Archive for January, 2016

Purpose Probe

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , on January 25, 2016 by timtrue


Luke 4:14-21

I’m going to probe a little this morning.  It might get a little uncomfortable in here.

But why not?

Surely Jesus experienced a little discomfort on that morning when he went into his local synagogue, unrolled that scroll from Isaiah to the people of his hometown, proclaimed that the realization of this scroll was happening right now, as he spoke, in their midst—that he was in fact the Messiah they were waiting for, the Messiah that all the Jewish people had been waiting for, for centuries!—and was rejected!

The people rejected him—the people of his own town—the friends and family members who’d watched him from childhood—

Who’d observed him growing in wisdom and stature—

Who’d seen him make his first, rough, misshapen carpenter’s box—

Who’d spent time with his family and other families at synagogue fellowship meals—

Who’d subconsciously noticed him make mistakes as children do, as he’d played with the other children.

And now he’d grown up and gone away.  He wasn’t carrying on the family tradition of carpentry.  Instead, he’d gone off to spend time with one of his more on-the-fringe cousins, or so the rumors went, some unusual guy named John, who spends his days in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey—of all things!  And he’d gone away to teach!

That’s what Jesus had been doing: teaching.  Not something worthwhile, like building houses for people in need.  He was just teaching!  Can you believe it?

Anyway, I bet he experienced a bit of discomfort that day, when the Spirit carried him into the local synagogue.  That day he unrolled a scroll from the prophet Isaiah.  And he unrolled it to that part about the Messiah, where it says who the Messiah is and what he has come to do.

And then he claimed that this passage was about him!  He was the Messiah.  And what he’d come to do—his agenda—was right here!

I bet it was uncomfortable for him as he prodded the people—the local people—with his agenda.

I bet it was especially uncomfortable for him when these people—friends and family, mind you!—rose up as a mob and led him outside to hurl him off a cliff!

Yeah!  That’s what the following verses tell us.  We didn’t read that far this morning.  That’s because we should focus on his agenda.  Nevertheless, that’s what happens next.  Jesus tells his friends and family in his local synagogue—you know, the one he grew up in—his agenda; and they are so stunned they say nothing.  So he explains: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And then—well!—his friends and family are so angry they rise up against him with the intention to kill him.

This isn’t the Pharisees we’re talking about here, or the scribes, or the Sanhedrin, or the Sadducees, or any other of the people he has trouble with later on in his ministry.  This is his friends and family!

Sheesh!  No wonder there’s that part that says a prophet is without honor in his home town!

But the friends and family who turn against Jesus can’t do him any harm.  Luke tells us that he just walks right on through the midst of them to safety.

That’s because he was being led by the Spirit.

Did you catch that part?  Luke is very sure to tell us that Jesus is being led by the Spirit through this beginning part of his ministry, his epiphany to his hometown and beyond.

Remember, when he went out to John in the wilderness, he was baptized and a voice spoke from heaven and the Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove.

Then he was led deep into the wilderness by the Spirit, where he ate no food for forty days and was sorely tempted by the devil.

And now, here, again it is the Spirit who leads him to his hometown synagogue, where he experiences a great deal of discomfort after he probes the people with his agenda, his must-do list.

So, like Jesus, I’m going to probe a little now.  And I’m going to do so using Jesus’ agenda.

I figure: if Jesus is stating this agenda at the outset of his ministry, and he is; and if I have committed my life to following him, which I have; and if we as a church are called to be his disciples, which we are; then this agenda must be important, something like a mission statement.

In fact, let’s see it as a mission statement: Jesus’ mission statement.  And let’s get out our own church’s mission statement.  And let’s compare the two.

This is how I’ll probe a little this morning.  And this—comparing Jesus’ own mission statement to ours—is why it might get a little uncomfortable in here.

I only ask a few things of you.  First, hear me out.  Second, ask if there are ways in which we might align our church’s mission statement more with Jesus’ own.  And third, please don’t hurl me off a cliff.

So then, here’s our mission statement:

We are servants of Jesus Christ, putting his love into action by:

  • Magnifying God’s Name;
  • Proclaiming God’s Word;
  • Equipping God’s people for ministry;
  • Caring for God’s world.

We are seeking, serving, and sharing Christ.

In my opinion, this is a good mission statement.  As servants of Jesus Christ, we recognize that the entire Gospel is summarized in one word: love.  And we desire to act out the Gospel, to put love into action, in four specific ways: magnifying God’s Name; proclaiming God’s Word; equipping God’s people for ministry; and caring for God’s world.

