Dipping Into the Water

The Feast of The Epiphany Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi, The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1440/1460

A group of men go on a journey guided only by their instincts and a star. They are guided by a star which arose very far and set out to see where it leads. Yes, they were astronomers or astrologers. Yes, it was pseudo-science and religion, but none the less they said yes. Did they know where this star would lead them? Yes, to a newborn king, but where this was exactly, they did not know. The long trek would have been expensive. A caravan of people with food, water, tents, and protection. If they stopped in a town, goods may have been overpriced because the people knew that these foreigners were wealthy.

I wonder if we overlook that the Wise Men had real dangers and challenges along the way; that the trip was not easy or necessarily comfortable. But the Wise Men went in search of something special. What they found was an epiphany: an appearance or manifestation, a perceptible expression of God. And with such an epiphany, they offer adoration and gifts to the new king.

Nine months earlier, Mary started a journey. She said yes to the angel and prayed that all he said would come true. In her heavily pregnant state, she traveled to her husband’s hometown. It seems they left family and friend to make this trip, ending up homeless along the way. Like the Wise Men, who’s gifts represent both royalty and death, we don’t know if Mary knew of her son’s fate; rejection, ridicule, torture , and of course crucifixion.

Interestingly enough, these journeys marked by endurance and generosity are not very unusual. What I mean is that we know people such as Noah, who followed God call into the unknown. Dangerous; yes. Giving of himself; yes. Needing help from family and friends, definitely. We can look from Noah to the twelve disciples and many people leading up to us today. We find people who are following a journey in faith. A journey that is unknown and mysterious. A journey that comes with great expense.

Sometimes the expense can be monetary. What did Noah have to contribute to build the arc? The Wise Men must have paid great sums for their journey. The disciples gave up their jobs and money to follow Christ. Not all of us are called to take a vow of poverty, but to be truly generous does mean to give of what we have. A greater mark of such journeys goes beyond money to endurance.

For a marathon runner, endurance is taking one step after the next knowing that you will eventually finish the race. The Wise Men didn’t know how long their adventure would take. The Apostles thought that their journey with Christ was all too short… until they realized that his death really meant that their journey had just begun.

Paul, writing from prison isn’t worried about his captivity. Even in the depths of Roman brutality, Paul sees this as just one more step in his journey. He seems to be happy that he is a prisoner for Christ. And even in his captivity, he strives to make Christ known to others.

What we find with Paul is that he isn’t naturally inclined to take on this journey. He needs help. The help Paul requires is the same help that Mary, the Disciples, and I think the Wise Men needed. Help that comes in the form a gift. As Paul says, “the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power.”

This gift is the same gift that Paul is trying to share with the Gentiles; with the world; with you and me. The mystery hidden for ages in God is God’s grace that is accessible to every one of us. Paul wants us to recognize God’s manifestation in our lives, epiphany so that we can better understand the mystery of God in the world and make known the wisdom of God in its rich variety.

I wonder if this journey is like stepping into a cold pool. We are apprehensive of the cold water; being wet and uncomfortable. We dip our toe in and what we fear seems to be justified, as the chill runs up our foot to our leg. But once we are in, or for those who are a bit braver and just jump in head first, we find that the pool of water that surrounds us is a comfortable, relaxing place to be.

This is God’s love that surrounds us. It may seem intimidating at first, but once we are fully in we find it comfortable. It doesn’t mean that someone might not splash us, cannonball near us, or even occasionally dunk us under the water; but even then we are surrounded by God’s love.

It is this knowledge and love of God, the gift of grace that is given to all of us to explore, that allows us to step out in faith and either test the water or jump right into a seemingly uncomfortable journey with God. Then all we can do is trust that God is leading us. Whether it is by a strange star, a flood, or imprisonment, our journey of faith will lead us where God wants us to be.

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