Entering Lent

March 10, 2019 Lent 1

Luke 4:1-13

The first spring following my families move to Richmond brought grandiose plans of a wonderful thriving garden in the backyard of the parsonage. Vern came over and tilled the ground for us and by the time he was completed, we probably had at least 200 square feet of space for a wonderful garden. We marked the garden all out and planted seeds. We put a fence all the way around the garden so that the many rabbits roaming around the yard would stay out. Since it was the first year, it required a lot of tender loving care to weed it and water it. The weeds seemed to like the water much more than the plants did. Then we went on vacation!

We came home to an enclosed jungle! Okay, maybe it was not quite that bad. I still manage to harvest some radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and even a bit of lettuce. The corn did not turn out. Neither did the watermelon or cantaloupe. We would try again the following year and scale it back a little. Last year we decided that it was just too much work! It takes a lot of patience to prepare and cultivate a garden. There are many challenges and temptations that come along the way.

On this first Sunday of Lent, Jesus enters the wilderness. He is tempted and holds fast in his faith. During this season of Lent, you are going to be asked to let go of the things that weigh you down and to cultivate those areas in your life that bring growth.

The temptations that are waved in front of Jesus’ face this week are very powerful. They are temptations that pull people into power that is hard to let go of. What if we could turn a stone into a loaf of bread, or simply anything to feed ourselves? Could this be a blessing to those in countries that have the constant threat of famine. Jesus had been fasting for 40 days! He had to be hungry. I am sure the thought of a loaf of bread would have made his mouth water.

Imagine standing on the highest peak wherever you were and being able to see off in the distance for miles and miles. What if someone promised to you that it could all be yours if you just turned away from God and turned your worship towards evil, idols, or even material possessions? Does not sound too far from the truth for some today, does it? How quick we are to turn away from God for something that is newer, brighter, or shinier.

The third temptation of Jesus is the promise of invincibility. This seems to come to us more often when we are young and stupid! Now, don’t try this at home, but one attempt at this for me was when I thought I could run across the pool cover on my parent’s pool in the middle of winter. I may have been trying to show off for the next-door neighbor, and fortunately, I got all the way to the other side before my foot just barely broke through the ice frozen on top.

It is these temptations that Jesus walks away from after fasting for 40 days. He lets go of them so that he can move forward into the ministry that God is calling him to. A ministry that had been established from the very beginning of time.

Many people have used Lent as a time to fast from something as a discipline. I encourage you this year to let go of something. Not just for Lent, but for good. It could be something that distracts you away from God. A great definition of to let go is to relinquish your grip on something. As we do so it provides us the opportunity to return to God.

While Jesus let go of the temptations after his 40 days in the wilderness, it was also a sign of growth. His time of fasting in the wilderness revealed his great faith in God the Father which prepared him for his ministry ahead. A ministry that would lead to growth in his disciple’s faith as well.

Unlike me trying to cultivate a garden, Jesus was much better in cultivating a faith that laid the foundation for all of us to follow. The term to cultivate usually is used in farming as I am sure many of you know. We can also use it to refer to our lives and today to our faith. To cultivate means to prepare and then foster growth. To cultivate also means to labor, care for, study, refine, or encourage. All of these can relate to our faith and its growth as we draw closer to God this Lenten season. It takes work and we must be intentional.

As you noticed, there is also room for you to write on the doors what you are going to cultivate over these next forty days. After his time of testing in the wilderness, Jesus let go of the temptations and cultivated his faith as he drew closer to God.

How are you going to draw closer to God this season?

Let us pray. Lord, we return to you, asking for forgiveness this season of Lent. In this time of preparation, may we be guided by the Holy Spirit to let go of those things that weigh us down and be drawn to those things that cultivate our commitment to you. Amen.

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Listen to Him!

March 3, 2018 Transfiguration Sunday

Luke 9:28-43a

I have a confession to make, I am an introvert!

When I am with my peers, I quite often will sit back and listen to everything that is going on and the conversations that are occurring. Now, I am not saying this to lift myself up, because I could still do a better job at listening; just ask my wife!

