January 4, 2013

By Another Road

Filed under: Lectionary,Social Gospel,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 12:51 pm

Hidden God, whose wisdom compels our love and unsettles all our values:  fill us with desire to search for her truth, that, becoming fools for her sake, we may transform the world, through Jesus Christ, your word and wisdom made flesh, to whom be glory for ever.1 Amen

I find myself incredibly frustrated by the lack of detail in the Gospel reading for the Epiphany. Who are these people? They are simply “wise men.” They come from somewhere vaguely “east” of Jerusalem. Did they even know what they were looking for when they each set out? Or did they just have a gut feeling that compelled them to seek something?

There’s a saying in congregational development, “Most Seekers don’t know that they are seeking.” Was it like that for the wise men? Were they, like many of us, on a spiritual journey, moving from a vague “somewhere else,” across unpredictable and unfamiliar terrain, looking for an unnamable something? And are we, like them, overwhelmed with joy when we see that the star we are following has stopped?

Eugene Peterson describes this moment of conversion as “both as simple and significant as stopping, doing an about-face, and walking (or running) down the Road of Life.” He continues, “Following Jesus is the “Yes” that follows the turnaround of conversion.”2

Each of us, through our own conversion story, knows that after they had paid their homage and presented their gifts, these wise men did not go home by another road because they were creeped out by Herod, or because they had each had a weird dream. Encountering Christ changes us. It puts us on a new road. Having come face-to-face with the Christ child, it was simply impossible for the wise men to go back the way they had come.

Celebrating the Epiphany invites us also to celebrate the many responses we make in coming face-to-face with the Christ child. What are the unique gifts that we bring? What offerings do we make? How do we invite others to take their own first steps on the “other road” to which those who encounter Christ are called?

As we step out of what is familiar and embrace the freedom to be the disciples God is calling us to be, we will enter and re-enter the house time after time, and from many directions, encountering the Christ child differently each time. We will find Christ in every nook and cranny as we nourish one another on our spiritual journeys, celebrate our love for ourselves and for our neighbors with open and humble hearts, and join in doing God’s work in the world.

In the words of Richard Kautz3:

“Our walk to Bethlehem is over, but our true journey is about to begin. The Christ Child no longer lies in a manger in a land far away. He is playing with the other children down the street. He is losing at checkers at the senior center. He is laughing and singing in the rush of a new love. He is weeping with those who are suffering. He is in the face of your spouse, your child, your parent, and the stranger who passes you on the street. Listen for God’s voice in your dreams, in the words of crazy old men and women, and in the depths of his holy Word. Listen, for God is calling you to draw close. Go and see. Go and hear. The King is waiting for you.”

1        A Prayer Book for Australia

2        Kaai, Anneke and Eugene H. Peterson. In a Word: The Image and Language of Faith. Paraclete Press. Pp. 33-34

3        Kautz, Richard, A Labyrinth Year: Walking the Seasons of the Church; Morehouse. p. 23.


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