Lectio Divina: August 3, 2018, Ordinary Time 1 Corinthians 13 (NRSV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrong doing but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Meditation:

This passage from 1 Corinthians is probably one of the most well-known writings of Paul, yet no one understands or follows the simple mandate, love each other. Love, everyone knows what it is, everyone wants it, and it is probably the most hoarded grace of all time. Oscar Hammerstein II, wrote:

“A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it –
A song’s not a song ’til you sing it –
Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay –
Love isn’t love ’til you give it away!”

Love isn’t something you say, it’s something you do, you must express love in some way for it to have any meaning. To give it away is to hold someone when they hurt, offer the essentials of survival to those in desperate need, or sit and listen when no one will, that is love.

It sounds so simple and it is so hard to do. We humans just can’t get the idea of love right. The author of 1st Peter said: “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” (4:8) Or, if you love enough you will let the irritations of life go. Unfortunately letting go is the farthest from many of our minds or behavior. God loved the Hebrews and as a result forgave them their sins repeatedly, and then he sent prophet after prophet to remind them of that love. God sent Jesus to tell the gentiles (that’s you and me) divine love was there for the asking. Trouble is we don’t ask, and we don’t give, we hoard.

All too often our lives are filled with the endings of love and compassion what we need are the beginnings, the constant expression of love, our eyes are dimmed to the graciousness that surrounds us and all creation. Love comes in many forms and, sadly, the only way we observe it is when we are hit over the head with compassion, kindness, and mercy. Yes I know there are those who say the word love and believe it’s good enough or they believe love only applies to those who think like they do, but saying is not enough, loving only those who love you is not enough. You must put love into action and when love is freely given away to all, it multiplies hundreds, thousands of times over and over.

Today our government promotes hate, greed, and racism as part of the evangelical cult that’s taken over our politicians’ lives. Love has no place in their world view, they love only those who see the world in their own twisted way. We see the result of their twisted understanding of love every time a person of color is killed, a law officer is killed, hate groups such as Nazis are allowed, encouraged, to harass and hurt people different from them. We see the hording of love every time we see injustice and when we keep silent and do nothing we become part of that cult of hatred and hoarding.

If we are to be faithful to Paul’s words and the teachings of each prophet God has sent, then we must put ourselves between those who do not show or share love with those in need. When we do not act we are just as guilty of hording love, compassion, justice, mercy and peace. It is our responsibility, our ministry, our job to act and pass the grace of love on multiplying it into infinity.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 3, 2018

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Women’s March, January 21, 2017 Seattle WA, Photo by Ruth Jewell

Prayerful Decisions – Prayerful Tuesday

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1

 

Photo by Joe Beck, Unsplash
Photo by Joe Beck, Unsplash

Today is Super-Tuesday, a day when political parties in mostly southern states choose who they want to run as their Presidential Candidate.  So far in this election we have heard the traditional political rhetoric and a great deal of speech filled with anger, hate, bigotry, greed and plan nonsense. My choice of candidate is not important, no, rather what is important is that each of us look carefully at who is running and who has the American peoples best interest.  Not just white, male, and wealthy, but all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status, choice of faith, where they come from, color of their skin, age, or gender identification. All Americans regardless of whether or not they have U.S. citizenship or hopes to attain American citizenship all must be considered equal participants in our society.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” We cannot serve the people, the Divines own people, if we serve our own self interests. When we love power, money, and status more than we love the people of God, whoever they may be, pain and suffering will be, has been, the result.  We  who call ourselves followers of the Divine, with whatever faith tradition we  choose, must not let those whose primary interest is greed, hate, and power, and not the American people, or the people of the world be elected into a position where they could destroy the fabric of our nation and world.

So today, offer prayers for those voting, that they think carefully of their choices.  To refuse to let false, hateful and self-serving rhetoric sway them.  Rather pray that all people will stand together to push back the evil we are seeing displayed during this election year.

My prayer:  May the hand of every voter be guided by the desire for a country that holds sacred the lives and well being of all who live in American and beyond.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 1, 2016

Pray Everywhere, Anytime

Prayer, A Light In The Darkness
Prayer, A Light In The Darkness

16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. –                                  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, (NRSV)

To pray always, without ceasing, seems like an impossible task.  Seeing God in every thing, every action we do, every moment of our lives opens doors of our hearts, and the Spirit of God moves in.  We don’t become Pollyanna’s seeing only the good in people.  We see the suffering and trials of those around us and in seeing God in their faces we open our hearts and let God’s compassion move us to be the arms and legs, the body, of the Holy Spirit.  We are motivated to give the solace, love, support to those who are in need just as Jesus did on the streets and fields of Judea.