When I get frustrated, and I am sure you could all agree, is when people do not listen to what I am saying. So, we can all relate to this, yet when it comes to listening, we quite often fall short of truly pausing to listen to what is being said. Listening is just one of our five senses, yet it is a very important sense. For those that are hearing impaired, they learn to listen through their other senses by what they see and even feel.

We can listen with not only our ears, but also with our eyes and hands. Of course, to use the other senses takes practice and the majority of us will never come to a full ability of using all of our senses to listen.

I believe that one of the important things that Luke shares with us in our gospel is when the disciples are called to Listen to Jesus. In the call to listen to Jesus, we are changed. That change welcomes us into the wonderful mystery of God.

Did you know that the average person can speak 150 words per minute? However, the average person can listen to 1000 words per minute. So, what do you do with that extra time that you have while listening to people? Are you gazing off into the distance wondering what is on your schedule next? I will admit that I catch myself doing this when I have a lot going on and I must intentionally pull myself back into a conversation at times. To intentionally focus on a conversation takes practice. With that in mind, I want to try something. I would like you to all take a moment to relax and prepare to really listen, more intently then you are right now. I am going to read you a paragraph and I would like you to listen and take notes if you would like.

You are a bus driver. At your first stop, you pick up 29 people. On your second stop, 18 of those 29 people get off, and at the same time 10 new passengers arrive. At your next stop, 3 of those 10 passengers get off, and 13 new passengers come on. On your fourth stop 4 of the remaining 10 passengers get off, 6 of those new 13 passengers get off as well, then 17 new passengers get on. What is the age of the bus driver?

To truly listen, we must block all distractions and focus on the thing right in front of us. We can listen with our ears, but we can also listen with our eyes through watching body language and movement. Perhaps we can even feel the vibrations of what is happening around us. Today we get in trouble when we allow ourselves to become distracted with our phones, the task that we are in the middle of trying to accomplish, or the thoughts of what needs to be done next.

The disciples were nearly caught in their sleep, yet they stayed awake to see what was about to happen on that mountain top. They are amazed by everything that takes place. The sights and sounds that they see and hear are so overwhelming that they kept silent when they came down from the mountain. The appearance of Moses and Elijah had to be overwhelming, and then Jesus’ appearance transformed right in front of them. They are overwhelmed by the mystery that they are welcomed into. Not, only that, they hear a voice from the heavens, “This is my Son, my chosen; listen to him!”

Peter had been so impressed, he wanted to stay there forever. Yet, they follow Jesus back down the mountainside. The call to listen to Jesus comes as a challenge. Nearly everything that Jesus preaches and every healing that he does, appears to bring out trouble for him and the disciples. His words and actions are resistance to what is currently being practiced by the leaders in the temple. Where they have become accustom to complacency and not disrupting the good thing they have going, Jesus begins to change all of that with every word he speaks and every step he takes.

The story of the transfiguration comes to us every Sunday before the beginning of Lent. It is a sign for the disciples that points to the glory of Jesus. It prepares them for the rest of Jesus’ ministry and as Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah, it is a sign for Jesus’ own exodus, when he will leave this earthly life through crucifixion. It is on the cross that Jesus will encounter release from this world and realize the freedom that comes in faith. It is a sign of God’s promise for us.

The words that are spoken to the disciples on the mountain are similar to the words that Jesus hears when he is baptized. The difference on the mountain top, is that the words are for all to hear. Those words are not just for the disciples. Those words come to us today in scripture and we are called to listen as well.

The listening is not a one-time thing. We do not just listen to God once and discern what we are to do with our lives or careers. To listen to Jesus Christ, is always to listen to what may be happening in and around us.  It is a two-way conversation. As we pray and listen for His response, something begins to happen within our very own beings. We too are transformed. We are transformed in our listening to Jesus and in that we are called to go out and share that same message of love, grace, and freedom that is shared with us when we find ourselves in Christ.

Let us pray. God of change, may we be transformed in your love as we listen to your calling in our life. Amen.

Love Your Enemies?

