Following the Star

As was mentioned in the promotional material, the idea for this series came from a conversation I had with someone in December when I asked her to serve communion one Sunday morning and was told, “But I have jeans on!” My immediate response was, “Jesus doesn’t care!”

It got me to thinking about what else that we, and I certainly include myself in that, what do we, get hung up about that Jesus doesn’t care about?

When I posted the poster I made for this series on Facebook, one of you responded with, “Jesus doesn’t care which seat you are in, God can find you anywhere!”

Someone else asked me if Jesus cared if someone wore a hat in church. My response was that I had always been confused at how men/boys were supposed to remove their hats in church and women/girls were supposed to wear them!

Most of the comments I received on Facebook were around worship. Things like drums in the sanctuary… the arrangement of chairs… choir gowns… perfection… What are some of the things that Jesus wouldn’t care about worship?

The Congregation responded with: mistakes in the Power Point, how well we can sing, who gets to read, perfection, mistakes in the bulletin.

But if Jesus were here, what would be important to him?

Let’s hear words written by the prophet Micah, they are from the First Testament, formerly referred to as the Old Testament, or, Jesus’ Bible, since those are the only scriptures he knew and studied.

Micah 6: 6-8

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

In contrast to the towering religious-social-economic structure of laws and sacrifice, Micah gives a poetic formula that can apply to governments, business, churches, families, communities and individuals.  It almost sings itself into our hearts… Justice, kindness, walking with humility. This is what Jesus would have learned and cared about. This is humanity at its best. But we are not always at our best are we? But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive to be better. Poet Maya Angelou says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” 

One of the ways we are at our best is when we willingly, generously, lovingly, share what we have with those who do not. The food that we contribute to the food bank helps feed hungry people. The funds that Dorcas Place provided to other organizations help alleviate suffering. Dorcas Place also gives away provides the church with gift cards for when people show up at the door looking for help.

The stories that we hear each week from the Mission and Service tell how what we contribute helps make the world a little bit better. What I especially love about the Mission and Service Fund is that not only do we alleviate some immediate needs, which is charitable work, we also undertake work that looks at why hunger, homelessness and violence exist and helps to eliminate the causes of those problems. And we get to participate in that! Isn’t that amazing? And wonderful? And life giving? And something that Jesus cares about? 

We hear Jesus echoing Micah’s words when he reads in the synagogue. He’s actually reading from another prophet, this time Isaiah, about hope for people in need. He is claiming that God’s spirit is upon him.  Let’s listen for those echoes as written in

Luke 4: 16-22

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 

Isaiah’s words, spoken and claimed by Jesus, have power and possibility. And in Jesus’ absence, we are the ones who have been anointed for that purpose!

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon US,
    because WE have been anointed
        to bring good news to the poor.
The Lord has sent US to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

How do we keep what Jesus cares about at the centre of who we are as a community of faith? We can look for symbols that remind us. Today, on Epiphany, we look to the star.

Listen, to just a snippet of scripture, as written in Matthew 2: 1-2

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” 

It was the star that the wise ones from the east followed to find Jesus. Whether we think of that journey as symbolic or metaphorical, the story reminds of us to look beyond what is, to what might become. Like many stories in the Bible, sometimes we don’t get much context. We don’t know how long the wise ones journey was… we don’t know how many there were… we do know that they believed in something amazing was taking place and they packed and set out on a journey to somewhere unknown. With only the star to guide them.

We too have the star to guide us. Sure, we lost, we get distracted and we lose our way.

Like the woman in the meme, we spin all over the place and gasp. But the star can be a touchstone… a lodestone… a way to orient ourselves and reorient ourselves when we have lost our way. Remember the Core Values we want to uphold:

(Riverview)

  • Focus on Faith
  • Welcoming, Accepting and Inclusive
  • Caring for and Being Open to One Another
  • Connecting with Wider Community

(NMR)

  • To pray and seek faith.
  • Loving, compassionate and encouraging.
  • To serve and engage with our community.

Those can be our star… our touchstone… Where there is love… and passion… and sacrifice… and commitment… I am going to close with these words from Jan Richardson.

I invite you to close your eyes and let them wash over and into you.

It’s called Constellation – A Blessing for Women’s Christmas

Consider that the heart
holds its own constellation.

Consider that it has
a secret chamber
radiant with unspent light.

Consider this when you cannot find
that one star, that dream
that compels you to the road.

When every last thing seems
to have disappeared into dark,
consider that you cannot always know
how you bear this brightness
but that it holds you
and is not wasted
or lost.

See how we share this sky,
how it stretches above us
beyond every border,
how every day
turns each of us
in steady revolution
through morning, night,
morning again.

Or think of it like this:
that every heart is its own voyage,
sending its vessels out,
drawing them back again,
never by the same way they went
but still somehow making for
home, that place
that shimmers now in welcome
with all the gathered light
you had thought
you could not see.

—Jan Richardson

Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of following the star. Amen.

© Catherine MacDonald 2019

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