PLUM Pastoral Message
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
January 6 is Epiphany. The day we observe in remembrance of the Magi, the wise men, discovering the child Jesus. According to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, wise men traveled from the east in search of the child born king of the Jews, the Messiah. They followed a star which led them to the location of the child. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. They went into the home and saw Jesus with his mother. They paid homage to him.
This narrative is a wonderful image and reminder of travelers, sojourners discovering that their faith and trust in following a star had led them to a moment they would never forget; an encounter with the Messiah, that had been promised for years in the writing of the ancient scrolls. Did they know upon setting out that this would be the outcome of their journey? How long was the journey? How many had started on that journey? How many had become discouraged along the way when the journey proved to be longer than they had expected? How many were lost to health concerns and hardship as they traveled? So often, we retell this story with only three wise men, however Matthew does not name the number of magi. We know that three types of gifts were presented - gold, frankincense, and myrrh – which has led to the assumption of three. The actual writing states “opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” How many chests of each? By how many magi?
It is so easy to become distracted either by adding our own interpretation to a story or becoming so rigid in the retelling that we fail to leave room for the expansive grace of God. However, the details of this narrative do not change the essential meaning behind the story. Trusting in faith, the wise men followed a star, they arrived at the appointed location, and they paid homage – public allegiance and reverence – to the child king. Their role in the story was not to decide the validity of the instruction or determine if the child and parents were deserving. Their role was to trust in the Spirit’s guidance and to profess their obedience. Like Mary, they said YES! They trusted and followed.
Saying yes and following without a clear plan or path is so challenging in our world today. At the start of this New Year, we will be inundated with messages of developing New Year resolutions & establishing goals. This practical guidance is indeed helpful; however, have we lost sight of the simplicity of trust? That we are called to trust God’s guidance and move forward without knowing the exact steps, knowing only that the light of Christ shines upon us and illuminates our path. That we are not to sit idly waiting, we are to act. We are to move forward believing that God will guide us through the obstacles – the Herod’s who attempt to stop us along the way. That we are to proclaim the majestic unfolding of God’s promise revealed in the everyday encounter of Immanuel – God with us. Ah, but that is indeed the difficulty and invitation; trust is not so simple. In a world where we can no longer “trust” news reports, social media, and relationships are becoming strained, the tendency is to begin to see the world through our jaded human eyes. And, we can so often miss what God is doing in, through and around us. How wonderful that this Epiphany narrative serves as a reminder, a resetting if you will at the start of the year, pointing us to the faith and trust of traveling our journey with the assurance of God’s light leading that path. The prophet Isaiah’s message to the people is both encouragement for the present moment and proclaiming what was yet to come. Siblings in Christ, I encourage all of us in the words of Isaiah, Arise, shine, for your light [Jesus within us] has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you [us]. May we step out with courage and confidence on the path that God is illuminating for us, our congregations, our communities, and our world.
Blessed Epiphany and Happy New Year!
Pr. Brenda, on behalf of PLUM pastors.
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773