February 24, 2019

Luke 6:27-38

As I was preparing for today’s sermon, I was introduced to a short story by Flannery O’Connor. For those of you that do not know who Flannery O’Connor is, she grew up in Savanah, Georgia and was shaped by the thoughts of the south in the early twentieth century.

The short story that I encountered is called Revelation, and it details the visit of Ruby Turpin and her husband Claud to the local doctor’s office. The conversation that ensues among those waiting to see the doctor are ones that you may expect to hear in the south in the middle of the twentieth century. There is also much self-talk as Ruby looks around the room and nearly rejoices that she is better than almost everyone else that is waiting. For this she is thankful, and she could not decide if she had to choose, whether she would be better off being born as white trash or from African descent. I will admit, reading this story in 2019 made me a little squeamish, yet I also remembered when it was written. The scene in the doctor’s office concludes with Ruby being attacked and called a “wart hog from hell.”

As I read this short story, I was feeling almost as confused as reading our gospel lesson from Luke. Jesus challenges his listeners by telling them the very thing that they least likely want to do. I am sure that we could agree with this. You want us to love our enemy? Offer to let someone to strike the other cheek after they have assaulted us? Give to everyone who begs? These commands seem nearly impossible.

However, the grace and love of God tips the world upside down as we are challenged to do the very things that do not appear to come naturally.

In spite of this, we are still challenged. The news as of late has been rampant with things that we should not approve of, however, we are still supposed to love those people. Those that appear racist and benefit from their own perceived superiority? How about those that sexually assault others; are they supposed to get a free ride? We can review history and point out all the ill-fit leaders that killed millions and ruled with iron fists, and yet are these are still the people that Jesus wants us to love?

It is easy for certain pastors to fill stadiums to preach sermons that are easy to listen to and sound more like self-help lectures. If Jesus were to preach like this, the course of Christianity as we know it would have been drastically changed. Jesus does not sugar coat it though. He addresses what we need, not what we want to hear. The trouble arises, when we think we are all good. Like Ruby, praise be to God that we are who we are, and we are not that person over there.

Jesus’ words should wake us up. “These words cut across the grain of the natural response to perceived enemies of those who may curse what we value. ‘Do to others as they do to us’ may not be golden, but in reality it is the rule by which life should be lived.”[1] Jesus has set the bar too high! How can we expect to reach the commands that he has preached?

Jesus calls us to love! What if we did not look at this sermon from Jesus as commands, but rather as a promise? A promise of what is being done in this world. A promise of the kingdom of God coming and residing in our very world. A promise that we do not have to hold grudges or keep score of who did what to wrong us. 

When we cannot live up to the expectations of a command, we quite often find ourselves living in fear of not being able to follow the command. Fear of what may happen to us. However, with a promise, we encounter grace and love that is unbounding. It is that same grace and love that Jesus wants us to share with others. We are to forgive. David Lose shared in his commentary this week, “each time we forgive each other, are we not interrupting the cause and effect laws of this world. I mean love deserves love, hate deserves hate, deeds both good and bad should be repaid in kind, force must be returned with force, violence begets violence, and so on and so on. And yet when you forgive, you interrupt this endless cycle and create something new.”[2] Within that forgiveness lies the love of Christ.

The love that Jesus speaks of here does not mean a romantic love, liking, or even friendship. This love, agape, is a whole-hearted, unreserved, unconditional desire for the well-being of the other. In this love we do not hesitate. We do not worry about what it is going to cost us, and we do not worry about being paid in return. In agape love, our desire is purely in the well-being of the other. While we may dislike our enemies, because after all they are our enemies, Jesus challenges us to still desire their well being and in that, maybe a true relationship will be planted.

Ruby frets over the pronouncement by a random stranger, a perceived enemy, that she is a “warthog from hell.” A church going woman, how can someone call her such a thing. She then has a vision. A vision of a parade marching to heaven with those that she assumed were lower in importance than her getting into heaven first! She was in line as well, but at the end. How could those she looked down upon get into heaven first? It is here that Ruby found what it truly meant to love and experience the grace of God. For that, all she could hear were the shouts of Hallelujah.

Let us pray. God of grace, you call us to love our enemies and at this we often grit our teeth. May we immerse ourselves in your Son, Jesus Christ, to truly learn what this means and be changed through your endless grace. Amen.