The suffering of our communities, nation and world overwhelms, frightens us and as the troubles increase exponentially we ask does prayer really do any good. Offering a prayer for someone walking in the dark places of life, does let them know they aren’t alone, that someone, somewhere is keeping them in their hearts.  But even more important is the prayer that motivates us to be the Christ on the street, to offer food, and help find shelter.  To care for the sick and injured in even small ways that often are not seen in the mad rush to send massive aid.  In fact many times it is the small things we do that mean the most to the recipients.  Each act is an act of prayer, it is an offering, it is remembering to feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit the incarcerated, and give mercy to the stranger, which all God and Jesus asked us to do.

What does prayer do for us who offer the prayers, perform the actions of prayer?  Well prayer draws us r into the arms of God.  Prayer opens our hearts to the love God and our ears to the words of God calling us to be the Beings we are meant to be.  Below is a lovely video by Lisa Maria Cameron (www.whisperingstars.com ©2007)

As you listen to song and watch the pictures pass before you.  Let your hearts turn to prayer, where ever you are, you don’t even have stop what you are doing and offer a prayer for what lies closest in heart.  Listen; listen carefully in a moment of silence, and throughout your day, for words of encouragement from God.  Look into the faces of each person you meet and see the face of God.  Each of you, all of you, no matter what you do, or have done, is beloved by God.  Let your eyes be opened to love that shines in the eyes of each other, and ears be opened to the voice of God in the voice of the next person you meet.

May the peace of God be with you, now and forever more.

Ruth Jewell, ©October 20, 2014

Journey, A Guided Meditation – Prayerful Tuesday

Journey
Journey

 

Galatians 3:26-29 The Message (MSG) 25-27 But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.
28-29 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.

I am traveling this week. I am attending a wedding in Long Beach WA  this weekend but my first stop was in Yakima where I attended  the Turner Lectures., an interfaith lecture series held every year in the first week of October by the North West Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (NWRCC). The NWRCC invites prominent authors and theologians and hosts for three days of a teaching, discussion, good conversation, and meaningful worship. This year Michael Kinnamon and Carol Howard Merrit are our guest lectures and their talks and discussions of the Past and Future Church: From the Ends of the Earth to Our Doorstep are inspiring. I am part of the team that planned the worship services and one of the elements of our morning worships has been guided meditation on the morning’s scripture. Guided meditation is a wonderful spiritual tool that uses our imagination to enter into story, or scripture, in a very personal way. In our imagination we are feel the warmth of the sun, stirring of the wind, all of the natural elements. We can smell food, or feel the presence of crowds or feel emptiness. Using our imagination we “see” the story from a new perspective, not as a distant reader, but as a participant.

Monday I read Galatians 3:26-29 and led the morning’s guided meditation. I invite you to take a few minutes, get comfortable and listen to the scripture and meditation. The full text of the meditation is below

 

 

I invite you to get comfortable, with feet on the floor

Take a deep breath and another one.

You have been walking a long time you are tired and covered in road dust

Ahead of you a small village appears at the edge of lake. You have arrived

You have been searching anticipating the end of your journey and now it is in sight

Villagers wave to you and you wave in return the people walk out to greet you the young and the old, people of every color in the human rainbow, people wearing clothes of every cultures all come out to welcome you In front the growing group, God, waits for you with open arms

Someone relieves you of your back pack as God enfolds you in an embrace a flask of water is pressed into your hand Jesus, offers you a place to rest, breaks bread with you and offers you wine. you didn’t know how hungry you were.

They take you to the lake where you bathe in it’s cool, refreshing waters when you step out of the water new clothes await you, new shoes, soft as down for your tired feet.

The villagers celebrate your coming with a great dinner food from every culture, every ethnic group all created for a joyful feast

God dances with joy

You are home a child of the village

You have new clothes

you have eaten food that has fed you deeper than any food possibly could

the villagers hand you your pack, cleaned and freshly filled

God, Jesus, and the villagers shoulder their own packs

together you walk on
Together you complete the journey

 

Ruth Jewell, ©October 7, 2014,

The Cost of Life

 

Sermon, Queen Anne Christian Church
June 15, 2014

Romans 6:1b-11
Romans 6:1b-11

 

Roman 6:1-11  What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 10:24-39 ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master;25it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! 26 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.* 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.34 ‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father,and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

