St. Mark's United Church

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Sermon for April 2 2017 “If Only You had Been There

Sermon for April 2, 2017 Lent 5 “If you had been There”
The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. …
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, .
I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act, says the LORD.’
The Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus is a long one and most of the story is setting the stage. In essence John, instead of saying ‘you had to be there’ offers the background so that we can in fact almost be there. We have a glimpse into the special relationship between Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus. We have a sense that apart from the family this time was shared by the community. We hear the anguish of Martha who met Jesus on the road and said ‘if only you had been here’ and the silence of the disciples who knew that Jesus lingered for two days before deciding to come to Bethany.
In the commentary on this text, Veronice Miles states: “the fifth Sunday of lent invites us to consider the possibility of resurrection in the lives of the many persons and communities who deeply need God’s presence in the newness of our existence. One of the greatest hindrance to imagining possibilities is perceptual distortion. Obstacles appear larger and more ominous than they are, keeping us preoccupied with trying to avoid danger rather than discerning alternatives.”
As we journey in Lent and on to Holy Week we do so our minds is at least two streams of thought. Unlike the disciples, we know what happens. And even still we try to experience the events as if for the first time. And we cannot help but know the resurrection happens. It is an interesting mind twist for the journey and is critical to the destination.
Jesus knew the plan of God for Lazarus and all those gathered there that day. In real time everyone in the story was living it for the first time and when Lazarus stepped out of the tomb it had to have sent shock waves to the hearts and minds of Mary, Martha and those gathered.
In our day we get fixated on the dry bones and the death of Lazarus. We cannot see into the possibility and wonder of God and Jesus. We cannot see past our fear and we are challenged to hear the word of God. The word that is life giving: Prophesy to these bones and say to them hear the word of the Lord, and Jesus says: Lazarus come out.
And I prophesied as God commanded me, and the breath came into them and they lived. And Lazarus came out and Jesus said: take off his bindings.
The word of God comes to us this day from the four winds, there is no escaping the breath of God, it will enter us and we will see possibility where before there was only barrenness. We will be a people of Spirit where before we could only imagine bygone days. The bindings will be removed and we will live like never before, see like never before. And all of this happens so that we will know in the deepest place of our knowing, know the Glory of God.

Sermon for March 26, 2017

Sermon for March 26, 2017 Lent 4 “To Truly have Sight”
Even for those who see perfectly well the words to the favourite hymn Amazing Grace ring true: “I once was blind but now I see”. Helen Keller has a beautiful, insightful and pointed quote about sight: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Today we are about celebrating what God and Jesus can accomplish through us when we have the courage to see the mission and be engaged in its completion.
A week or so ago, Kathy and I went to see the movie “The Shack” I will recommend it to you. In the book and movie there is a scene where Mack is rowing a boat and Jesus comes to him and invites him to walk with him. Mack is tentative but with some encouragement steps out of the boat. On the way home Mack starts to walk expecting to not sink until he finds himself up to his knees in water. He turns to Jesus with a quizzical look and Jesus responds; “did you think you could do that without me?”
Here at St. Mark’s we have a vision that is carved with very human minds, hands and hearts. Along the way we hold that vision up to Jesus and ask; is this what you are calling us to do and be? I believe that Jesus has blessed the vision and only asks that we not exclude him from the journey. In essence we need Jesus to be successful. Jesus is not calling us or asking us to be religious but to be faithful and to be friends of Jesus. Like Mack in the movie, we sink when we let go of Jesus.
In the Gospel story we encounter a man born blind. As the story unfolds Jesus dispels several long held beliefs. The disciples ask: what sin did this man commit to be born blind? Jesus answers: all who are born are sinless and perfect in the eyes of God. No longer can the disciples nor we hold on to the view that we or our parents sinned if a child is born blind or any other way for that matter. Jesus also reminds us that we are all born with a divine purpose. For this man, that the glory of God would be revealed at this precise moment. For the blind man who can now see, a whole new set of possibilities are open for him.
I do not wish to suggest that we are blind or blinded all the time, but there are times when our eyes are open and we see in new ways and we can discern paths and patterns that to that point we could not see. And once we do see the new path, we cannot un-see it. We can ignore it, yes, and maybe to our detriment but we cannot un-see. The wonderful thing about a relationship with Jesus is that he is always putting us in the right spot to see what was not see-able before. And then saying ‘come on, this is going to be fun”.
But I do not want to see, or I am too busy is the 21st century lament. I’m not sure how to live my faith when there are so many demands on my time. I’m not sure how I can support my church when there are so many demands on my resources. There will always be demands, what matters to Jesus is that we are engaged and supporting anyway. Be faithful anyway. Do it because we know that God’s crazy and powerful love for us calls us to have the same crazy and powerful love for God’s world. Every now and again we meet giants of faith. For the most part their lives are insanely busy and yet there they are, seeing with newness, following with reckless abandon and supporting with all they have.
Jesus calls all of us to follow. To some he says “walk with me in leadership”. To all he says: ‘I love you and will not leave you’. We celebrate our commitment today because we, all of us have or will see past our self-imposed limiting factors, and see with the clarity of mud drenched eyes into the very possibility of Jesus. Jesus says: Follow me, this is going to be fun!

