The Three Wise (Wo)Men

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 2:1-11.

A couple months ago I shared an evening meeting with a family from the church and I admit my attire was quite casual. As we concluded our time together one member of the family stopped to study my shirt – a teal t-shirt emblazoned with a silhouette of the state of Florida and the words nevertheless she preached.

Nevertheless she preached…always up to something, aren’t you!?”

Yes. Yes, I am.

Students of Scripture know that women are not always cast in the best light in our sacred text; therefore, I cling to the moments that women are in fair light and seek the moments of hope and redemption for our Scripture sisters awaiting transformation.

Women were among the first to dance and sing of God’s deliverance through the Red Sea.

Women were the first witnesses to the resurrection.

Women were among and traveled with Jesus and his disciples.

Were women among the magi?

Were women…magi?

We have a tradition of three kings – king referring to male figures – because of the three gifts provided to the Christ child – gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And yet…

There could have been more gifts. There could have been more kings. Kings could have been a collective noun to group together male and female royalty.

There could have been women among the magi.

There could have been women magi!

I believe these imaginings are valid and worthy. Girls and women have a valuable place in this world. God created Eve alongside Adam. Women and men together have walked and weathered and wondered the journey of faith with God from the very beginning.

The worship of Jesus by the shepherds symbolizes the Jews worshipping God’s Son. The worship of Jesus by the magi symbolizes the Gentiles worshipping God’s Son. The Savior of the world is not just for some; the Savior of the world is for all. And imagining the presence of women worshipping Jesus in his nativity sends a powerful message of inclusion of the continuous presence of women in our narrative of faith.

“On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage…and having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road” (Mt 2:11a and 12). I trust the magi left praising and dancing. Upon returning to their homeland, I trust the magi witnessed to what they experienced and who they worshipped.

I trust that women were among the magi…that women were magi…and that nevertheless she (they) preached. From the Garden – from the Red Sea – from Jesus’ nativity – from the empty tomb – from today – for always.

Prayer: “O God, you made of one blood all nations, and, by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.”*

*“Epiphany,” The United Methodist Hymnal 255.

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Dimiss

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Matthew 1:18-25

This week while watching coverage celebrating the life and service of George H. W. Bush I heard him say in an earlier interview, “I have banned the use of the ‘L’ word.” What word was that? Legacy. He banned the use of the word legacy.

The 41st President continued, “I would like someone else to define the legacy…I think history will…point out the things I got wrong, and perhaps some of the things we did right.”

Your words ring true, Mr. President. Well done, good and faithful servant.

Our Scripture text for this week is the defining moment in Joseph’s legacy. Will he pursue betrothal to Mary to marriage or will he dismiss her quietly? Although the text does not lift the veil, we can sense the psychological turmoil Joseph endures. On the line are his reputation, his place in the community, his chances for another relationship, and his faith. The same things are on the line for Mary…add “her life” also to that list.

We do not hear from Joseph again much after Jesus’ nativity. He decides to enter marriage with Mary. He welcomes and names Jesus. He witnesses as the magi worship the Christ Child and then shepherds his family to Egypt seeking refuge from Herod. Joseph’s legacy is that of a caregiver and provider. He stood at the fork in the road between being right and being kind – and he chose kindness.

History points out that Joseph got this one right. When we find ourselves at the same fork in the road, may we also choose as Joseph did.

Prayer: “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given; so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven. No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him, still the dear Christ enters in.”* Amen.

*“O Little Town of Bethlehem,” The United Methodist Hymnal 230.

The Plan

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Ephesians 3:1-12

This Sunday the Tuskawilla Community will celebrate Epiphany – the 12th day of Christmas – the end of Christmastide.

(Disclaimer: Yes, Sunday, January 4 is only the 10th day after Christmas, but it’s okay.  We will sing Christmas and Epiphany hymns this week!)

On Epiphany we remember the magi coming to the Christ child bearing exquisite and expense gifts. On this final moment of Jesus’ nativity we begin to hear the laments that will wail from Golgotha. He will not wear a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns. His body will not be sweetened with frankincense and myrrh, but prepared for a borrowed grave.

As the carol sings the magi “traverse(d) afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.” They journeyed from the East and had obstacles – some easy and some not so easy – to overcome on their quest to see what lay under the Bethlehem star. The magi did not give up. The magi did not turn back. The magi journeyed so that they, too, might worship the newborn King.

2014 closes in a little more than a day. Each day is part of a year long journey where we, too, face our own fields, fountains, moors, and mountains. Fields are be those spaces where we feel rooted or grow or harvest. Fountains are those spaces where we are cleansed, refreshed, purified, and made new. Moors are those spaces where the ground is not so smooth, where the vegetation is overgrown so visual confirmation of sure-footing is obscured, and where stinky, sticky mud can bog us down. Mountains are those spaces of trial and of triumph; mountains are those spaces where we draw close to God and then re-enter our routine landscapes.

I am looking forward to 2015 through reflective eyes gazing on 2014. I can identify my fields, my fountains, my moors, and my mountains. I am thankful for each moment of my journey, not because they have helped move me closer to the Christ child, but because each of these moments were Epiphanies where Christ found me. Jesus planted me in and harvested me from the fields, washed me in the fountains, unstuck me from the moors, and met me on the mountains. With each moment I was drawn closer to the Bethlehem star, but not withheld from worshipping the Christ until I finally arrived. I worshipped as I walked. This year has been a moving meditation.

I invite you to reflect upon your 2014. What are your field, fountain, moor, and mountain moments? How have you worshipped as you have walked? What have you learned? How will you invite Christ to continue shaping you from the path of 2014 as you journey into 2015? Perhaps these reflections will lead you in discernment of what you will resolve for your relationship with Christ in the coming year.

As I reflect I resolve to lean into hope rather than worry. I resolve to claim positivity and release negativity. I resolve to further breathe into the inclusive nature of Epiphany – that Christ came for all people – that Christ seeks each one of us – that Christ our Lord makes us one and is Lord of all.

What will you resolve? What will you apply from your traversing in 2014 that will help you with your Christ-led meditation in 2015?

Prayer: “O God, you made of one blood all nations, and by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.”*

*”Epiphany,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 255.