The Reverend Victoria Mason, Deacon
The story of the three Wise Men is very interesting on many levels. At first, it is a curious account of three foreigners, scholars, who wanted to determine whether their studies of the stars, particularly a special star, was correct. They chose to travel to the land where they believed they could get answers. Their journey is an example of an act of faith – an act motivated by academic curiosity.
It’s also an example of how there are many ways to find God. In this case, curiosity. We remember the shepherds who left the sheep behind in the field and went to Bethlehem because the angels told them of the Messiah's birth. In this case, they had a sign.
Each of us here had a reason to come to Jesus for the first time – perhaps it was simple curiosity, or maybe there was sign or maybe some other incentive. I remember the story of a young man who was in prison and had no hope. He found Jesus when he started reading the pages in his Bible.
The confrontation of the wise men with King Herod, who served the Roman Empire, gives us an insight of the political context. Herod was afraid when he heard that the sages were searching for the recently born king of the Jews. His position of power depended on having control of the government of the Jews. The Roman Empire was a government of conquerors and this possibility of a Jewish king created a serious threat.
With this perspective of the story, we need to remember that the Jews believed that the Messiah would lead them to the freedom of the oppression of the Roman Empire. They believed that the Messiah would be a great military leader and a righteous king – much like King David. But Jesus' ministry was not like that. Jesus' ministry was countercultural – he incarnated the power of love, healing, justice, and inclusion. It is a testament to these powers that Jesus' life and ministry was stronger and more durable than the power of the Roman Empire.
In the end, the encounter of the wise men with the child, Jesus, gives us insight into the Kingdom of God. The homage of the Magi means that other people of various nations and religions, can know the Glory of God. That God is the king of all the world, not just for one group of people, in this case the Jews.
Also, we remember that Jesus' family was not rich. Bethlehem was a village, a very small and humble town. And, here were three people of wealth, education, and status of honor, kneeling to this child, paying homage and giving him very expensive and rare gifts.
I think they underwent a transformation in their lives. Not only that could they understand that they needed to avoid Herod and return to their country by another way, but also that their hearts were overflowing with the Glory of God.
In the Old Testament, "the Glory of God" in Hebrew meant "the Presence of God." And when anyone was in the Presence of God, they were was transformed. Remember what happened to Moses when saw the Glory of God? His face “shone from having spoken to the Lord. ... he put a veil on his face” because people could not look at him directly. Well, it makes sense that the Three Wise Men were also transformed after seeing Jesus.
Can you recall a time when your life seemed changed when you came to Jesus with a prayer? A time when you experienced relief? Or a sense of peace? Maybe you didn’t feel the change instantly; maybe it happened over a period of time.
For example, there was a period of time in my life when I flew to various parts of the country often. I started experiencing the fear of flying. I needed to change this, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. With prayer, I devised a visual image of putting my fear in a wooden box and handing the box to Jesus. I used this image every time I got on a plane and was preparing for the take off. I can tell you there were many times when I grabbed that box away from Jesus when the ride got bumpy. But I always admonished myself to give the box back to Jesus. It was a couple years after I started using this image as a prayer that I realized that I no longer had the fear of flying.
Every time we pray, especially in those darker moments of life, we are giving God the gift of ourselves. We are offering our whole self to God. And when we do that, we are in the Presence of God.
And through this story of the Wise Men, we can believe -- believe that our prayers to God are like their journey to Bethlehem. When we pray, we are looking for the King of our hearts. We're following the star of hope. We're looking at the glory of God. And in prayer, we are transformed. In prayer, Jesus gives us power – the power of love, healing, justice and inclusion. And in this power, we are able to face any problem and overcome our fears.
We can know that the Lord always walks alongside us at every moment of every day. And we can to move forward with confidence that God is helping us carry our burdens.
Thanks be to God!
As announced at all services this past Sunday; in 2020 we are starting a new prayer list and establishing new policies for the Prayers of the People.
You may request prayers for yourself or for somebody else if you have the person’s permission. These requests will be on the list initially for up to four weeks. If you would like prayers continued after four weeks, call the office or submit a second request card. Such requests can be renewed twice, for a total of 12 weeks. After 12 weeks names go to a long term prayer list and are prayed for by the women’s group: the Daughters of the King.
There are cards in the Narthex to submit a name and/or you can call the church office at 512-836-3974.