For 10 years I was an environmental consultant performing Human Health and Ecological risk assessments for the military and private concerns.  One of the uses of my reports was to define what would be the cost of a cleanup of a contaminated site both as risk of exposure and monetary cost of cleanup.  The EPA has a basic cleanup target of 1 in 10000 chances of illness or death from exposure to contaminated soil, water, or air.  Of course all is negotiable but that is what is desired. The EPA doesn’t really care about cost but companies do and so does the military.  Cleanup is not popular with those who own the property. There is a balancing act that goes on at the negotiation table between the EPA and the owners of the property. The property owners want to remove as little as possible to keep cost down and the EPA wants as much removed as possible to keep risk down.  When you add in resident and ecological groups to the mix you probably get some idea of how complicated such negotiations can be.  But the key word is negotiable.

Matthew writes in this passage what the cost of discipleship will be for those who follow in the path of Jesus.  He tells his community what the risks are when you commit to following Jesus’ teaching and he doesn’t mince any words and the cost is not negotiable. For those who are faithful to God and Christ will face criticism, be misunderstood, run out town, and face death at the hands of the Romans just as Jesus did.  How is that for a recruiting statement?  I can hear the thought of a potential follower now.  “Ok, my family will disown me, I will most likely be run out of town on rail, I will have my words twisted around to mean something other than what I said, and the Romans are going to kill me, tell me again why I should sign up for this.”  If a follower of the WAY ever thought about the risks they wouldn’t sign up.  I mean would you give up everything to go out and teach others about the WAY of Jesus.  Would you give up the king-size bed, the running water, the clean clothes, or 3 meals a day?  What is amazing to me is that anyone actually did and I am grateful to those who had, and have, the courage to walk that difficult path.

Matthew wanted his community to understand those risks while having the courage to choose a way of life that would be difficult but result in a life lived within God as found in the life of Jesus. Matthew’s words challenge us to stand up for injustice just as Jesus did.  To use our voice to speak for those who are silenced.  To live a life of compassion and peace towards everyone no matter how different they may be from us; from a different culture or socio-economic class, differently abled, or differently gendered, or (and this is the hard part) even if they have done harm to us or someone we love.  Matthew says we are called to right injustice even at the expense of our own comfort, reputation, relationships, financial security, or even our lives.  That is a hard decision to make and I know I (as a risk assessor and a seminary student) that discernment before that decision to be baptized and commit to that life is often very difficult.  And let’s face it the reasons to proceed are not all that well laid out.  So where do we find some answers.

Well before Matthew wrote his Gospel Paul wrote a letter of introduction to the Roman community and in that letter we have this short passage that summarizes reasons for following the WAY and those reasons are just as valid today as they were in the 1st century. Following the WAY was dangerous and even Paul doesn’t deny that but the benefit is a life lived into love.

Paul tells the Romans, and us, that when we commit ourselves to being baptized we are baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ.  Just as Christ died to sin and lives to God we are to recognize our baptism as dying to sin and living into God.  Notice I didn’t say Christ died FOR our sins, Paul did not believe Jesus died because God wanted a sacrifice for our sins.  No, Jesus death on the cross saves us because God overcame and said No to sin through his resurrection of Christ.  God’s message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was to reconcile those who are separated from God back into those loving arms.  Called Atonement, or better still “at-one-ment,” reconciliation is the means of re-membering those who have spent their lives lost in a wilderness far from God back into the body of God through Christ.

When Paul writes “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” he is talking about saying no to sin and moving toward God as experienced in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book Meeting Paul open the verse 6:3-4 to a new insight

“all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

We are graced with newness of life that includes a transformed way we see our world.  A commitment leading to the ritual sacrament of Baptism results in a “renewing of [our] minds.” We being to see the world differently, living our lives into a richer and fuller life in love. We no longer see the world as other and different from ourselves but rather we see ourselves and the world as part of the body of God and Christ.

For Matthew, for Paul and for us these changes and commitments have political implications.  It means we as followers of the WAY are to stand against the “wisdom of this world” as it is known today.  We are to refuse to follow a path that results in harm, injustice, or death for anyone, whether we agree with them or not.

That is hard to do, I know it is hard for me. I too have watched the news and read the papers about mass shootings, people who demonize the poor and needy and I get angry.  Sometimes I say things I might regret because I want them punished; you see I also forget they are part of God’s body.  As a consultant I tried to tell the truth as I calculated it and saw it but I dealt with people who had very different agendas from mine. I grew frustrated and angry at people who only looked at the “bottom line” or a single unachievable number instead of considering how what they had done, and will do, affects those who live in the area, human and ecological.  I wanted things to change and it wasn’t until I realized that the change must begin with me that I knew what I would do. I had to stop seeing the world with a “bottom line” perspective because all of creation, human and non-human are simply too important..