Moreover, there are specific ways in which we are accomplishing these actions already, as demonstrated in the annual report (get your fresh copy today!).  On the other hand, though, there are specific ways in which we could grow in each of these actions.

Now, to refresh our memory, here’s what Jesus read in the synagogue on that morning:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

In my opinion, this is a good mission statement too.  In fact, it’s very good, way better than ours.

Like us, Jesus puts love into action.  But his actions get way more specific than ours do.

He is not simply proclaiming the good news.  We say that.  We are “Proclaiming God’s Word.”  He says it too.  But he doesn’t just leave it there.

Rather, he proclaims the good news to the poor.  Similarly, he proclaims not just release and recovery, but release to the captives; and recovery of sight to the blind.  He preaches not just a pie-in-the-sky form of liberation theology but freedom to the oppressed.  He proclaims the good news to people right where they are, whatever their lot.

Jesus’ own mission statement is quite specific.  It is undeniably focused on righting wrongs, on bringing justice where there is none, on doing and not just being love.

At St. Paul’s, we seek, serve, and share Jesus.  We love him.  So what are we doing about it?

Look: here’s my main concern.

Right now is the time of year when we tend to be asking, “How are we doing as a church?”  We have our annual meeting next week; I have to complete the Parochial Report by the next vestry meeting; the present elephant in the declining mainline church is, “How can we sustain our resources, or will we even be able to?”

These aren’t bad questions to ask in their own right.  But they can distract us from our real mission.

When it comes to our mission, instead of asking, “How are we doing as a church?” let’s ask, “What are we doing for God?”

And let’s get specific about it!

What are we doing to right the wrongs that are taking place in and around Yuma?

We’re already doing some things, sure.  (See our annual report.)  But can we do more?  Do we want to do more?  Enough so that we incorporate specifics into our mission statement?

Jesus’ own mission statement espoused such radical social transformation that even his friends and family were ready to hurl him off a cliff.  Are we ready to transform Yuma with the Gospel, even if it makes our friends and family members uncomfortable?

The Holy Spirit was with Jesus, making his mission not only a possibility but also a reality.  The Holy Spirit is also with us.  Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to lead us; and through the Holy Spirit let’s turn Yuma upside down!

And, since we’re here, a final comment: when Jesus sat down, after reading the scroll, he said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  Today!  The Spirit leads right now, in the present, today.

Let’s not procrastinate.

Pray with me. . . .

Prod, Hope, Pray

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , on January 17, 2016 by timtrue

Kathedraal - Bruiloft van Cana - Maarten de Vos (1595 - 97)

John 2:1-11

What an outstanding passage from today’s Gospel, eh?

I mean, here’s Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, becoming known to the world—his epiphany, as it were—and where is he but at a party?  And it’s not just any old dinner party, but a wedding, a week-long festivity in the ancient world.

And what does he do for his very first sign, or miracle, but turn water into wine?  In one fell swoop, he both saves a host from social embarrassment and enables people to rejoice and be glad more than they already are.  In fact, if we read into this story just a little, in this miracle Jesus enables those who are already drunk to get drunker still.

Oh, how our Baptist friends have trouble with this one!  Have you ever heard the argument that when the term “good wine” appears in the scriptures—as it does in this passage—it actually means wine that hasn’t yet fermented?  Good wine in the Bible, they argue, is actually grape juice and not what we would consider wine at all.

But, oh, that argument can’t get around this story: because the steward explains that usually the host brings out the good wine first; and that only after the guests have drunk their fill—or, rather, as the steward puts it, only after the guests have become drunk—that’s when the host brings out the inferior wine.  Point being, for the moment, that even in the Bible people got drunk off good wine.

Oh, Baptist friend, this ain’t grape juice!

And, by the way, if you know anything about music history, I’m pretty sure that it was here at this party where the hymn was written, “What a Friend we have in Jesus.”

But, aside from all the wonderful lessons on everyday joy and gladness we could learn from this passage, I want instead to focus our time this morning on two vexing questions that come to the surface in this account.  These questions may seem unrelated at first.  But hear me out: I’ll attempt to weave them together before we conclude.

The first question, then, is this: But why pray at all?

Last week we found Jesus at the beginning of his ministry in the Gospel according to St. Luke.  He went out to the Jordan River and was baptized by John along with all the other people.  And we saw a bodily form, like a dove, descend and alight on Jesus; and we heard a voice from the heavens saying, “You are my Son, my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

But we heard about something else in Luke too: something that took place right after Jesus was baptized and right before the Trinity showed up; something that doesn’t make it into the other three Gospels.  Do you remember?

