Sunday, January 5, 2014

By a Different Road

Although we are not gathered as a worshipping community at Calvary this morning, here is a meditation based on my sermon:  "By a Different Road".  Based on Matthew 2:1-12, the reading for Epiphany Sunday.

Each of the four gospels has its unique presentations of Jesus, and in Matthew's gospel, we have a very Jewish understanding of the roads that people take to find Jesus.  Matthew begins his gospel by telling us about the genealogical journey that leads to Jesus, including references to luminaries in history as well as to some of the more troubling interludes--such as a reference to Tamar (a horrible family saga) and to Rahab, a prostitute. 

What Matthew must be getting at here is that our roads to Jesus are rarely straight, or narrow, or "holy".  Rather, we meander our way to Jesus through our questions, our high and low points, our troubles and our sins as well as our successes and joys.  The road is not straight.  The journey is difficult.

Matthew then tells us about another road . . . a road taken by a young carpenter named Joseph, who was asked to take Mary as his wife.  (Joseph had his questions and concerns, we can't forget that!  Was Mary unfaithful?  Why should he take her as his wife since he had some many concerns?)

But Joseph takes the high road.  He takes Mary and they begin this journey with Jesus.

Soon, Matthew turns again to another journey . . . a lengthy one undertaken by some mysterious magi from the east.  Their journey is arduous.  They have to ask others for directions (though they are following a star) and they most certainly had to accept the hospitality and provisions provided by others.  Eventually they encounter Herod--one of the most evil rulers in human history.  Herod ruled by fear, intimidation, and by murder.  In fact, we know a great deal about him from historical sources.  He murdered at least one wife.  He killed dozens of his close associates.  He even systematically murdered three of his sons in succession as they became of age. He would do anything to keep power, to ensure that he would always sit on the throne.

We know a great deal about Herod, and we know his type.  Our world is filled with those who want to rule, lead, or otherwise keep people in check through fear, intimidation and threat.  This, in fact, is the way of the world.  Herod has always been with us.

The magi, however, have not taken this road.  Their road to Jesus was a hopeful one.  They journeyed by hope, following a high star that they believed would lead them to a king who would not be like other kings.  They brought gifts.  But their greatest gift was hope.

When the magi find Jesus, we are told that they, "Rejoiced with a great rejoicing!"  Wow!  I wonder:  do I have that kind of joy in my faith?  Do I have this kind of hope in Jesus?  Do you?  Is this the joy that lights up your life?

There are, in fact, many roads to Jesus (and many responses to Jesus).  Not all of these responses to Jesus are hopeful or joyous.  But the magi returned by a different road.  This was the road of acceptance, of joy, of hope.  May it be our road, too.

In Proverbs 10:28 we read:  "The hope of the righteous is joy."  And the apostle Paul admonished us to "rejoice in the Lord, always . . . and again, I say, rejoice!"  And the Psalmist declared, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go up to the house of the Lord!'"

Hope and joy is our journey.  Let us not travel the road of Jesus living in fear.  Let us not live in or through intimidation or violence, but in peace and generosity of spirit.  This is the road to Jesus that Matthew describes.  This is the road that led the magi, and leads us to life, too.

This is the journey of Epiphany.  Let us walk in it throughout the year!
~Pastor Todd

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