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Pastor Ben Adams

January 6, 2017

 

New Roads

 

Most people would look at me strangely and respond by saying oh Happy New year to you too, or something like isn’t Christmas over?

Now if someone responded like that, I would get really excited because that was my opening my opportunity to share with them that Christmas is not just a day, but a very short 12 day season in the liturgical Church year that ended yesterday on the eve of Epiphany.

And that means that today is Epiphany, the day we recognize the visitation of the three Magi to Bethlehem, or as they are also commonly referred to the Three Wise Men or Three Kings. But come on, let’s be real, its 2018 and Magi is the obviously gender inclusive way to go. And this moment is significant to us because this is the symbolic point in time when Jesus Christ was made manifest to the whole world.

And this story is borderline miraculous because just imagine these Magi, these stargazers wandering the countryside, drawn to the site of Jesus’s birth by the light of a star, only to find Jesus in the insignificant town of Bethlehem.

Lutheran Pastor Michael Coffee poetically retells the story like this:

For you it might be a magic light

appearing in the beckoning western sky

you follow it despite the peril and ridiculous cosmology

find what you were looking for in a backwater town

and rejoice in your bones that for a moment

you were breathless with holy hope

and then when a dream tells you to turn left at Jerusalem

you turn left and never look back or reappear or question

but still, you found it, you felt it, you lucky star-gazing fool

I love how he calls the magi, and us, lucky star-gazing fools because what they and what we have stumbled upon has changed us forever. Whatever light it was that lead you to experience Jesus Christ, it led you to a moment that changed you forever and beginning at that point you embarked upon a different road than the one you came in on.

When I think of my own life, and it was during my senior year of college that a Sunday conversation after church with my pastor finally sealed the deal for me that I would not be following my original plan of making the big bucks by climbing the corporate ladder as an international businessman, but rather I would go to four more years of school to with the hope of following my true calling to become an ordained pastor.

It was one of shock, fear, and unwavering support. But despite the shock and fear it was her support, and the support of friends and family that lead me to complete seminary. And now by the grace of God, I am blessed to be serving as an ordained pastor with the South Loop Campus Ministry, and the faithful at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. To this point in my life, this is undoubtedly my most significant epiphany moment. A moment when I walked into church that Sunday morning and I left by a different road.

Maybe you don’t have “a moment” to point to. Maybe you are still following that star, the light of Christ, waiting to see where it rests, waiting for God’s dream to reveal to you the different road you are to journey.

Paul, who was once known as Saul, a devout Jew, and a persecutor and murderer of Jesus followers, had his own epiphany on the road to Damascus where we are told in Acts, “Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,"

It is from this moment that Saul becomes Paul, and in his own words from Ephesians, “Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God's grace that was given me by the working of his power. 8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ,”

Paul’s testimony gives us some balance today, a different take on our understanding of Epiphany than just the story of the magi seeking out Jesus Christ by the light of a star, because in Paul’s story, he was actively attempting to put out the light of Christ, yet, that heavenly light sought Paul out and Paul’s path in life was forever changed.

A different road. I think so many times in life we realize that we are in need of a different road, personally or as a society. We ask how did I… how did we get here?

A different road is what we need to discover, but how will we get there? We have no map and we feel like foolish star gazers wandering after a light that never seems to rest.

But the good news is that the light is closer to us than we could ever imagine because not only do we seek it like the magi did, but it seeks us like it sought out Paul.

And as you move on from that moment you will find yourself on that new road, forever changed by the grace of God.

Meeting Jesus is the Epiphany we celebrate today. And we celebrate this through our sacraments, and trusting in their power, I have faith that none of us are going to leave this place the same way we came in. Something inside us will be fundamentally changed. The true presence of God in bread, wine, water, word, and community will re-form you at a deep and profound level.

This is our epiphany this day. A moment for us to leave by different road than how we came in and never look back. For the sake of the whole world, we are shown this new road, a new way in Jesus Christ. And by the leading of a star, in the deepest darkness of night this light of Christ appears to us, exactly where we are and leads us on this new and different road. Amen.