By Another Road

Posted by on Jan 18, 2014 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

January 5, 2014

“By Another Road”

Matthew 2: 1-12

The Magi arrive at King Herod’s court and tell him about this newborn king. Herod, who is not beyond murdering his own children, in just a few verses after today’s reading murders all the children of Bethlehem.

No doubt Herod is wary of these strange men from the East. But Herod also knows he can’t send his own thugs tromping around Bethlehem without sowing fear and flight, and so he sends the Magi to collect information for him. Herod conscripts them to be his own agents. They become his spies.

And so, to the first hearers of this story, unlike those of us who have told and retold it a thousand times in our nativity pageants, there may well have been ominous background music when the Wise Men finally arrive in Bethlehem.

The text is tantalizingly sparse at this point. Scripture tells us, “On entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts.”

No matter how conflicted the wise men’s allegiances were, when they meet Jesus, something happens. The most important line in this story is the final one: “They left for their own country by another road.” The Wise Men won’t betray him to his enemies. Can you imagine crazy Herod’s anger when they don’t return to him? Chaos can’t stand not to have its way. I bet he spit and stammered and threw things around the room. But the Wise Men do not return that way. They walk a different road. They refuse to comply with the plot to destroy him. They choose Jesus.

That is the story of our journey. Over and over we must choose the voices we will listen to. If you are like me, you don’t always get it right.

We acknowledge that and on this first Sunday of January we renew our covenant. We use the words similar to the ones Wesley introduced when he introduced it in the Methodist movement on August 11, 1755. The service would be repeated many times. In London these services were usually held on New Year’s Day. Around the country the Covenant Service was conducted whenever John Wesley visited the Methodist Societies.

Wesley wrote many things about the services.  This is taken from his journal Jan 1, 1775:

“It was an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences … I do not know that ever we had a greater blessing. Afterwards many desired to return thanks, either for a sense of pardon, for full salvation, or for a fresh manifestation of His graces…”

The heart of the service, focused in the Covenant Prayer, requires persons to commit themselves to God

” I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”

May we take these words seriously today. May we mean what we say today. May they cause each of us to leave this place by another road. May each of us be able to write in our journals January 5, 2014 Wesley Covenant Renewal Service “It was an occasion for a variety of spiritual experiences … I do not know that ever we had a greater blessing.”