In Matthew Jesus says “Those who find their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”  The life I lost is the one that holds tight to the world I see in the news reports while the life I gain is a life lived in relationship with God. While I often forget that I try to remember, what all of us need to remember are these words of Jesus’ “Do not be afraid … I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Ruth Jewell, ©June 15, 2014

Praying with Art – Prayerful Tuesday

Romans 6:1b-11
Romans 6:1b-11

I am preaching next Sunday and the first step in the preparation for my sermon is to pray my scripture using Lectio Divina. The last step in my Lectio Divina is to write in my journal what I hear in the scripture. Often I will draw a Mandala as a visual image of what I hear and the Mandala above is my representation of Romans 6:1b-11, which is my text for next Sunday.

Lectio Divina is one of my favorite practices to delve into a particular scripture and I often add the process of drawing a Mandala when the scripture is long or very visual.  I find the resultant drawing adds another layer to my spiritual practice. I draw circular Mandalas for my reflections; I find the confined space of the circle helps me focus on the most important aspects of hearing.  But, prayers through art can take any form that reflects your own personal prayers.  Therefore pen and ink drawings, soul collage, painting, sculpting anything that lets you express through your artistic and creative senses will help you find a new richness in your prayers, and you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy putting the color and form of your prayers onto paper. Trust me I’m no Rembrandt and if I can do it anyone can.  Just give yourself permission to play and be open to what happens.

This week I suggest trying prayer through art.  Using 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 try praying with art.

Begin your prayer using the steps of Lectio Divina:

  • Reading/listening: read the passage to yourself twice.  Listen for the word or phrase that catches your attention.  Silently focus on that word or phrase, allowing it to sift through your heart and mind.
  • Meditation: As you focus on your chosen word pay attention to your feelings and thoughts, what images, thoughts, or memories does the word or phrase bring to mind.
  • Responding: What desires has your prayer brought, is there something you need to work on, or does your prayer lead you something you are grateful for.  Sit in silent prayer and listen as God forms your prayer in your heart.
  • Resting: Having heard the word or praise that has drawn you closer to God and having felt a response to the prayer allow yourself to rest in silence.  As you continue to sit in silence pick up your paper and pen or pencil and if an image has come forth in your prayer try putting it down on paper.  When you feel the prayer has ended express your gratitude to God with a “Thank You”, or, “Amen”

Remember you are not looking for a drawing of perfection rather you are expressing your feelings and thoughts as a visual image and whatever it is it will be your image, beautiful in all aspects.

Peace to all this week

Ruth Jewell, ©June 10, 2014

Seeking God’s Face

Master of Vienna, Adoration (1410), FB Page The Celtic Christian Tradition
Master of Vienna, Adoration (1410), FB Page The Celtic Christian Tradition

Sermon – Epiphany Sunday
January 5, 2014
Queen Anne Christian Church Seattle, WA

Matthew 2:1-12 (Common English Bible [CEB])

Coming of the magi

1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”

When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Greek derivation of Magi, (Strongs Hebrew, Chaldee, and Greek Dictionary)

3097. magos mag’-os  (of foreign origin (7248); a Magian, i.e. Oriental scientist; by implication, a magician:–sorcerer, wise man, [interpreter of dreams, prophet].   (plural, could refer to a male or female wise person)

The story of the Magi is such a familiar story. We have heard this story so many times before and I am sure all of us are able to repeat it without difficulty, at least the surface story.   I was confronted with this simple story, which is anything but simple, when I chose to meditate on it for Epiphany Sunday’s Sermon. Sitting in silence, letting the words of Matthew settle into my subconscious I realized there is so much more to this tale than I first believed. There are also way too many questions to address in a single sermon.  If you ever wanted to experience an abundance of graces just read this story carefully.   I could go into the fact that the gender and number of the Magi is never mentioned in the scripture and that the Magi were gentiles; or the Magi don’t visit the stable, they come to the home of Joseph and Mary; and because the story of the killing of the Bethlehem’s children that follows the Magi’s visit lead scholars to believe Jesus could have been as old as 2. And, that’s just few of the questions I found in these 12 verses of Matthew Chapter 2.  What did intrigue me, and what I will discuss, was never addressed by all of the learned theologians I perused. What I wanted to know was the reason these learned gentiles come in search of a child, a child born to a carpenter and his wife.  And, what unknown gifts still hides in this story for me, and all of us, beyond the pretty tale of rich strangers visiting a destitute baby?

