light. You are filled with the love of Christ. You are blessed and beloved. You are equipped and prepared by your baptism to go out into the world and proclaim by word and example God’s abundant and amazing love, God’s forgiveness and healing. Our moral life arises out of this embodiment of Jesus. It is at the core of respect and dignity for every human being.

Remember your baptism! Remember that you are blessed and beloved. Remember your identity. For those of us who have forgotten, I invite you to exercise your baptismal commitment by renewing your spiritual journey and moral development by participating in one of the many opportunities you have here at St. Andrew’s. Bible study, Education for Ministry, Sunday morning education, Wednesday @ St. Andrew’s, Barely Organized at Bully Blends, serving at Cornerstone Mission, preparing a meal for United Campus Ministry. Or maybe you have an idea for something that you would like to invite others to do with you.

Remember your baptism!
Remember your identity.
Remember that you are blessed and beloved.

The Lord has shown forth his glory: Come let us adore him.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Feast of the Epiphany

The Lord has shown forth his glory: Come let us adore him.
These wise men came all the way from the East to the tiny town of Jerusalem to find the child who has been born King of the Jews. I wonder why these three who seem to be wealthy, they bring very costly gifts, and important, they get an audience with Herod with no trouble, journey all that way to see this child, who they call King of the Jews. Could the stars in the sky point to something so important and so powerful that these three risk the time, the danger, and the cost to make this journey? They knew nothing of the Prophet Isaiah, they knew nothing of this at all, and yet they come. Once they reached their destination, they were "overwhelmed by joy," and then, whatever drew them far from home sent them back again. So why does Matthew tell us this story? I think because Matthew wants us to hear about the Good News of God's universal and all-encompassing grace. A grace that extends to the farthest reaches of the world, that extends to all people, Jew and non-Jew, that extends to rich, like these Kings, and poor, like the folks that gathered that day the baby was born, the shepherds and Mary and Joseph.

What is happening here is what Mary sang about after the angel visited her. This child who is born in a barn and who is king, is the one who turns the world. From the halls of power to the fortress tower, not a stone will be left on stone. Let the king beware for your justice tears every tyrant from his throne. The hungry poor shall weep no more, for the food they can never earn; There are tables spread, every mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn. These wise men cannot remain at home, they must attend this newborn king. They must observe for themselves this mystery, and in doing so they are changed and they must return home by another way.

A great light has dawned, a light that draws all people and calls us to live our lives illuminated by its truth. That's what Epiphany and the Epiphany season is about. This new light shines on a new age, the age inaugurated by the life, death, and resurrection of this child, this man, this king, Jesus. You and I bear this light, we are like the wise men, we are from a far away land, and God’s universal and all-encompassing grace surrounds us too. We are not excluded, no one is excluded. We witness the light and we, like them must bear the light home, and to our workplaces and our playplaces.

The myrrh’s the thing. We can bear this light because of the myrrh. Remembering that myrrh is an embalming spice, and missing from Isaiah, Matthew’s inclusion of myrrh as one of the gifts the wise men bring points us in the direction of the depth and breadth of God’s intent with Jesus. The Jewish Messiah was expected to come in glory in honor, as a king of all kings, but instead is Jesus, the one who is born in a barn who comes to bring justice, and who is to die to do it. Matthew points us to this reality, and in so doing provides us with the light bearing tools. Jesus isn’t just a baby, whose birthday we celebrate each year. Jesus is the one who inaugurates the new heavens and the new earth, and that means we are living right now in this interstitial time. The in-between time. The time after the beginning and before the end, the alpha and the omega. This is a time when the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overtake it, because of the work Jesus has done on the cross, and is doing in our lives.

We witness to the light, like the wise men before us. We are the proclaimers of God’s universal and all encompassing grace, we receive and bear the abundant and amazing love that God has for all people. You, and me, like the wise men. This journey takes us home by another way.

Our lives are changed by incarnation, our lives our changed by this Light coming into the world, We will spend our lives saying yes to the new creation God intends for us, or we will spend our lives saying no to who God calls us to be. Saying yes is dangerous, as the wise men learned, as we learn, saying yes to God is to enter a relationship that brings us outside of ourselves and causes us to confront our fears and our prejudices, saying yes to God moves us from narcissism to selflessness. Saying no to God means that we can be secure in the way things are, we can live a life untouched by injustice, untouched by prejudice, untouched by the pursuit of greed.

So, what does it look like to bring our own gifts to this Child, God’s gift to us. And what does it look like to go home by another way? What does it look like to live a life of incarnation, what does it look like to carry the light into a world of darkness? On this route home we are called to be Light bearers. We are called to be Love bearers. We are called to bring God’s Love to dark corners, to mountaintops, to raging waters. We are called to bring God’s Love to a fragmented society, to a culture that is pulled apart by greed and by conspicuous consumption. We are called to bring God’s Love to a culture that values contingency and impermanence over commitment, fidelity and covenant.

God’s Love, God’s Power, is the most powerful integrating force in creation. God’s Love moves us from brokenness, from fragmentation, to wholeness, to healing. You and I bear the scars of that brokenness, we bear the scars that fragments cut us with, and we bear the healing Love of God. It is that Love, that Light that we carry into the world. Our work is out there, and it is about bringing the Light into the world.

How do you bring God’s Love and God’s Light into the world, how do you bring God’s wholeness into your work or your school? It is our call, to bring God’s transforming love to those who have not yet seen or felt or known that love. Be the light-bearer, just like those wise ones of so long ago, and you will go home by another way.

Those magic men the Magi
Some people call them wise
Or Oriental, even kings
Well anyway, those guys.
They visited with Jesus
They sure enjoyed their stay
Then warned in a dream of King Herod's scheme
They went home by another way. *

The Lord has shown forth his glory: Come let us adore him.

*James Taylor, Home By Another Way