[1] Charles Bugg. Feasting on the Word, Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C Volume 1. (pg 382).

[2] David Lose, Command or Promise, In the Meantime blog. http://www.davidlose.net

What Are You Willing to Leave Behind?

February 10, 2019

Luke 5:1-11

God comes to each and everyone of us in different manners. Jesus shows up when we are least expecting him and calls us to a life of letting go. You may have a story to share of that very moment, or you may still be waiting for such a moment. Sister Grace, in early twenties and contemplating making final vows in her spiritual community, wondered how the women ahead of her in the formation process could be sure they were ready to make this commitment. One Saturday morning, she was discussing this with a friend who was planning to make final vows in a few months. Her friend said to her, “Have you tried asking God about this?” Grace replied, “I hadn’t thought about that,” and actually went to her room to pray. When she prayed, asking if God wanted her to make final vows, she experienced her bedroom suddenly filled with light, more than the sun streaming through the windows could account for. And she felt deeply loved by God. However, this surprisingly immediate response to her prayer and the intensity of God’s love and presence frightened her and she fled her room.

Her friend noticed her pacing one of the corridors and commented, “I thought you said you were going to pray.” Grace responded, “I did, and God is in my room right now!” Her friend asked her the next logical question, “Then what are you doing out here? Don’t you think you should go back?” Grace replied, “I’ve got enough of an answer for now!”[1]

Jesus has been traveling around the country side healing and teaching. Luke shares some of these stories before the calling of the first disciples. He had to establish himself and build some credibility. The call to Simon comes as Jesus borrows his boat to speak to the people gathered along the lake shore. It is morning and all the fishermen were coming in after a night of work and I am sure that Simon and his group are not only tired, but also quite frustrated and angry. They did not catch a single thing while out that night. Now Jesus wants to commandeer his boat. He says yes, perhaps with a bit of reluctancy.

When Jesus instructs him to let down his nets, Simon reminds him that the night was not productive, but okay, I’ll humor you. Jesus surprises him a second time as he pulls in a net full of fish. So much fish that he must call his partners over so that they can fill their boat too! At this point, we would expect him to thank Jesus. Right? Nope! He more or less tells Jesus, “Go away Lord, get out of here! I am a sinner and not worthy of this generous gift!” Like Sister Grace, he cannot handle the presence of God and wants to get as far away as possible.

We are living in denial if we say we have never done something similar. The power and presence of God can be overwhelming! Sometimes, when we want to experience that power and God seems distant, we get even angrier and tell God to get lost for a while. This is our attempt to manage God in our lives, and let me tell you, it usually does not end the way that we want it to. “God, you may enter some parts of my life, but not that part!” However, we do not have a say where God shows up!

We must be open to Jesus showing up in the weirdest places that we would have never expected! We should not be surprised, because he did it time and time again throughout the gospels. He eats with tax collectors. He has conversations with prostitutes. He welcomes the sick and the dying. He speaks with gentiles and shows his love for them. His presence among the least of society is one we can easily witness in the gospels today. For Simon, he still probably didn’t quite know what he was getting into. However, he knows that he is a sinner and yet Jesus still wants him to follow him. First, he leaves behind the thought of that bed that he was going to get in after an unsuccessful night of fishing, and then once they make their way back to the shore, he leaves the boats of fish behind to follow Jesus. He left everything!

What is in your boat that you are being called to leave behind?

For Sister Grace, it was her doubts and her reluctance to truly invite God into her prayers. For me, it was a life of complacency where I would have been a store manager. Now, for some, that may be their calling. For me, I knew that God was calling me to something different. Something weird! It is in the weird that I found Christ calling me to something much fuller and richer that spoke to the life that God had created in me. Each of us need to find that same thing.

Jesus does not only call us, but he also equips us for the journey ahead. For Simon and the other disciples that follow him, he will teach them to be the fisher of people! He will continue to teach them and will prepare them to share the good news once his mission is complete. While we are sinners too, we also are equipped by following Jesus and his teachings. While Jesus may show up when we least expect it and calls us to let go of the worldly things in our lives, he will never leave us to carry out his message alone.