Jesus prayed.  Along with all the other people, Jesus prayed.  Like you and me, Jesus prayed.

But why pray at all?

If God is indeed sovereign—if God is the absolute creator, ruler, and sustainer of the universe—then God is going to do whatever God wants.  Really, will one little, insignificant prayer from me make any difference?

On the other hand, maybe God isn’t so sovereign.  Maybe this doctrine of sovereignty is wrong, a sort of theological hangover from the Middle Ages, still giving us a headache in our modern day.  Maybe, instead, God sits up in the heavens and casts divine influence this or that way—key word being influence, not sovereignty.  Maybe God doesn’t really rule over everything after all, but sits in his administrative office orchestrating great Rube Goldberg-like systems of cause and effect upon our world, hoping, just hoping, that everything will turn out right, wringing his cosmic hands together.

Well, if this were the case, yes, we’d certainly have an answer to our question, “But why pray at all?”  But this case just doesn’t jibe with the rest of the scriptures.  We don’t worship a cosmic good guy at continuous odds with a cosmic bad guy, hoping that all will turn out right—hoping that the force will awaken and our cosmic good guy will win—in the end.

Maybe you’re like me.  Maybe you’ve wrestled with this question time and again and still haven’t found a completely satisfactory answer.  Deadlines won’t change.  Bills won’t stop coming in.  Poverty won’t end.  Wars won’t cease.  So why pray at all?

But what else happens at this wedding party?  Jesus turns the water into wine, sure.  But what happens just before the miracle?

Just this: Jesus’ own mother prods him.

Now, Jesus hems and haws a little—a response I’ll address shortly.  Nevertheless, he then performs the miracle.  And we are left with the distinct impression that he would not have acted without his mother prodding first.

Are you like Jesus’ mother here?  Do you ever prod Jesus in prayer?

Now, remember, my main question here is, “But why pray at all?”  I’m not attempting to answer those tough questions that follow, about whether or not God is sovereign.  In fact, if you can, put those other questions aside for right now.  Today’s passage suggests that we, like Jesus’ mother, can actually prod him in prayer.

That’s a startling notion.  And it answers our question, “But why pray at all?”

Now to address the hemming and hawing through a second vexing question: In his response to his mother, why does Jesus seem reluctant?

His mother comes to him and points out, “They have no wine.”  Now, St. John could have gone straight from here to the part where his mother says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  John could have skipped over Jesus’ response to his mother.  But he didn’t.  He includes it.  “Woman,” Jesus says, “what concern is that to you and to me?  My hour has not yet come.”

Why does Jesus respond this way?

Why the apparent reluctance?  The host has run out of wine; social embarrassment is imminent.  And Jesus doesn’t seem to want to do anything to help.

But maybe even more of a concern to some of you: Is Jesus being disrespectful when he calls his mother woman?  To his mother, of all people!  Is Jesus somehow giving teenagers everywhere a green light to act like, well, teenagers?

There’s been a lot of debate over this very question from very early on in the church’s history.  Some say it’s a language issue, that when Jesus addresses his mother with the word “woman,” it didn’t come across back then as abrasive as it does now.  But others say, no, it still would have been fairly abrasive.  One thing is for sure: St. John wanted to get our attention.

But why?

The answer, I think, relates to our first question’s answer.  We seem to be able to prod Jesus through prayer—at least to some extent.  But here, in Jesus’ response, St. John is letting us know that Jesus is bound to no earthly authority whatsoever—not even to the authority of his own mother!

Now it’s time to weave these two ideas together.  There’s Jesus’ mother: she prods.  And there’s Jesus’ response: he will not be manipulated.

Nevertheless, Jesus performs his first miracle, of turning water into wine; and we are left with the distinct impression that he would not have performed it without his mother’s initial prodding.

Put these two ideas together and we learn about the twofold nature of prayer.

On the one hand, prayer can be a catalyst for divine action.

But, on the other hand, we should never think of prayer as formulaic—like, “If only I pray the right way, then _____ will surely happen.”

Prayer is not about aligning God to our will.  Rather, prayer aligns us to God’s will.

Jesus’ mother thought Jesus should act.  So she prodded him.  But he responded not in the way that she expected.

Does that ever happen to you?  You pray, asking God to do something in particular.  But how often does God answer in the way you expect?

