Home By a Different Way 1-6-13

Often it is only in hindsight that we feel that we have been guided on our path. We look back and realize the path we took led us past dangers, toils, and snares, and that we never could have come to where we are without a lot of help on the way. As we reflect on the path our life has taken, we may begin to feel more confident that our future path will also have some guidance. The reason that you feel confident that you will find the way is that you are being guided. What is it that guides you this year?

Matthew 2:1–12 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

January 6, 2013

Home By a Different Way

During the summer before my senior year Larry, a high school friend of mine, invited me to go spelunking (cave exploring) with him. I loved going on adventures with Larry and I was at an age at which I had no idea that you could die doing such things, so I said sure. He took me down into Kentucky and we hiked up some pretty wild creeks into some relatively unexplored country. We spied a cave partway up a cliff and decided that’s the one we would explore. As we hiked all the way back out of the creek to the top of the cliff we saw, I started to realize this was more of an adventure than I had bargained for.

We started down the cliff to try to get to the cave and I soon found myself on a little ledge from which I did not see a way down. Nor was I able to climb back up. Larry offered to jump down to help me, but that seemed like the dumbest idea yet, because then both of us would be stranded. I finally figured out a way to jump to another ledge and we inched our way on down the cliff until we realized we were way off in our estimate of where the cave was.

I often think about that day when I think about paths I took in my life that I would not take again. God must have been watching out for Larry and me, because there were several times that day when we went on paths or into caves from which we could easily have not returned. I am not cut out to be a spelunker. Larry on the other hand now works in DC in a department of geological studies. He has gone to many more precarious places than we did on that summer day.

I have to say I am excited about the new paths opening up in front of us in 2013. I am excited to be in a new year, following the star that God calls us to follow. The magi, whom we call the three kings, though there is scant evidence that they were kings or even that there were 3 of them, followed paths that led them into real danger and to some fairly unexpected places. They took risks that most of us would not take on just the promise of the leading of a star or a dream.

I am thankful that we have people in our church who are indeed willing to take some risks on the path God has set out for us – who are willing to try some new things and trust that God will lead us through. I am also thankful that we have people in our church who are praying and listening for God’s leading and are wise enough to discern which paths might lead to getting somebody killed – or more likely, some lesser danger that nonetheless involves more risk than a reasonable person really needs to take.

The magi in their search for the baby Jesus first went to Jerusalem, which is where their pre-conceived ideas told them a king should be born. That put them on a collision course with Herod, a most dangerous ruler, who was keenly interested in anybody who might be a rival to his power. So you see, sometimes our pre-conceptions and assumptions can keep us from taking the risks we need to take to get on the right path. But God has ways to keep us moving.

The magi are learning as they go.  They take the risk to travel to the border of their ignorance and then figure out where to go next.  They figure out that the real king is not in the capital as they expected, but in an outlying village where the poor live.  They listen to a dream which tells them not to go back to King Herod and his kind of power and they ‘return by another way,’ giving vital hours to the family to flee to Egypt.  They return by another way and they return with another way, a new way to travel.  These three kings gain wisdom as their journey progresses.

The bottom line question for us is –what star are we going to follow?  What kind of power are we going to recognize in our lives? Will we follow the star of Herod or the star of Jesus, the power of the domination system or the power of the God of life? When you put it that way the choice is obvious, but in our everyday lives, it’s not always easy to discern. We don’t always have a clear dream that says, “Don’t go down on that ledge! Or don’t go back the same way you came!”

In 2013, I challenge you first to decide to make time to listen to God on the path you know you have to take. Make time to listen so you can hear the small voice nudging you when you are heading the wrong way.  Take up the challenge this year to set spiritual goals in your life and to adjust the course of your journey as you go, as you gain real wisdom along the way.  Take the time and the challenge to encounter the child who is wisdom itself, to bring your gifts to the child who is wisdom and will guide and re-direct you every step of the way.

As we come to the table this morning, we take some of our first steps of commitment to God’s New Year, to God’s path for us in 2013. As we eat from the bread of life and the cup of blessing, may we find the nourishment we need to decide to find God’s way in everything we do, now matter how many times we have turn around, scale a cliff, or renew our dreams.