Let us pray. Jesus, you call us to places we would never venture without your prodding. May we be open to the Spirit empowering us to listen to where our journey may lead next. Amen.


[1] Janet K. Ruffing, Spiritual Direction, Beyond the Beginnings, pg. 37.

A Reluctant Jesus?

January 20, 2019

John 2:1-11

One of the greatest barriers that we encounter in our lives is self-doubt! Even as you speak it, you can hear how it is directed internally. It is not doubt that is poured onto you by a boss, neighbor, or family member. It is doubt that we heap upon ourselves. It is a barrier that we construct when we are hesitant and reluctant to move forward.

I am no stranger to self-doubt. I still battle it from time to time. It usually rears its ugly head when I feel that I am possibly in the wrong place at the wrong time, or if I am not quite sure if the words that I have to say really matter in the whole scope of a conversation. I struggled with it in seminary as I was surrounded by classmates that grew up in the church and knew a lot more of the Bible than I did. I wondered if I was in the right place at the right time and would have to take a moment to pause and give thanks for the many possibilities that I had been given. Even at a time of hesitancy, Jesus takes a moment to pray and listen to how God is guiding him in his walk with humanity.

This morning, we must venture outside of Luke’s gospel to hear the story of the wedding at Cana. In the gospel of John, the turning of the water into the wine is the first sign that Jesus performs that points to his glory and divinity. Yet, as we listen to the gospel lesson, there  appears to be a bit of a reluctance on his part to move forward.

First, there is the conversation with his mother around the wine running out, and his response, “What concern is that to you and to me?” It almost seems to be a get behind me Satan moment that we will encounter when Peter questions Jesus. He then tells her, “My hour has not yet come.” What exactly is he waiting for? We are left wondering why this hesitancy. Why this reluctance to help with hospitality. He truly has the power to make or break this wedding party. If the wine runs dry, then so does the wedding celebration. A wedding celebration in the time of Jesus would last for an entire week. Imagine what would happen if you ran out of wine in the middle of the week. Most likely, there would be a bit of shame.

While Jesus shows a bit of reluctance, could there have just been a tinge of self-doubt? This is the first sign that he will perform, so maybe he won’t get it right. Perhaps, he is just beginning to understand the ministry that lays in front of him and his hesitancy is a result of this. The words of Jesus’ mother are simple, “They have no wine.” She is pointing to the need at hand and putting the ball into his court to see what will happen next. The divine mystery at work.

Our world today, is not immune to need.

In a world where for so many there is no clean water—let alone fine wine—where is the extravaganza of God? In a world where children play in bomb craters the size of thirty-gallon wine jugs, why the divine reluctance? In a world where desperate mothers must say to their small children, “We have no food,” why has the hour not yet come? [In a time when we argue with those we disagree and call them names, why not a little divine intervention?] No matter how we rationalize divine activity, we still want to tug at Jesus’ sleeve and say: “they have no wine.”[1]

There is something much greater that is realized in our gospel lesson. While Jesus may seem a bit reluctant, he does pause and listens to God. While he thought it was not his time yet, he must have sensed that the Spirit was working through his mother to call him into action. In that action, he does not hold anything back! He goes all in!

As we hear, he instructs the servants to fill the thirty-gallon jugs with water. And, they fill them to the brim! There is a great abundance that Jesus pours forth for all to experience that are celebrating at the wedding feast. While, the first wine may have been of a decent quality, perhaps like Mogen-David, this wine that Jesus has called forth is even greater! Perhaps a nice cabernet, or even a port! He does not hold anything back to be shared with the people.

This is a precursor of the ministry that he is going to begin with the disciples. He will be sharing the abundance of God with everyone that he encounters. It is amazing that this first act of Jesus is not a healing, or a sermon, or even an exorcism. His first act is to share the abundance of God with all that are gathered. This is a foretaste of Jesus’ ministry, and a foretaste of the kingdom to come. It is here that Jesus will welcome all people into his embrace.