Prayers may be requested for illness, surgery, deaths, new babies, decisions, wisdom, or other needs. Requests will be prayed for, out loud, at Sunday services. All worshippers are encouraged to take home the weekly bulletin and pray during the week for those listed.
If you have any questions, please contact the Reverend Ann McLemore at the church office or call 769-257-2377.
Report from The Reverend Victoria Mason, Deacon, on the 2nd Annual Summit on Border Ministries; held in Phoenix Arizona in late November 2019. Click HERE for a text-only version of this material suitable for use with text readers for the visually impaired
Jesus and the disciples were at the temple and some people commented on the beauty of the temple: "how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God," The temple was a large stone building. If you’ve ever seen the National Cathedral with its beautiful stone sculptures and stained-glass windows, you can understand how these people felt. Another example is our Capitol Building. These buildings are made of very heavy stone, as was the temple. I can’t imagine either one not ever being there. Given the technology of Jesus’ day, it’s even easier to understand how the people could not imagine the temple ever being destroyed.
Yet, Jesus said that the temple would be destroyed. An then Jesus continued his observations by speaking of the disasters that will come in the future – “Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues;”
All of these things have happened and are happening now in various places of the world. Yet, here we are – alive and well in Austin, Texas. It’s really hard to comprehend this level of destruction when one has not experienced it.
We can believe that nothing in the world is permanent. But we can understand that life is cyclical – we have all experienced good times and bad times. As we go through difficult times, we reach out to God seeking consolation, strength, and answers. Jesus said, “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."
Buildings are not permanent, but God’s love is. When I was studying Old Testament at the Iona School for Ministry, our instructor advised us to look for God’s “steadfast faith” as we read through the books. That was good advice as we slogged through the wars, the evil kings, leaders and armies doing remarkably horrendous acts in the name of God. However, throughout the readings, there was a clear message that God loved and cared for his people. He bemoaned the times when his people turned their backs on Him and chose to worship other gods and not live according to His Law. He rejoiced when the people returned to Him and chose to live in righteousness and justice according to His Law. He never abandoned his people, even though they may have felt like he had.
Righteousness in biblical terms is about living in right relationships – with God and with each other. Righteousness is about supporting one another. It means helping friends, neighbors, and even strangers, as they go through hard times.
It’s about going to Houston with a boat to help rescue people stranded by the floods caused by hurricanes. It’s about putting on work boots and picking up hammers, nails, saws, and other tools to help people rebuild their homes after the floods.
It’s about sitting with a friend who is mourning the loss of a spouse. It’s about giving respite for someone who is caring for a loved one. It’s about giving a homeless person a bottle of water and a $5 HEB card.
It’s about cheerfully doing chores around the house. It’s about holding back on that cutting remark that would “feel so good” to say. It’s about listening carefully to one another, especially when we disagree, so that we can work at solving problems peacefully. It’s about challenging violence in any form and to stand with others who are treated unfairly.
The Letter to the Thessalonians talks about this. In the excerpt we read today, it’s about doing one’s fair share for the community.
The author of this Letter to the Thessalonians remarks on the “believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us.” At one level, the author is specifically talking about those who are taking advantage of the community by not working and contributing to the community funds. The Rev. Edward Pillar, in his commentary, suggests that this idleness is about not adhering “to these traditions of righteousness, justice, truth, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.”
He further points out that the key to this passage “is to be found in the very last phrase: ‘Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right’ (2 Thessalonians 3:13).” … There is then a call to work, but to work for righteousness. To work hard so that the traditions passed on by the apostles, based on the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, might become a reality within our communities and society.”
The traditions of righteousness to which we reaffirm our faith are summarized in the Baptismal Covenant. The five vows which we promise to do, with God’s help, would enable us to live in righteousness – as individuals, as a community, and as citizens of the Kingdom of God.
In the words of Bishop Daniel Martins, of the Diocese of Springfield, “The gracious rule of Christ brings together people of every race, nationality, social status, taste in music or food or drink, and a variety of politics without demanding that those personal attributes or proclivities be laid aside. We are one in Christ, even as we cherish our particular customs.”
In Isaiah’s prophecy, we are given a vision of this unity. A vision of community where the members have differences and live together in peace.
" The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent-- its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain, says the Lord."
Thanks be to God.