Sermon for March 5, 2017 Lent 1

Sermon for March 5, 2017 Lent 1 “Temptation: Not for the Faint of Heart”
Elusive, persuasive, crafty and not easy to pin down are the traits of temptation. Like images in the fog, as soon as we think we see clearly everything shifts and changes. Like eddies in the harbour, no sooner do we see them than they shift and look different. And so goes our historically long lament with temptation and our personal journey with temptation.
In the Genesis and Gospel text there is the original version of fake news. In Genesis the serpent offers a different perspective on what God has said. The serpent is not entirely untrue for in most fake news there is a small portion that is based in reality. And so the serpent says ‘oh surely you will not die, don’t be silly, you will only know the difference between good from evil, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God’ now don’t you want to be like God? And they ate.
In the Gospel, Jesus is preparing himself in the desert for the work and ministry that lay before him. After 40 days of fasting the devil came to him and presented fake facts to tempt him. Oh they sounded real enough, even enticing enough. Even in a challenged state Jesus had his heart and mind so on God that he could see through the fake offers, resist, be ministered to by the angels and begin ministry.
The challenge of temptation is that it is most acute when we are least able to resist. Perhaps you’ve noticed that the resolve to manage weight is greatest after a big meal and least when we are hungry and shopping. That we dream of serving our neighbour greatest when we are far away, that supporting your church is great on Mon but after a week of shopping not so much so on Sunday. Temptation is tough to resist, if it were not so it would be called something else.
For a long time we (and it is a general we) have lived with the idea that someone else will do it, when it is crunch time I will step up and support the church, I don’t need to offer; someone will ask and so it goes. We give into that temptation and untold blessings remain hidden. It is easy to stay on the sidelines and watch and critique. It something beautiful to step into the arena of life and live as is life matters.
In Jesus the pattern of hiding from God is broken, smashed to bits and a new pattern of living in the light of God’s love is demonstrated. Repeatedly in scripture Jesus reaches out to the ones on the edge, either by circumstances or by society, and brings them to life. In our day Jesus reaches into our temptation burdened life and sets us free. We now have the space to live into that freedom, to share with others so they may be guided on the path of wholehearted generous living.
When we emerge from our temptation induced coma’s I wonder what excitement and joy there will be. What opportunities will arise and what paths that have been closed due to lack of interest or resources will open before us. This is our time, no longer will we be held back by scarcity and the tempting idea that someone else will do it. All that has happened has led us to this point in time. Jesus invites us to soar, to live large and to minister unafraid.
In every Baptism there is a question for the gathered congregation and I would like to end today with this same question: We do this remembering that no family is in isolation, that the church is an interwoven design of many human relationships. That we are called to live life together. Keeping this in mind, let us also remember that it is our responsibility and duty to support these families with constant love, wholesome example, Christian teaching and faithful prayer. Are you willing to share in so great a responsibility?
Are you willing?

