Saturday, January 5, 2019

Feast of the Epiphany Yr C Jan 6 2019

Audio  Feast of the Epiphany Yr C Jan 6 2019 Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12, Psalm 72:1-7,10-14

Every good fairy tale begins with once upon a time. As the tale progresses we hear of princesses, princes, witches, fairy god-mothers, good and evil, and happily ever afters. But sometimes people mistake God's story for a fairy tale. For them God is a magician who will swoop down and rescue them from bad decisions. Or God is someone with whom a bargain can be made. God, if you get me out of this mess, then I will go to church every Sunday. This would be the transactional God. And there's the God of certainty, just like in the fairy tale, good and evil are very clear, you can tell them apart by the color they wear. And, as long as the rules are followed, as long as the other remains the other, as long as good and evil are kept separate, we will live happily ever after and all our wishes will come true.

But that’s not really the way our lives take shape. We discover that our journey is not necessarily one of happily ever after, but of joy and pain and suffering. Our stories are stories of showing up, of love, and second chances; they are fraught with tragedy and deception, broken promises and wishes come true, good that looks like evil and evil that looks like good.

Now, I love a good fairy tale, a science fiction story even better; stories that may teach us truths, and show us the precariousness of life, but the Jesus story is not a fairy tale, it is not science fiction, it is the truth. It is the Divine Love Story, in which the God of all creation shows up in human history, Emmanuel, God is with us. We are in the midst of incarnation, the baby born in a barn, born to change the world, born to bring new life, new light, new hope. The world is about to turn. And today we are invited to travel with the magi, we are invited to this journey with Jesus, with all it's twists and turns, with all it's chaos and messiness, in danger and in light.

These magi, who show up for this birth, are present so that we may see the significance of this baby, this birth. These magi show us that there will be some time when political tyrants will be overthrown. These magi show us that brutal power exercised to control the weak and the vulnerable will be toppled. And these magi show us that those in power need be afraid, because the one who is to overthrow them is here.

The story we have before us today, this story of the wise ones from the east who follow the Light to the child born in a barn, helps us to see the cosmic importance of this birth. This birth happened in a particular place at a particular time in the context of a particular tribe, but the arrival of these wise ones from the east shows us that it wasn't just for a particular people at a particular time in a particular tribe. Matthew's intent in telling this story is to show us that this birth changes the world, the wise ones from the east know that, and they know the importance of keeping the birth from Herod, so they go home by another way.

God seems to do whatever it takes to reach out to and embrace all people. God announces the birth of the Messiah to shepherds through angels on Christmas, to Magi via a star on Epiphany, and to the political and religious authorities of God’s own people through visitors from the East. From a manger, where a child lies wrapped in bands of cloth, God’s reach, God’s embrace in Jesus, gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Jesus eats with outcasts and sinners. Jesus touches people who are sick and people who live with pain and suffering. Jesus even calls the dead back to life. Ultimately, Jesus draws all people to himself as he is lifted up on the cross. In Jesus, no one is beyond God’s embrace.

And, maybe these magi are like characters in a fairy tale, or a science fiction story. Maybe they are like the tin man, the scarecrow, and the lion. Maybe all of them show us that incarnation, God showing up in our lives, calls us to respond to life's circumstances, the sadness and tragedy that we encounter, with the same kind of love that God has for us, God's beloved. Incarnation, God showing up, calls us to show up for others, not because we have something they do not, like power and prestige, or all the right answers, but because we are just like them, broken and flawed, hungry and tired. God, born in a barn, vulnerable and cold, calls us to show up for others because we are all alike, in need of the assurance of the absolute and abundant love that is only God's. With the magi, we carry that love into the world, not because of who we are or what we possess, but because we are loved.

Perhaps our journey is not so different from that of the magi, with their turns sometimes into safety, sometimes into precarious territory. Sometimes we may be needing to ask for directions, sometimes divine guidance may be so obvious that we could not miss our destination. Sometimes we may be looking for those with whom to travel, those who are like us, broken and lost, needing family and friends to help us find the way.

If ever in our lives our long journeys do lead us precisely to the place we have been seeking, to the place where we see Jesus, may we like them also rejoice, becoming overwhelmed with our joy.  But always on the way, may we show forth the love that wins, may we give freely in response to that love. May we follow Jesus and show up to feed one another, to love on another.

Sometimes we go into the world and are overwhelmed by the fear, and the dark. Sometimes we read our newspapers and become overwhelmed by the brutality of our neighbors, the fear of our nations. Sometimes we get overwhelmed and exasperated by the huge need of so many in in our community, our city, our nation, our world. And in those dark places we wish it were different. But wishing only works in fairy tales. As we respond, as we with the magi go home by the way of love, and compassion, and mercy, we with God are capable of changing the world. That's what incarnation is. Showing up, walking the way, and bringing with us all that we are, all that we have, not because we have more or better, but because we are loved. Love changes us; together, we change the world.

I want to finish with a story told by a young man who is working driving people from one medical facility to another. One day he had a patient who was being transported to a mental illness lockup. The young man recognized that this patient had served his country, and listened to his patient’s story about the caseworkers who didn’t help him, the troubles he had getting treatment at the VA, about the ways his mind played tricks on him and made him not be able to trust people. The patient said that he’s tried to kill himself so many times, in so many ways and it hasn’t worked and he didn’t know why.

This young man has a tattoo of a semicolon. As they talked the young man told him that he got it for him. Because he didn’t want this veteran to be a statistic of veteran suicide. The patient took one look at it and told the young man that he loves a semicolon because there was some song about how there's always more to see after a semicolon and people's lives are like that; that every time you encounter someone, there's always going to be something more to see. This patient said that every time you look for that something more that you come away changed.

When they dropped their patient off at the destination hospital, they shook hands. The young man told him to take care of himself. To keep pushing and get to the place where he needs to be. The patient thanked the young man, and said that after the ambulance ride, he was feeling some real hope again. He told that young man that we both were going away changed that night.

This is incarnation, this is what showing up looks like. Christ shows up as the least, the last, and the lost. And we are changed by these encounters of incarnation. Our call is to respond to the God who shows up in our lives and in our community of faith with dignity, respect, and love.

Where do you meet Jesus? How do you respond? How are you changed?

No comments:

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost Yr A Proper 9 July 5 2020 Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67, Psalm 45: 11-18, Romans 7:15-25a, Matthew 11:1...