Notice, the story continues.  Jesus’ mother doesn’t give up when Jesus doesn’t answer as expected.  Instead, she goes and finds servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you to do.”

She didn’t know if or how, exactly, Jesus would act.  But she didn’t give up hope.  Most importantly, she continued to prod.

In your own prayers, do the same.  Don’t give up when God doesn’t answer you as you expect.

Keep prodding.  Keep hoping.  Keep praying.

Not the Prim, Proper, and Perfumed

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2016 by timtrue


The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

Have you ever considered that the notion of the term churchgoer is wrongheaded?

What picture comes to mind when you hear churchgoer?  I’ll tell you what comes to my mind.  It’s a picture that has been with me since the late 1980s, since I first began attending church regularly.

Now, you’ve got to understand the context.  I was 18 or 19 years old, never been in church more than a few times, and my eyes had recently been opened to the saving knowledge of the 1980s soCal conservative evangelical image of Jesus Christ, with all his gentleness and blue eyes and flowing blond hair.

Like a few surfers I knew.

But these guys weren’t like some surfers, the ones who lived out of their beat-up Volkswagen vans and somehow managed to eke out a living repairing surfboards and painting fences for a friend of a friend.

No, these surfers were good guys, who managed In-N-Out Burgers, which was a good job to come by, especially since you could find “John 3:16” on the bottoms of their drink cups.  And they drove respectable vehicles.

The families these gentle surfers came from too—well, now, there’s a picture to behold!  The dads wore ties that matched their socks and the moms wore perfectly coordinated ensembles with three or four little siblings in tow, just as prim- and proper-looking as their parents, hair braided or gelled, always on time.

They behaved perfectly too, in church and out.

And their smell!  To have such a family pass me by on the steps leading to the narthex—just one whiff was enough for me to know, yes, here was the perfume, aftershave, and deodorant of the Promised Land.  Here were churchgoers par excellence!

But isn’t this vision wrongheaded?  The people I’ve just described seem to have it all together.  And maybe they really do!  If so, they probably can manage just fine on their own, without coming to church, without making the rest of us feel inferior, thank you very much.

But more likely, they don’t have it all together.  I mean, really, does any of us have a life free of stress, worry, fear, and interpersonal conflict?  Is any of us free from the drama of everyday life?

The notion of churchgoer—at least, my notion of it—is wrongheaded.  The people who turn to Jesus are very often not the prim, proper, perfumed people we envision.  In the Bible—and in our own day—the people who turn to Jesus most often are the poor, the sick, and the destitute.

And isn’t that us?

Why do you turn to Jesus?  Why do I?  There are times, sure, when everything seems to be going our way.  Then we feel like Midas, right?  It seems like everything we touch turns to gold.  And during these times—rare times for most of us—we rightly offer God prayers of thanksgiving.

But, much more often, don’t we turn to God out of need?

Like some fire-breathing beast of legend, a stressor rears its ugly head and threatens some part of our life.  And so we turn to Jesus for help.  “Save us,” we cry out, just as the ancient Britons cried out to St. George to save his kingdom from the dragon!  (Humor me.  I’m an Episcopalian, after all.)

Point is, it’s the needy who turn to Jesus—the sick, the destitute—not the people who’ve got it all together.  And that’s us: the needy.

And what about Jesus himself?

Jesus is fully human; but he’s also fully God.  And being fully God, wasn’t his human life free of stress, worry, fear, and interpersonal conflict?  Wasn’t Jesus free from the drama of everyday life?  Wasn’t Jesus, in fact, gentle and mild, with blue eyes and flowing blond hair?

Well, um, if that’s what you think, er, I’ve got some news for you!  (He was in fact crucified, remember.)

So, today, in Luke’s Gospel (this is wonderful, isn’t it?  I mean, this really should fill us with wonder!), Jesus is being baptized along with all the other people (v. 21)—all these people who came to John out of repentance—all these needy, sick, destitute, drama-affected people—all these people quite unlike our modern notion of churchgoers with their I’ve-got-it-all-together personas.

And then what does Jesus do?

The other Gospels go straight from this point—straight from Jesus’ baptism—into his ministry, or at least into his temptation in the wilderness and then into his ministry.  But not in Luke.

Instead, here, in Luke, before entering into his ministry, Jesus prays.  In Luke, prayer is the focal point of this whole scenario—even more central than the baptism of Jesus; even more central than the voice that speaks from heaven and the bodily form, like a dove, that descends!  It’s prayer!