Sermon for February 12, 2017 6th of Epiphany

Sermon for February 12, 2017 6th of Epiphany “An Uneasy Gospel”
The Gospel text has something for everyone to squirm about. We can all be uneasy together. And we can all be pleased that Jesus is about forgiveness, new beginnings and love on our journey to the kingdom.
Perhaps the opening verses of Deuteronomy sets the stage for the human story and their God. “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, walking in God’s ways, and observing the commandments, decrees and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.”
God has always been interested in relationships. One relationship, I suggest has involved humans and our slow journey to be grown up. In the first days the relationship was about beauty and harmony, sharing and balance and a deep knowing of God. The curiosity of humans altered that relationship. We were given the book of laws and commandments to guide our relationship with God and each other. These laws governed all aspects of life together, from farming to commerce, from children to elders, from marriage to neighbours, from temple to God. It was not always easy for humans to follow all the rules and over time the wealthy and those in power used them to oppress the poor, and well just about anyone they could. Unfortunately not even the church was free from corruption. The people had wandered far from what God intended.
Do you remember when you were very small, and the world was still strange and new? Do you remember when you were still figuring out what was true, even if it did not make sense, and how things that made perfect sense to you were simply not true?
In most of our lives, there have been moments of enlightenment, when something we had always believed to be true turned out to not be true at all. In fact, it often turned out to be the farthest thing from the truth. Or it turned out to be something completely silly. Your parents’ names are not Mom and Dad. Your grandma is actually your mother’s mom. When cows lay down, it is not a sign of impending rain. If you swallow a piece of chewing gum, it does not stay in your stomach for seven years.

Many of us heard things like this, and we thought they were true. We thought heaven was up in the sky, and if we went far enough in an airplane, we’d see it. We thought that if we could obey every rule, and be very good, that nothing bad would ever happen to anyone. We thought that if we were naughty, God would not love us. Some of us even thought that if we were naughty, no one would love us. As we learn and grow, we often learn that what we once thought to be true is no longer believable, or more complicated than we thought.

In the teachings of Jesus we discover a new way of understanding our relationship with God. Not so much through rules and laws but by love. And by time a very hard love. One of the teachings is: love one another, not just those who will love you back but even your enemy. That challenges us to take a long hard look at ourselves to see where our lack of love lies.
The Gospel text reminds us to be cautious of anger toward others, to nurture our relationships (especially our closest relationships) and the taking or oaths. In context of the first century the Gospel makes profound good sense. Conflict was kept at the lowest level where solutions could be arrived at where the esteem of all remained intact. In marriage the rights of women were upheld in a time when they had none. And a reminder that your oath to God was greater than any other oath. And all of them subject to the justice of God.
In the 21st century the Gospel still carries a potent message. Our words and actions still matter and we are cautioned to think carefully before we speak. In Canada we strive toward equality for all. We have work to do and there are still glaring gaps. Our concept of marriage has changed dramatically and we are not so rigid in our thinking. Or we have grown up a wee bit and understand the wonderful diversity of loving relationships. It still does not give us permission to point fingers and discredit those for whom marriage did not work as intended.
Dorothy Day (who founded the Catholic works movement) would tell the workers: “if each of us could just remember that we are all created in the image of God, then we would naturally want to love more”. As we gather here in this holy place we are reminded that in God’s realm there are no outsiders, everyone, each gift, each offering is received with gratitude.
In spite of all our real and perceived faults and errors, at the end of this day and every day, Jesus stands with us and says: “Go now and be reconciled”. And then the hard work of an uneasy Gospel begins. Amen

