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.

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Salt and Light

Sea salt wooden spoon on brown wooden background.

February 5, 2017

Matthew 5:13-20

Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Needless to say, the news of the past couple of weeks has been all over the place. At times, it has been riveting, in the sense that you don’t want to turn away for you may miss something. Other times, it has been detestable, and you cannot turn off the television or change the channel fast enough. Of course, what some of us find riveting others may find detestable and vice versa.

In light of everything that happens in Washington D.C., in our country, and around the world, we have been presented with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This just happens to be part of our lectionary cycle that we are in, Year A, the year of Matthew. Regardless of where our opinions lie on the current conditions of politics in America, Jesus brings us truth in the gospel of Matthew. It is a little hard to argue with Jesus. Jesus speaks of a righteousness that seems hard to come by these days, at least something other than a self-prescribed righteousness.

In Jesus’ righteousness, we are promised righteousness ourselves, and this is what makes the kingdom of heaven, here on earth, possible. In that righteousness, we are blessed. We are blessed to be welcomed into the kingdom of God, and we are blessed to be able to say that we are doing our best to follow the example that Jesus has set.

When we live in brokenness, it feels like everything is falling apart around us. In times like these, it is important to remember that we are blessed by Jesus. And this can make all the difference. While we received his message of blessing last week in the beatitudes, Jesus continues that into this week’s lesson. We can hear his words as they are directed to the disciples.  Words that call us into being here and now.

Jesus is not setting the stage for what the disciples are going to be in the future, or perhaps for what they should strive for. He is stating who they are and what difference they can make in the world that they are called to lead. We too can hear Jesus’ words as ones that speak to us in this time and place. “You are the salt of the earth.” It is with salt that we are able to enhance and alter the taste of food. There is a power in salt that brings the goodness out in things and brings them to life. Salt can also be used as a preservative to keep things fresh longer. Salt also stimulates thirst. Imagine being the salt that brings someone to the baptismal waters of Christ.

“You are the light of the world.” It is in the brokenness of our world where it appears dark. That light brings a sign of hope and perseverance. There is an energy around light that enlivens. Living in Michigan, we know the power of the sun. This past week has been awesome as we have been able to increase our natural vitamin D absorption by 1000%, as the sun has actually been out! The sun does not only make us feel better, it helps things grow! If it were not for the sunlight, our plants would not be able thrive. Imagine being the light that helps someone grow in their faith.

Herein, is where the problem resides. Do you know that you are the salt of the earth? Do you know that you are the light of the world? As Christians, we can all too often get caught up in the business of doing church. We want to make sure that we have everything in order. We want to make sure everything goes smoothly in worship. Like the Pharisees and Scribes, we tend to focus more on observing tradition, our public displays of piety, and our adherence to the letter of the law. This is where they find their righteousness. Jesus, on the other hand, focuses on his relationship with God, and in this lies the foundation for his relationship with his followers. Jesus lets them and us know who we are as people of God. A people that are blessed. In that blessing, we are informed that we are the salt and the light of the world. We don’t want to lose our saltiness, for if we do, then we bring nothing to the table of change. We do not want to let our light be hidden, for in that light is the love of Christ that wants to shine in the darkness.

We have witnessed people these past couple of weeks that are truly showing what it means to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The millions of women that marched around the world during the women’s march were being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They were not holding back and were not afraid to let their voices be heard. There was a pro-life march and rally in Washington D.C. last weekend where people were being salt and light. The protests we witnessed in airports last weekend over the refugee and immigrant ban was a witness to people being the salt and light of the world. I am not saying you have to agree with all of these. What I am saying is that this is what Jesus is calling us to when he tells us we are salt and light.

We are to be vocal and step up for what we believe in. As Christians, we are to follow the words and actions of Jesus. This should be the foundation of our own actions as we reach out to make a difference and initiate change. We can do so by supporting causes that are near and dear to us and letting our voices as Christians be heard.

Jesus was born into this world to bring light to the darkness. Through his death on the cross we are reminded of God’s grace that brings us salvation. Remember as you go out this week that you are loved, you are blessed, and that you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Amen.