Posted: January 11, 2023 in Uncategorized

Travelling Light.’

Did you hear the story floating about over the Christmas holidays? It claims that because the nativity stories were written by men there is a gap in the narratives about the birth of Mary and Joseph’s baby boy. This alternative version says that… Three Wise Women actually arrived before the three Wise Men (Ones). The women quickly asked for directions, got there in time to deliver the baby, made a casserole, and brought disposable nappies, baby cream and baby powder as their gifts for Mary, and a soft toy for the baby.

Are we in a post Christendom world or maybe even a post Christian World? Are we abandoning the Jesus story in favour of another or are we modifying it in the light of revelation? Are we reinterpreting it and how far can we go. I found a poem by John Roedel.

I was riding comfortably on the road to God

when suddenly and without warning

the wheels fell off of the ornate carriage I was riding in

~ and I became stuck

I was stranded on a dusty road

surrounded by the untamed wilderness on either side of me

“I have to get moving again,” I thought

so, I spent way too much time

desperately trying to fix what was irrecoverably broken

eventually, it became clear that I would never get my life to look the way it used to

I was tempted to turn the wreckage of my life into a roadside museum

and to make a home out of the ruins

but then suddenly and without warning

a blue butterfly came out of the badlands next to me ~

and landed right on my nose

her wings had the most abstract watercolor pattern I had ever see before

~ but after spending an hour watching her stretch and close her wings

I was able to see that the pattern actually spelled three words that I spoke out loud

“come find Me”

then suddenly and without warning the butterfly lept off of my nose

and back into the sprawling wild

I immediately set fire to the wreckage of my broken down carriage

and I chased the butterfly straight into the chaos of the wilderness

I’ve been out here for years now and I’ve learned that no matter how lost I have gotten

I have never felt more found by the Great Love

I have learned that there is no set road for me to journey to the home of God

for me, God’s home isn’t a fabulous destination at the end of a detailed map

or tight travel schedule

God’s home is the uncharted dangerous expanse of wonder and howling wolves

where the two of us climb trees to scout the next day’s walk

I was never going to find Love by watching the wheels spin on a groomed path

I was only going to find God by stepping off the path and into the crackerjack

splendor of the mystery that has been calling to me for years

it’s an undiscovered land where tree trunks are shaped like question marks

and rivers lead me from one curiosity to the next

it’s a relentless and unending adventure where Spirit arranges a couple hundred

bright blue butterflies in the sky to spell the same thing each morning:

“Come find me”

Today, we move further into the church’s traditional calendar… into the season of Epiphany. We remember here that Epiphany means ‘revelation’ or ‘showing forth’. Like the poem above we can say in our everyday contemporary language that: Epiphany is about ‘going on a journey, about searching for the new. We hear a collection of stories: of the Magi or Wise Ones, the baptism of Jesus, and the Marriage Feast of Cana, where Jesus begins his public ministry, and the calling of the first disciples. Interestingly enough, the biblical stories imply
Epiphany is a search everyone must make.

The storyteller we call Luke… has the poor doing the searching,  in the form of shepherds. The storyteller we call Matthew… has the learned (and rich) doing the searching, in the form of the Magi.

We are used to hearing the story of the Magi, but many of us miss the fact that our religious tradition gives us two sets of so-called Magi or Wise Ones. The first set are the ones we call the Magi. Legend and not history has it there were three and they have those lovely mediaeval names of Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. And they took a series of risks as they pushed some boundaries and searched the heavens, followed the star, and made a commitment. But there was a second group of Wise Ones, the one’s Herod called in… These were the scribes and the pharisees.

Herod says to these Wise Ones, “I’ve got a problem here”.  And when you’ve got a problem you either call in the experts, or check out Wikipedia! Herod chose the former. He gathered a bunch of them together and said, “They talk of the birth of a messiah; I want to know where he is to be born.” And these Wise Ones come up with a ‘poetic’ answer: “In Bethlehem of Judea.” And that’s all that we hear of them.