Sermon for February 5, 2017 5th of Epiphany

Sermon for February 5, 2017 5th of Epiphany “Our Life, Our Worship”
“Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet!”
It seems the all-encompassing water cooler conversation has been the USA election and the past two weeks of a new presidency. I had conversation with colleagues about what to say in church or more specifically from the pulpit. Quebec notwithstanding, our context and in recent days the global context is all about executive orders. It is my opinion that not one of the orders is fitting of the president for the good of the people and not within the framework of Christianity (to which the president subscribes).
It almost seems that Isaiah is peeking into the scene through his words in chapter 58. There is mention of needing to seek God, yet there is no seeking. There is fasting and humbling oneself but only seek self-serving interests and lash out at others with a wicked fist. And then you call this acceptable to God. Isaiah says he will not take or speak to God of these false actions.
Isaiah continues with a series of questions that challenge the status quo about the current relationship with God. Your actions should: loose the bonds of justice, to let the oppressed go free, to share bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless to your home, clothe the naked. Then your light will shine. The same words can be spoken to the President of the USA who swore on a Bible to do his job diligently. And yet his orders are oppressive, they leave the hungry to starve, they slam the door on the homeless and leave stranded in foreign countries those American citizens he deems unworthy. This is not letting a light shine for all to see. This is protecting the wealthy few at the cost of many.
The later part of Isaiah starts with a gigantic if for the elite of Israel. I am sure that we can update the date and heed the same wisdom in 2017.
“If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”
The Gospel, which is the narrative following the Beatitudes is directed at us. You are the salt and light, on whom I depend. In the midst of call to be about the ministry of Jesus, there is a caution. If you lose perspective of the mandate of Jesus, to do justice, reach out to the downtrodden, feeding the hungry, and replace them with your own agenda. Then you lose your saltiness and light and not of much use.
Alongside religious leaders from all faith groups and denominations I will speak up for justice. I stand with those who believe that the executive orders are oppressive and contrary to the will of God. I will not be silent, for myself, the silenced or for the Gospel. We need to be jolted from the proverbial “watching the train wreck and not wanting to watch it, as we stand frozen in place”. It the Christian imperative to speak out boldly for those who cannot speak and act justly. It is the imperative of all faith groups to speak boldly for those who cannot speak and act with justice.
For the last two weeks we have heard the Gospel message of Jesus asking: Follow. In our day we know the path is challenging and fraught with danger, which means it is even more important to follow.
Jesus believes that you are a light to the nations and that you have zeal and saltiness yet. Do you believe?

sermon for January 29, 2017 Fourth of Epiphany

Sermon for January 29, 2017 4th of Epiphany “God Requires?”
It was a glorious time. The pews were full with standing room only. The children and youth programs were at an all-time high. The finance committee was all smiles as they reported surplus in revenue year after year. The whispered chatter of a new and bigger building became a roar of insistence. The people know they could do it. It was a glorious time.
Nostalgia would take you to the 60’s and 70’s and they were a marvelous time for the church. But I am referring to a time about 700 years before Jesus. To the angst of Micah who knew in his heart that something was wrong, very wrong. The people had become so self-absorbed in their success that they only gave God lip service. Instead of: see and appreciate the generosity and bounty of God, it became see how good I and we can do this wonderful thing.
Micah calls the leaders and people to task for forgetting about God. And they respond, are you kidding, look how successful we are, how could we be more faithful, do you want more sacrifices, more vats of oil and bushels of wheat? Tell us, how could we be more religious. If it is more money then we will provide it, more time then it is yours, if it is more perfect liturgy then the priests will do better. Look at all the good we do. Where do you get off telling us that we are not doing good? Tell us then, what does the Lord require of us?
Micah does not have to think very long or hard for the answer. You say that perfect worship, extravagant sacrifices, a multitude of programs and giving from excess is what makes you religious. But I tell you, what the Lord requires is that you seek justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. Micah points out that it is not our stuff that God needs but our heart, our care and our love for others. That is a hard thing for the people to hear and they made certain that Micah knew it. Like many prophets he lived on the edge of exile.
The Jesus movement that John the Baptist started was just gaining traction in the region of Galilee. In the midst of a corrupt government, pluralist view of gods, huge separation between rich and poor, leaders who created their own truths and John in prison. Jesus speaks at his first news conference. As a pep rally to garner support and followers it sounded like a dismal failure. Blessed and happy are you: poor, mourning, meek, hungry, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers for you will be happy. Oh and for good measure: blessed and happy are you who are persecuted on account of me, rejoice and be glad.
For a people yearning to overthrow a corrupt government, a people looking for a better lot in life this was not encouraging. But instead of running away, instead of boo’s and hiss’ the people listened. Something in the words, the way they were spoken, who delivered them, lit a flame of wonder in their hearts and they followed. In this first speech or news conference there was no mention of sacrifice, purity laws, pure worship liturgy or any of the stuff of the temple. It was an entirely new thing, it was a tipping of the status quo and the ushering in of a life changing message.
The message is no less potent in our day. Jesus calls us one at a time to follow. To follow a way of peace, meekness, spirit and pureness of heart. It is not easy, it never was, but on this day Jesus is interested in your heart, body, mind and spirit. It is an invitation to a transformative and transforming way of living, acting, understanding and being.
You have heard the call, listened to the pep rally now it is time to answer.