Jesus, in identifying with all the needy, sick, and destitute people—in identifying with us—Jesus prays!

Well, I hope you see it as I do.  We should not be like the stereotypical churchgoer.  Moreover, we should not expect all the people around us to be stereotypical churchgoers.  Rather, like Jesus, we should be people of prayer.

We should be people of prayer because we are grateful.  But we should be people of prayer, too, because we are needy, sick, and destitute.  We pray because: we need to; we want to; and we have to.

And the best part about this passage for me is that I’ve been baptized with Christ.  That means I’m with him and he’s with me regardless of how good, bad, or ugly my life may be.  And since I’m with him and he’s with me, those words that came from above; and that bodily form that descended from heaven, like a dove, well, they apply to me too.

That’s right!  When God’s voice says, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased,” God’s voice is not just speaking to Jesus.  It’s speaking to me; and it’s speaking to all who have followed Jesus Christ.

Have you been baptized with Christ?  It doesn’t matter how perfect or imperfect your life is.  It doesn’t matter that your life doesn’t look like that churchgoer stereotype.  It doesn’t matter how good, bad, or ugly you’ve been.  If you’ve been baptized with Christ, God’s voice is speaking these words to you too.  “You are my child,” God says, “my beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

These words are yours.  They belong to you.  Take them.  Own them.  Live them.  You are God’s beloved.

(And so: on this Day of the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, instead of saying the Creed let us renew our Baptismal Vows together, found on BCP 292.)

Seeking with the Magi

Posted in Homilies with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2016 by timtrue

Matthew 2:1-12

I used to be a Calvinist.

Is anyone here a Calvinist, or willing to admit it anyway?  Anyone here know a Calvinist personally?  Well, now you can all say you know someone who once claimed to be a Calvinist.

Whatever the case, I’m going to give you a brief crash course in Calvinism.

Calvinism—you may or may not know—holds to more extreme views in a lot of ways than Jean Calvin himself held.  But that’s the way it often is with isms: a founding father espouses radical ideas in their own right; but it’s his followers that carry these ideas out to their logical conclusions.

So, after Jean Calvin died, his ideas were read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested by Dutch Protestants, in Holland.  And tulips grow in the land of the Dutch Protestants.  So that’s how we know Calvinism: through the tulip: spelled T-U-L-I-P.

T is for Total Depravity.  Calvinism teaches that everyone is totally depraved from birth.  And by this Calvinists don’t mean that little babies are crawling around tagging buildings with spray paint on a rival gang’s turf and selling drugs.  It’s not total depravity—mayhem, chaos—being acted out in every possible way.  Rather, we have all been born with sin affecting all our faculties.  We are so utterly depraved—even as cute, roly-poly, helpless infants—that there is nothing we can do on our own merit to save ourselves from our depravity.

U is for Unconditional Election.  If we are fortunate enough to be saved from our own depravity, Calvinists say, it is only through God’s own sovereign election.  There is nothing we can do about it, one way or another; salvation is not based on some condition, like, “If you pray the sinner’s prayer, then God will save you.”  Only God saves—or not.  We merely hope and pray that we are one of the elect—or not.

L is for Limited Atonement.  Christ’s death on the cross atoned for the sins of many, so the argument goes, but not for all.  The “many” he atoned for are the elect.  The “not all” includes everyone else, the not-elect—which is really just another word for the damned.  So, merely out of his own good pleasure, God predestines some people to spend eternity with him in heaven.  But what does this mean for everyone else?  Just that everyone else is predestined to spend eternity in hell, that’s all.  And, because of their total depravity, God is blameless in the whole exchange.

I is for Irresistible Grace.  Calvinism says that God will save all the people he has predestined to save; and he will save them through a call that is irresistible.  There is an old adage: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”  According to Calvinism, however, God will lead the elect person to living water; and, quite like a puppet, the elect person will have no choice but to drink.

And P is for Perseverance of the Saints.  Those whom God calls—all of the truly faithful—will persevere until the end.  Which is really a good loophole for those who fall away from the faith, isn’t it?  George fell into sin.  Well, no matter, he must never have been saved in the first place; for if he were truly saved, he would have stayed the course—he’d have persevered.

So then, I used to be a Calvinist.  But not anymore.  At its logical conclusion—for me anyway—Calvinism makes God out to be a harsh taskmaster; leaving me fearful, wanting to take my talents and bury them in the dirt.

But Jesus Christ is a God of love, not fear.

