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Sunday message: Where to take our lead from

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Epiphany Sunday – January 6, 2019

Scripture readings:

Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Matthew 2:1-12

Yes, Herod, you are afraid! Very afraid. 

The question the wise men were asking struck terror in King Herod’s heart. “Where is the child who was born king of the Jews?” There are times when people who are in power fear any form of competition that is thrust towards their authority. Some even describe the times we live in currently as times where we don’t have any real form of decent government. So many individuals even take power into their own hands. 

Due to the vast number of social media platforms it’s even hard to track down the effects that social media are exercising. Nevertheless, in this same time that social media started becoming increasingly widespread, there does seem to be an increase in what has been coined as ‘reaction politics’, causing swings from right to left and back again in the way elections unfold across the globe. 

There are those that respond with vengeance when their power and authority is questioned. Today’s political landscape seems to make the goings on with King Herod look like something minor, even negligible, just a mere storm in a teacup. 

There are, however, still quite similar dynamics in both situations, back in Biblical times as well as today. Therefore, rather than dismissing Herod for being Herod, we would do well to imagine just how much about Herod we tend to be. How much of Herod do we act out? How much of Herod do we live out in our leadership? It does seem that we as followers of Christ are in search of a leadership that is inherently and clearly different than what is portrayed and accepted as leadership these days. 

A story like this cannot be sentimentalised into yet another Christmas program or summarised as suggested advice to follow a star. Of course it’s hard. As much as I want to cast the Wise Men as just innocent and uninformed responders, they are so much more. They are resisters. They insist that their witness testifies to a truth that will challenge power. That will defy authority. All because they believe in their own experience, their own encounter, their own epiphany. They get that there just might be more to the story than what they have been told. It is in this that the heart of our Christian faith lies.

What an appropriate Epiphany text Matthew 2 is! It’s a story that reveals our Messiah, our Saviour, as one whose actual presence is a kind of power that powerful people hate. It is a story that exposes our inborn response to those who might challenge our established and wished for power. It turns out to be a story that invites us to wonder if we would return to Herod or go along the way of God.

This is a story that should spark resistance as well as persistence. In our own lives we too should embody Christ’s incarnation into this world that is so upside-down. 

Even beyond Epiphany this is an amazing and appropriate text for a new year. How will each of us exert a resistance to the powers that this world tries to foist upon us? How will we persist in pursuing power that commits itself to the ways of God’s Word? There are times when the Gospel truth must be made clear. 

Will we interpret these Wise Men that were being sent, as just happenstance, in the right place at the right time, or will we embody their gifts as the true form of what praise and wonder might look like?

Following a star is never merely a blind endeavour. The story of these astrologists from the east reminds us that even something as simple as a star in the sky might lead us into places of risk, spaces of courage, and directions that demand us to have trusting hearts. 1)

Even when we get to take part in elections this year, let’s follow the lead of these Wise Men who went into tough places. 

Isn’t it the overarching attitude that counts? As opposed to an attitude of clutching dearly to one’s authority, this may be an attitude of seeking to exercise power that isn’t afraid to give strength to the least of these. It is the leadership that, in turn, follows the light, a leadership that would thereby bring light in a darkened world. 

“O star of wonder, star of light,

star of royal beauty bright, 

westward leading, still proceeding,

guide us to thy perfect light.” …Guide us to thy perfect light! 2)

1.) Much inspiration for parts of this message was taken from “Following a star” by Karoline Lewis under “Dear Working Preacher” on the website workingpreacher.org

2.) From Hymn #173 “We three kings” in the Presbyterian Church in Canada Book of Praise

 

Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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