Sermon for January 22, 2017 Third of Epiphany

Sermon for January 22, 2017 3rd of Epiphany “Come With Me”
Matthew’s account of the calling of the disciples is very different than John’s. Last week in the Gospel reading showed us that John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and said there is the one who will redeem the world and some of John’s followers left and followed Jesus.
For Matthew the story is a bit different. I think it adds to the richness and mystery of scripture that the story of the same event can be told different ways. John the Baptist is in prison, Jesus goes to lament this circumstance for his cousin and after that begins his teaching. His first act is to call Simon and Andrew, James and John. He simply says: “come with me”.
I was sitting in a coffee shop waiting for some friends and picked up a copy of the District. There was an article titled “Download an Updated Version of Yourself” by Dana Lloyd. Toward the end she notes that January is named after the Latin word (ianua) meaning door, doorway or gateway. And I pondered how that might mingle with following Jesus. I also discovered that January is also named after the Roman god Janus, who is the god of gates and doorways and is depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. In this instance Jesus holds open the door and invites us to come and see.
When the first disciples heeded the call of Jesus to ‘come and see’, their lives were completely changed, forever. Once they stepped over the threshold of the doorway all that was their past was just that…the past. It is not that the past disappeared but with each step forward there was newness and adventure and challenges in faith. Eventually there were a dozen or so and as they stepped into this new future they were amazed, scared, perplexed, confused and ultimately deeply committed.
I say first disciples because Jesus is still asking the question: ‘come and see’. Each one of us here has heard the call and are in varying stages of living out that call. It is ok to be amazed and scared, perplexed and confused. It is ok to wonder about the what if’s. But I would suggest that if these feelings cause you to be stuck in one spot, to be silent or to speak or act without love, then Jesus has some teaching for us.
For me one of the teachings this week is about love. On Friday Donald Trump became the President of the USA. Personally I am not convinced he has the capacity to lead and I am dismayed at some of his choices for top leaders. The Rt. Rev. Jordan Cantwell (Moderator of the UCC) reminded the church and the nation of one of Jesus’ most profound teachings. Love one another, not just those who love you back but those who you determine are unlovable. How do we love Donald Trump and resist with compassion those policies he can now make? It is a January moment, a doorway moment and we can choose to go through with anger or love. Jesus gentle teaching is to through with love.
The first disciples did not know what was around each corner, we do not know either. We do know that at each moment Jesus requires us to act differently, to act with love and compassion. When the challenge to not look back confronts us, it is to our prejudices, our hatred, our biases, our ideas, all things that would prevent us from acting from a place of love. It is hard work, it is being aware all the time and walking with Jesus is the best adventure you will ever experience.
Jesus asked Peter and Andrew to ‘follow me, come and see’ and we hear that ‘at once they left their nets and went with Jesus’.
Jesus asks you and me to follow, to come and see, to come through the doorway. Our renewed response is?

Sermon for January 15, 2017 Epiphany 2

Sermon for January 15, 2017 2nd of Epiphany “A Greater Task for You”

WWJD is an acronym that most of us are familiar with. What would Jesus do? It was a Christian fad sort of thing a decade or so ago. If we dig around a bit in “that drawer” many of us would find a bracelet or button or pin with WWJD on it.
I was reading this week and came across a story about WWJD from a youth’s perspective. The dilemma was that since she knew herself to be fully human, how could she begin to know the mind of the divine Jesus, let alone know what he would do.
The reading from John 1 is about John the Baptist and Jesus and the fact that John knew exactly who he was and what he was about. He was the one who pointed to Jesus and said “There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one whom I said was coming”. Perhaps our role is not to be Jesus but to be ones who point to Jesus and say ‘there, in Jesus, is love and forgiveness and life abundant’.