Each and everyone of you are called to share in this ministry with Jesus Christ. Are you possibly a little hesitant and reluctant like he appeared to be? Are you afraid to lift your voices over the noise and distractions of your daily life? If so, you are not alone. I am with you in my own hesitancy and reluctance at times. But more important, Christ is with us as we are called to walk along our brothers and sisters in humanity. Jesus comes to us with vessels that flow over the brim with an abundant love from God. May you be filled with that overflow of love and grace and be a sign for others seeking God.

Let us pray. All encompassing God, we give thanks for the signs of Jesus that reveal is glory to all. May we learn to embrace these signs in our own lives and live into the grace that only comes through you. Amen.


[1] Carol Lakey Hess, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 4, 263.

Called and Named

January 13, 2019

Isaiah 43:1-7

The art of the handwritten note is one of those practices that has been diminished by easier, quicker options to communicate. I know that I am guilty of it, even though I set the intention to send personalized notes. When we can email, text, or contact through social media, we are able to express our thoughts in an array of quicker, more immediate options.

There is just something about a handwritten note though. It is the next best thing to having the person that wrote it standing right next to you. It can convey a simple message in the voice of the person writing it. It reminds us that someone took the time to reach out to us and remember us. It is something you can keep.

One of my most prized Christmas gifts is an ELW. Yes, you heard me right, an Evangelical Lutheran Worship Hymnal! Just like the ones in the pews in front of you. Why does it mean so much? It is because it was from my pastor a couple years before I started seminary and I was in the midst of starting the candidacy process. It is a prized gift because he wrote a personal note in the front cover. Reminding me that where ever the Spirit may lead me, I am blessed and am a blessing!

I have another note that I have kept for nearly 25 years that I received at my high school graduation from my fourth-grade teacher along with a dictionary. In it, she reminded me that I am part of a very special family. God does the same for us through scripture as we are called and named by a loving God that has come down to earth to accompany us in our daily walk.

Notes like these can touch us and help guide us in times of uncertainty and fear. They give us reassurance when self-doubt creeps in. As we are reminded this morning of Jesus’ baptism, we also rejoice in ours. However, let’s be honest, it is often easy to forget those words that were spoken to us in our own baptisms and as we reaffirm them on different occasions. When we look at the world around us and the evil that persists, we can easily be baptized in fear. A fear that drives us away from everything that Christ stands for. We forget everything in those moments that we are baptized in fear. We forget our heritage. We forget our names, who we are called to be. We forget our purpose. We even forget those resources in which we have been entrusted.

The people of Israel that the prophets spoke to also were no strangers to fear. In Isaiah we are presented with a story of our ancestors living in exile and anticipating a return home, if not for themselves, at least for the generations that follow. They are gripped by fear and a feeling of isolation. Wondering where to turn next and wondering if things will ever get any better. The story in Isaiah spans a couple of hundred years from the time they are taken into exile in Babylon until the time they return to their homeland. They went from an independent people to ones that were conquered. No wonder, they are living in fear and uncertainty.

Amid their exile, they are reminded that they are loved. The beginning of this chapter in Isaiah can be read like one of those personal notes. It reminds them that they are special and that they are very much a part of God’s glorious creation and are personally called. This passage from Isaiah brings hope to a nation that is in turmoil. It gives hope for the time to come.

It not only speaks to those living in exile, it also reaches across millennia and is an incredible reminder for today. We too, are called personally into a life with God. We too have been created. We too have been formed. We too have been redeemed. We too have been called. In these actions by God, we are reminded that we are precious and honored. These are all words that we should be reminded of and listen to daily. Each one of you has been created and called by God and are worthy of the love of God. In this love, you are called to live into a relationship with God that has come down to earth in the form of Jesus Christ.

We should not be overly concerned about what happens when we die. We should be concerned about how we are living our life today! Isaiah reminds the people who they are and whose they are despite their sins. We too should remember who and whose we are when we are confronted with the fears of society and be reminded of the love of God that came down to earth for us in Jesus Christ.

In his baptism, Jesus hears the words, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  In the water of our own baptisms we too were reminded that we are children of God and we are loved, now and forevermore. May these words wash over you every chance they get, so that you remember you are beloved and with you, God is pleased.

