Words of Faith
Rev. Rita S. Platt
January 4, 2015
“Go Home Another Way”
Epiphany is a celebration of the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles – the wise men from the east coming as non-Jews, to bow down and worship the infant Jesus, bringing with them their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The story is shrouded in mystery. From tradition we know every detail and all the facts; but, if we follow the Biblical account, we know very little. There are lots of unanswered questions – how many were there – don’t know; where did they come from – don’t know; how long did they travel – don’t know.
They showed up mysteriously and then, just as mysteriously, they are gone. So with all that mystery and lack of detail what can we say about them?
And the magi, having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, left for their own country by another road. ~ Matthew 2:12
These words capture the spirituality of Epiphany—”going home by another road.”
Eventually, all of us take routes that we had never expected to travel, whether these involve changes in employment, health, relational, or economic status. When life forces us from the familiar highway onto an uncharted path, we are challenged to travel on another road. The path is seldom easy, but within the real limitations of life, we may discover unexpected possibilities for vocation, mission, and transformation. Celtic pilgrims often went to sea in tiny boats, coracles, sailing forth without a rudder. They trusted that God would guide them. They believed that amid the winds and waves, there was a guiding force luring them toward holiness and wholeness. This is our hope, too, as we journey on our own uncharted paths, often with nothing more than prayer to guide us.
While Christian wisdom has affirmed that God is omnipresent, most of us have never fully explored what it means to assert that God is everywhere. At the very least, the doctrine of divine omnipresence means that God is present as our companion on every pathway—in certainty and uncertainty, and in celebration and grief. It means that as we face the call of new horizons, whether by desire or necessity, often as pilgrims without a map, there is a divine wisdom moving through our lives, giving us insight, and awakening us to unexpected energies.
Psalm 139 captures the spirit of divine presence in uncharted territories:
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and light around me become night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.”
The different roads that we are forced to take don’t need to relate to economics, employment, or health. We can be called by a dream to explore a new understanding of God or a new sense of mission. We can hear the call of a new way of doing ministry that forces us to leave the familiar in order to be faithful to God. We may have to move our bodies—that is, relocate—as well as our spirits to follow the call of the unfamiliar.