Epiphany’s call

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Biblea personal and biblical reflection, based on Matthew 2.1-12, on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2016

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Whenever I read and reflect, as I did this Epiphany morning, on Matthew’s (and the Bible’s only) account of the visit of the magi, those astrologer-philosophers from the East, to the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem, my attention always is arrested by this detail. The magi, going home, returned “by another road.”

Before going to Bethlehem, they had stopped in Jerusalem, inquiring of King Herod, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” Herod, alarmed that another might claim his throne, deceitfully replied, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” Matthew, remarking on the providence of divine purpose outflanking the intent of human ill, tells us that the magi, forewarned by a vision, bypassed Jerusalem on their way home.

Nevertheless, I see in Matthew’s language the imagery of change. The magi had come to Bethlehem to see and worship “the child who has been born king.” I don’t know what, who they expected, but surely, I think, it couldn’t have been one “wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger”[1] (a filthy feeding trough for animals). So, they, as I interpret it, having beheld grandest majesty in grossest humility, had their perceptions and opinions, their knowledge and sense of the way things are challenged, confronted and changed.

This morning, as I continued to reflect on the magi and project myself into this still new year, I recalled words I’d written in my journal on January 6, 2014 (words that I contemplated in a blogpost this day a year ago: change: journey’s end & beginning – a reflection for The Epiphany):

There are times and seasons of calling

when signs appear, bidding that I come

on a journey, though one not always straight or smooth,

but filled with trial and test.

Still, only when I dare embark

can I know the meaning of the beckoning;

one that ever begins within, calling me to change.

I wonder. 2016, what will you bring? What will I behold in the manger of your days that will challenge, confront me, calling me to change? My way of perceiving? Thinking? Feeling? Being?

Footnote:

[1] Luke 2.12

aging & rejoicing

IMG_0069entering 2016, a personal reflection, mostly in gerunds & present participles, on 2015, being my most recent (and poorest) year (of health, which I e’er can recall and ne’er desire to repeat)

 

daily,

my body…

PRA by Hall

is older,

rounder,

thicker,

weaker…

achier, particularly in the mornings,

but also sometimes,

really, any time

when, too far stretching,

too high or low reaching,

I end up crampily breaching

the secret shrinking limits of my mortal, physical ability

(“secret” because my body –

in grossest display of insouciant incivility –

so far has declined,

with regularity,

to inform my mind!)…

 

but, ah, my mind!

still breathing

Spring’s fresh air

(no matter the season);

still perceiving

blue-skied hopes fair

(though oft conflicting,

contradicting

any…all reason!)

 

and accompanying

that breathing

and perceiving

are images and ideas, words and thoughts

flitting,

flying

like a rambunctious murmuration of horizon-filling

starlings

or

cascading,

coursing

like an e’er flowing

consciousness streaming.

 

thus I, rejoicing,

thank the God of my making,

the God of my revering,

for, yes, moment to moment, I am aging,

yet, in each moment, I am a living, loving

being.

what’s my name?

Biblea biblical reflection, based on Luke 2.15-21, on the 8th day of Christmas and the 1st day of the new year

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus.

The Circumcision of Jesus, Peter Paul Rubens, 1605

Luke continues his telling of the Christmas story. In Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger. Eight days later, following Jewish custom and ceremony, the identity of that son was conferred. He was circumcised, bearing on his body the mark of God’s ancient covenant with Abraham, the outward and visible sign that he was a member of a people. He also was given his name, the outward and hearable sign of his life’s purpose. Jesus. The Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua and the Aramaic Jeshua, meaning “God is salvation” or, simply, “God saves.”

On many Christian calendars, this eighth day of Christmas and this New Year’s Day is called Holy Name. Doubtless, countless are the interpretations of what this day means. So, speaking always only for myself…

Holy Name reminds me who I am, one created by God, and, therefore, whose I am, one belonging to God. The God made known to me in Jesus’ prophetic life of love and justice. A life of compassion for the poor, care for the downtrodden, comfort for the afflicted, and challenge to the comfortable (especially when it is I myself whom I must confront!) to act on behalf of the marginalized and disenfranchised. A life I am bidden not only to worship, to reverence, but also to follow, to continue. A life, as Jesus is, so I, in his name, am to be in the world.

I’ve claimed the name “Christian” for most of my life. Given what it meant originally, to be named as Christ to a life of service, it still serves well. Yet given the bigotry and brutality, the intolerance and malice perpetrated in the name of Jesus by myriad Christians from the first century unto this day the name for many evokes fear and anger, provokes division and derision. Thus, in this coming year, it is up to me, with God’s help, as best I can, as much as I can, where I am, and with those I serve to follow in will and word and deed the Jesus of justice, the Lord of love and liberation. For “Christian” is my name.

 

Illustration: The Circumcision of Jesus, Peter Paul Rubens, 1605

choice & chance – a personal reflection on New Year’s Eve

cloudswords from the e’er shadowy shades of my soul…

 

awakened by an unwelcomed heart-race of fear,

at this dawn of this year’s

close,

I lay frozen

facing a flood of images menacing,

rushing

o’er my mind’s banks

like ranks of

intruders invading the morn’s peace;

instigators questioning the immediate past

(of this year last);

asking about one thing to which I’ve given long thought

and for which I longed to have,

but had no answer:

 

Will the things you’ve left undone –

 

the dreams unrealized,

the expectations unmet,

the calls & conversations untaken,

the encounters unhad –

 

be ne’er done, be left undone

like discarded leftovers?

Or will they carry over

into the new year?

 

And, if carried, shipped

(which, in some sense they always must),

what will they be?

 

Toxic cargo stored in the deepest recesses of the hold of the unconscious;

there to deteriorate, contaminate; an itch unreached, a wound unhealed?

 

Or left on deck;

there to be inspected,

contemplated,

attempted,

completed?

 

“Paul,” so spoke that inward, silent voice,

“it is your choice.”

 

In choice,

I know, there alway is the seed of chance

to see

what is to be…