Let us pray. God of the waters, we fall prey to shortsightedness every time we let fear guide our thoughts and actions. May you guide us with your love as we affirm our baptisms and walk in your light. Amen.

Seeking the Light

January 6, 2019 Epiphany

Matthew 2:1-12

My family likes to play games. From card games, board games, and even more recently role-playing games. Doing so, we have the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company, share in laughter, and grab bragging rights for the next time that we play.

However, there have been times when we have played that someone has joined us that does not like to lose. They attempt to change the rules midstream so that they also end up on top and will never be the loser. The desire to win often times brings frustration and confusion to the other friends and family that are attempting to play the game honestly. Even when this is brought to the attention of the arrogant player, they still seem to be in the dark. In their desire to remain on top, they alienate themselves and wonder why they are left in the dark as everyone else moves on to have a good time doing something else. Where does the joy come from when one must trick others to guarantee yourself a winner?

The magi have no desire to be left in the dark as they transcend their role to pay homage to the newborn king. The magi are a reminder for us that Jesus, the newborn king, brings light to the world for all to see.

The magi are a living example of what it means to live in the time of Advent. In the gospel this morning we are told of the gifts that they shared with Jesus, but they have also been able to utilize the gifts of waiting, seeking, and discovery. They were waiting for the light to appear, and the star that has risen in the sky is a sign for them to seek out the newborn king. With this new information, they are able to venture out into the vastness that lies between them and Jesus to discover the light born into the world in the form of a child.

Herod, on the other hand, is the antithesis of Advent. In the story of Herod, we receive a message of rejection, fear, and refusal of the light. While Herod is Jewish himself, he was made a client king by the Roman rulers, so that they could appease people in the hopes that he would connect better to the people of Judea. By the time word of Jesus’ birth comes to his ears through the magi, he has been ruling for nearly forty years. His time ruling has been plagued in fear of losing the kingship and the executions of his own family to ensure that he remains in power. In the magi’s message, Herod is once again gripped by the fear of a change that could come to Judea. A change that could result in him losing his authority as king. We can nearly sense the refusal in Herod’s reactions to see the light that has come to the world in which the magi are now seeking.

When we become fearful of change, loss, and even comfort, we can be hindered in our daily lives from opening our eyes to the light of Christ all around us. At times we struggle with putting our fears aside so that we can experience the light that God offers to us. We much rather cling to false hopes and self-preservation instead of seeking the light in others. When we refuse to see Christ in our sisters and brothers, we walk the same line as Herod!

There is an incredible message waiting for us in Matthew today. It is a message of welcome. It is a message that God does not stop at any barrier. God breaks down stereo types and reaches out to shine the light far and wide. The shepherds were sent an angelic choir to sing the praises of the newborn king. To the magi a star appears in the sky to guide them to the light of the world that illuminates the darkness. Even Herod is given the sign of the magi that are going to share gifts worthy of a king; only his jealousy blocks the light for him to see.

Jesus’ ministry will be one of reaching out to those that are on the outskirts of society. Those that have been frowned upon and those that others will not give the time of day. He chooses to eat with the poor, the excluded, the sick, the lonely, prostitutes, and even tax collectors!

In the bearing of gifts worthy of a king, the magi and all of humanity receive something much greater, the light of the world. That light is revealed to us through our own epiphanies. Perhaps, we see it in the eyes of our significant other, in the first cry of our own children when they were born. Perhaps we have even seen it in the last breaths of a loved one as they have come at least to peace in the hands of a loving God. Do we share these experiences and spread the good news?

The magi receive word in a dream that they must not return to Herod and report what they have seen. Instead they go a different route. What route has Jesus called us to follow as we listen to the Word today? We have moved through Advent into Christmas and now Epiphany to experience and be the light. May you all find the route Jesus is calling you to follow as you enter this new year with hope and a promise of the Light that has come into the world.

Let us pray. God of light, may we be guided as the magi were guided to find and pay homage to your newborn son. May we be bearers of this same light in our lives so that others may experience the love of Christ through our words and actions. Amen.