So let’s start “in the beginning”. The first image in the Bible reveals a creative, compassionate God: “God’s Spirit hovered over the water” (Genesis 1:2). The word “hovered” is the same word used to describe a brood hen, lovingly watching over her young, warming the eggs and protecting the hatchlings. The Bible begins with clear hints of growth, development, and evolution. God is a dynamic creator, a verb more than a noun.
Looking at Creation in progress, “God saw that it was good” five times and “found it very good” after the sixth day (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). We all need to know that this wonderful thing called life is going somewhere and somewhere good. It is going someplace good because it came from goodness—a beginning of “original blessing” instead of “original sin.” Matthew Fox illustrated this rather well in his groundbreaking book, Original Blessing.
For some reason, most Christian theology seems to start with Genesis 3—which features Adam and Eve—what Augustine would centuries later call “original sin.” When you start with the negative or with a problem, it’s not surprising that you end with Armageddon and Apocalypse. When you start with a punitive, critical, exclusionary God, it’s not surprising that you see the crucifixion as “substitutionary atonement” where Jesus takes the punishment that this angry God intended for us.
That is not what most Christians believe. And this is not something the loving Jesus would do. Why did Jesus come? Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. It didn’t need changing. God has organically, inherently loved what God created from the moment God created it. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God.
As our image of God changes, our image of God’s creation, including ourselves, changes as well. Jesus shows us what it looks like for God to be incarnate in humanity. He holds together the human and the divine so that we might follow him and do the same. The full, vibrant life that Jesus offers is big enough to include even its opposite: death.
Teresa of Avila, a 16th century mystic wrote a letter to her order and in part it said:
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world; yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which he is to bless people now.”
No we cannot be Jesus or John the Baptist. But we can point the way and more importantly we can live a life in a way that honours a God and Jesus who have always and will always love us. We can live our life as if it is a verb, going someplace. And with the loving God of Creation, the Spirit the breaths life and Jesus who lovingly nudges us, we can know that each day and our destination will be good, very good.

Sermon for Jan 8, 2017 Epiphany

Sermon for January 8, 2017 Epiphany “Star of Wonder”
It would be nice if we could say it was an honest mistake. It might let them off the hook. And maybe us too.

But it’s a mistake we have made for too long. And that we make too often.

It’s a mistake that usually has tragic consequences. And we haven’t learned from them yet.

Why did the magi go to Herod, to find God’s newborn king? The magi were wise, but sadly not wise enough yet to really know and embrace the way of God in the world. And because of it, they very nearly ruined everything (to quote Bruce Cockburn from “Cry of a Tiny Baby”)

…. and then what? Maybe something about the magi as peak of human evolution so far — smart, rational, far-seeing, scientific … just like us still and even now … in control, powerful, master of the food chain and lord of the jungle … but still lacking that one more essential step, that one more necessary transformation in order to become fully human as God intends, fully and gloriously human in the image of God — the one essential step down from power to vulnerability, from control to service, from relationship-against and relationship-over to relationship-with and relationship-for. One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown suggests, and powerfully so, that until we embrace and live into our vulnerability, we will continue to separate ourselves with power, gender or war.
And yet how could the Magi not go to Herod. They were not like the rest of the travelers in Bethlehem. Word in that small community would have spread fast and to Herod’s ears that three men on majestic camels, dressed in glorious clothes were in town. I wonder if they sought out Herod or did Herod have them brought to him? We will never know. But they did see Herod.

God has tried to lead us here … in so many ways all through the biblical story… and still we resist, suffer the consequences … most often make others suffer the consequences even more than ourselves. We are reluctant to acknowledge that greatness can be found in weakness, that power can be found in alleys and meekness, that God can be found in a stable out back.

I blame Herod, not God, for the massacre. I blame the magi for not knowing better than to look for God’s way in an imperial court rather than a stable and a humble house and among the poor. But that was then and this is now and maybe just maybe we have learned a thing or two from Jesus.

Maybe the real message of the magi in the story – is that it is never too late to learn — like Ebenezer Scrooge in The Christmas Carol, once the magi actually see Jesus in all his vulnerability, poverty and powerlessness, and pay their homage to him, they are changed … they awake from the nightmare of power with a dream of a different way of being … and they don’t go back to Herod … they go home another way …
And maybe we too can hear the angel voice and realize that power, lasting power is not in Ottawa or Trump towers or even Washington, but in the forgotten places, minds and hearts, where God can be revealed and lives transformed. That is the wonder and aha-ness of Epiphany.

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