Now, when I first read about Emeth, I was still a Calvinist.

Emeth is a Calormene—a man from the made-up land of Calormen—in C. S. Lewis’s final book in the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle.

In Calormen, the men traditionally wear turbans, grow long beards, and smell of onions and garlic.  The god they worship is named Tash.  Their capital city is called Tashbaan.

On the other hand, the Narnians’ culture is identifiably western.

Is it just coincidence that the Calormenes share many things in common with Muslims?

I don’t think so.

Muslim author Imran Ahmad doesn’t think so either.  Infatuated with the Chronicles as a boy, he writes about the tension he felt:

But there was an aspect of Lewis’s world which caused me great discomfort. The enemies of Narnia were from a country called Calormen, and we learned more about them as we progressed through the books—especially The Horse And His Boy. These people looked unmistakably like Saracens—medieval Muslims; the Narnians themselves looked like Crusaders. In wanting to identify with the characters, I was torn between a natural desire to be on the side of “good” with the white English children and a feeling that I was condemned to be in the other camp, the Calormenes, the darkies from Calormen . . . with their curved swords and spicy food and unmistakable Islamic cultural symbolism.[i]

Anyway, when I first read about Emeth, I was still a Calvinist.

After the final battle of Narnia has ended and all our heroes have passed through the doorway out of the shadowlands and into the glories of eternity, amazingly, Emeth is there too.

But Emeth is a Muslim, I protested!  In my Calvinistic mind, there was no way he could have been predestined.  There was no way he should be in heaven, with me!

But I was a Calvinist.  I didn’t like the idea that a Muslim could find Jesus Christ through authentically seeking Allah.

(Can you imagine?  There I was, in my thirty-something year-old mind, telling my little girls, to whom I was reading this story for the first time, that, no, Mr. Lewis had gotten this one wrong; that I knew better!)

But what does the story of the Magi demonstrate?

We know less about the Magi than we care to admit.  Tradition says there are three of them.  But the Bible doesn’t say this.  All the Bible says is that wise men came from the East.  Men is plural.  There could have been two; there could have been forty.  We assume three probably because there were three gifts: gold, incense, and myrrh.

But what we do know—what the Gospel does tell us—is that they came from another part of the world, the East.  They were not Jewish.  They were Gentiles.  And arguably the very first disciples of Christ!

What we also know is that they were readers of the sky.  They’d come to Jerusalem following a star by which, somehow, they discerned a child had been born King of the Jews.  Key here, by the way, is sky, not scriptures.  They had come seeking Christ by what Jews would have considered a method outside the box.

But that’s it!  That’s all the Gospel says.

Were there three Magi?  We don’t know.

Were their names Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar?  Very probably not.  But we don’t know for sure!

Did they have a copy of the Jewish scriptures, left behind after the ancient Babylonian king had forced the Jews into exile?  We don’t know.

But what we do know is that they’d followed a star, the light of Christ.  With what little means they had, they’d sought Christ authentically; and they’d found him.

And thus the story of the Magi seems to align more with Emeth than it does with Calvinism.

The story of the Magi shows us that, regardless of where they come from, authentic seekers find Christ.  And by “where they come from” I don’t mean just the literal meaning, their geographical location.  It includes the figurative meaning too, their religion.

So, on this day of Epiphany, 2016, in our religiously and racially charged culture, we are left with a couple questions to ponder:

The first is a collection of questions, really.  But they all get at the same thing:

  • Can Muslims find the way, the truth, and the life through the Koran?
  • Can Buddhists find Christ through the pursuit of enlightenment?
  • Can Hindus through yoga?
  • Or—for that matter, and maybe hitting a little closer to home for us here in Yuma—can Mormons find the true light of Christ through the Book of Mormon?

This story of the Magi suggests so.  For in this story, authentic seekers find Christ regardless of geographical location or even religion.

But a second—and much more important—question is this: what about you?  Are you seeking Christ authentically?

Maybe so.  Maybe you are as eager to reflect the light of Christ today as the Magi were to find it in the days of old.  If so, yea and amen!

But maybe you’re feeling more like I felt when I was still a Calvinist.  Maybe your religion has become burdensome for you, like some harsh taskmaster leaving you feeling like you should just go bury your talents in the dirt.

If so, learn from the Magi.  Set aside all your judgment, all your desire to be right all the time, all your desire to know everything—to know what is better left in the realm of mystery—and, with the Magi of old, come and worship Christ, the newborn King.

[i] Quoted from