First of my questions was what did the Magi expect to find when they arrived in Jerusalem.  Since they came to the city of the kings of Judea they must have expected to find the child born there, and to parents with more than a lineage to David. My guess is they had expected to find a somewhat wealthy family, or at least fairly well off.  After all they were looking for a King and you normally don’t find one living in the home of working class people. They must also have been confused and terribly disappointed that no one knew what they were talking about. I mean, the birth of a King is big news isn’t. Doesn’t everyone celebrate the birth of a King? It isn’t until King Herod calls them for an audience do they learn that the prophets foretell the birth of “the anointed one,” “the Christ,” was to happen in Bethlehem.  I have no doubt they left somewhat confused. But, eventually they find the baby living in the home with his mother and father. They even bring gifts, and while Mary might have preferred diapers, the gifts they gave were costly and fit for a King.  (By the way Bethlehem and the gifts are never mentioned again, why? Another question to confound me.)

They were seeking a child, an infant King, someone who would turn the Roman world upside down and I can only imagine their surprise at finding the child in such humble circumstances. They brought gifts Herod would have drooled over, gold, frankincense, myrrh.  Wonderful gifts but not really practical for the family they found, well the gold was probably most welcome.  But frankincense and myrrh those aren’t baby gifts.  Frankincense and myrrh were used to perfume oils and ointments for the purification of worship spaces and the anointing of the dead.

Now I know what Matthew was implying by the gifts: Gold was the symbol of Jesus’ kingship, frankincense the symbol for the priestly role Jesus would be called to live, and myrrh a foretaste of what he would endure at the end of his life.   But I think these gentile scholars brought something else and it has been bequeathed to us today and our children. The Magi brought the gift of “seeking God’s face.”

God has always welcomed us and longed for our inquisitive search for the face of the Divine, and She encourages us to reach for her Holy arms.  One of David’s Psalms says it well:

30 I will praise God’s name with song;
I will magnify him with thanks
31     because that is more pleasing to the Lord than an ox,
more pleasing than a young bull with full horns and hooves.
32 Let the afflicted see it and be glad!
You who seek God—
let your hearts beat strong again
— Psalm 69:30-32 (CEB)

And in the Book of Acts Paul tells the Athenians “27 God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us.” (Acts 17:27)  No God is never far away, we are.  And, seeking the face of God is one of the joys of creation we should do more often.

The Magi were the first to seek God’s face in its incarnated form, the face of a child.  For Matthew the Magi represent the mission Jesus gives his disciples to reach out to all peoples but especially gentiles, and those born within the great humble mass of humanity, in all its lovely diversity; poor and rich, young and old, all genders, all races, and all people.

For me the Magi represent the longing to see God in the face of my beloved, my grandchildren, best friend, and all creation.  I too want to see the incarnated God, I too long to see the ever present being in the first light of dawn, and I do see it in the face of my beloved when he first opens eyes in the morning.  The Magi have passed this longing down to us and I am grateful for the gift and grateful to pass it on to the next generation.

The Magi’s gift of presence to a child in a humble home was passed on to us through Jesus’ presence in his life, death and resurrection.  Now it is our mission to be present to the incarnated child born to humble parents.   To recognize and honor the incarnation born in each of us, through our gifts to the world whatever they may be; caring for each other, the environment, our nation, and our world.  It is up to us to be the Magi of today and visit the child in a humble home, to offer the gold of our love, to purify our mistakes with the frankincense of compassion; and to anoint those who pass on to the next world with the myrrh of God’s blessings and praise.   In a Judean desert David writes:

God! My God! It’s you—
I search for you!
My whole beingthirsts for you!
My body desires you
in a dry and tired land,
no water anywhere.
Yes, I’ve seen you in the sanctuary;
I’ve seen your power and glory.
My lips praise you
because your faithful love
is better than life itself!
So I will bless you as long as I’m alive;
I will lift up my hands in your name.
— Psalm 63:1-4 (CEB)

So too are we called to offer our praises to God, honor the child that lives today, in each one of us, and in all of creation.  Seek the face of God in all you meet, child, adult, male or female, and all of God’s marvelous creation.  Look in the eyes of your loved ones, your companion animals, see the face of God looking back.  Amen

Ruth Jewell, ©January 7, 2014