Monday, December 31, 2007


This week's scripture is Matthew 2: 1-15

This Christian holiday celebrates the revelation of Christ to humanity. It focuses on the visit of the magi to Jesus and his family.

There are a couple of things that I find particularly interesting about this week's scripture: one has to do with the ways in which God speaks to us; the other is about corrupt power.

In this passage both the magi and Joseph are warned by God in dreams to do something different than they had planned. The magi go home a different way to avoid Herod and Joseph flees with his family into Egypt because of the coming slaughter of the innocents in which Hebrew male children will be killed.

The magi and Joseph had to be open to listening to the possibility that God might speak to them through their dreams. Then they had to have cultivated an openness that would allow them to respond to what they heard...a quality of obedience if you will.

Unless you are one of those people who pays attention to their dreams on a regular basis, people in our day don't seem to think that God might be using their dreams to speak to them. But even if you don't pay attention to your dreams, think about the other ways that God might be speaking to us that we all too often miss. Is that chronic cough God's way of telling us it's time to quit smoking? Is that exhausted sleeplessness God's way of telling us that it's time to slow down and stop trying to prove that we're good enough? Are those 'body memories' and memory flashbacks God's way of saying it's time to deal with some old pain or trauma? The eyes and ears of our inner being have to be open to recieve these messages. And then we have to have cultivated the spirit of trust and obedience that will let us act on what we hear.

We don't get to this place overnight. It's a discipline, like learning to play an instrument, or paint, or do karate. We have to commit to it and keep on-even when we fail and feel clumsy. But somehow even those of us who are very committed and disciplined in other parts of our lives become ashamed and embarrassed by our own spiritual clumsiness and decide that such disciplines are for the more 'saintly'.

But just think....if Joseph had not cultivated that part of himself, would Jesus have been killed with all the other boy babies in that great slaughter? Our risking our clumsiness and keeping with our commitment to listening and following may have far reaching effects beyond what we ever may know.

The second thing is about Herod. Corrupt power always reacts in fear. It's afraid of being deposed. It's afraid of not being in control. And its fear often leads to violence of one sort or another. Careers are crushed. People are killed.

Jesus told us that we needed to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves." I think part of that has to do with being able to spot the fearful violence of corrupt power and to respond to it with a wisdom rooted in the kind of listening and obedience that were exemplified by Joseph and the magi. This may well be one of the big lessons for us today from this Epiphany season.

By the way....we're starting a new Bible Study/Discussion Group. We'll meet at the church on Monday nights at 7:00 p.m. We'll do any talking folks want to do about Sunday's sermon; and then we'll look together at the scriptures for the upcoming worship service. Out of this dialogue will come a lot of material for the next sermon. I'm really excited about this. I've done it in another setting and it wound up being-both for me and for the other participants-a tremendous growing experience. I hope you'll join us if you're able. Even if you don't normally worship with us, or you go to another church on Sundays, please feel free to come be part of this discussion.

Happy New Year to all.
Hope to see you on Sunday.


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