Two groups of so-called ‘wise ones’.  Two different groups of ‘wise ones’. One group prepared to play it safe… One group, curious about the new, but prepared to take some risks. This Epiphany, we are asked to choose between the two ‘wise’ types: between those who play it safe, and between those who take a risk. Again, like that revealed by the poem above this risk or this revelation is a challenge about the need for a journey. It is perhaps too easy to say and could be said about every year and it can and should but like every year this one is going to be a very interesting and important year for this congregation this church this denomination and for you and I. A bit of a watershed year, we might say.

The challenge of this Epiphany, this year, this group of people is for it to be a year where we all dare to:

• use our imaginations a little more,

• recommit our involvement a little more, and

• like the Magi, become changed ourselves because of the experience and ‘return home by      another way’.

Rex Hunt suggests we might need an image to help us as we begin our new year together, as leaders and followers and the image he suggests is of being on a journey… on a camping trip, in tents, to be exact. We are on a journey. And because we are in tents, we need to travel light. While we need the ‘kitchen sink’, it needs to be a light-weight kitchen sink! But more than that, we are all on the journey together. We need each other’s guidance. We need each other’s encouragement. We need each other’s imagination. We need each other’s curiosity. We need each other’s creativity. We need each other’s balance.

We are all on a journey. And all of us are at different points on that journey. Some of us are way up the front; others of us are at the rear. Some of us are willing; some of us are dragging our feet just a bit. Some of us journey with great certainty; some of us have some doubt. It doesn’t matter where we are in the trip… It’s important that we are journeying at all. At least we’ve responded… we’re taking the risk, to explore, and to return home by another way!

And where is the hope of a new and different future? As a result of their journey, the Magi were changed. No longer could they be instruments of a government oppression. No longer could they repose in cynicism. No longer could they face the world with mere curiosity, remaining aloof. They were changed.  For they had been confronted with the newness and the hope experienced in a God like never before known. And their story is our story, too.
Home by a different way, never to be the same again. As we confront the demise of Christendom and maybe of the Christianity as we know it maybe the hope lies in our ability to interpret for today?

Epiphany

Caught in the kaleidoscope of love I am confronted by the beauty in ambiguity.

Swept away in gratitude for graced glimpses of what used to be certainty

wallowing in companionship of the other,

mesmerized by the constancy of the limited declaration.

Serendipitously divine beauty calls beyond the deeply disconcerting

carrying us far away to a place beyond and yet within the simple

complete but not yet dead alive and not yet born

Drawn by sunsets the dark clouds of distance are revealed

Yet still promise near the peaceful peaks and distant mountains

 The coloured strands of vision dance and glow like every changing form

 bouncing off barren branches and fluttering leaves of time

Sacred beauty is revealed in the gift of magnificence

like a cloaking of the soul brought to bear

In loving, consolation, affirmation, healing,

challenge and gratitude.

A dance of allurement in the heart of mystery,

Born a life of beauty, of mind beyond mundane, a life of sacred unity.

D Lendrum

In a way Epiphany is about another way to live. Another way to love. Another way to belong. Another way to be all we can possibly be.

John Shuck says that “Because Creativity God “is a god on the move and on the margins”. “This is a god who invites us to…

  • Imagine a world in which there are no weapons because no one can ever think of a need for one.
  • Imagine a world in which we don’t fear each other but enjoy each other.
  • Imagine a world in which no one ever needs to worry about what to eat or what to wear or where to sleep.
  • Imagine a world in which we give what we take and everyone has enough.
  • Imagine a world in which our talents and creativity are valued for the joy they bring not the profit they make.
  • Imagine a world in which the circle of care is so large that no one is left out.
  • Imagine a world in which education is a lifetime love of learning.
  • Imagine a world in which we live with the rhythms of Earth.
  • Imagine a world in which we respect and care for all living things.
  • Imagine a world in which the decisions we make are made with the awareness of how they will affect seven generations to come.
  • Imagine a world in which we are daily filled with awe and joy”  

(JShuck. Shuck&Jive blog, 16/1/2011).

What is sure is that the journey awaits us… Imagine a world where the story of Jesus is a story that describes our journey, not God’s. This is Epiphany, our time for searching and journeying! The story of God is already being told and awaits ours to make it exist. So, Welcome to the journey… to an exciting camping trip. Together. Amen.

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