Confirm not Conform blog.
I had an epiphany a couple of days ago.
I have heard many a sermon on the magi that talked about how they traveled home by a different road. But this year, it was the snippet of a phrase immediately before that that caught my attention: “they left for their own country.”
It reminded me of a sermon I heard many, many years ago, probably when I was a teenager myself. I even remember the title: “The three unwise men.” And the argument made by the preacher was, “It’s all well and good that they came to worship Jesus, but why didn’t they stick around?” Thinking about it now, that seemed to be a pointed jab at the Christmas and Easter crowd for Not Faithfully Attending, but I remember being annoyed at the time on behalf of the wise men who had made the effort to travel a very long way. After all, the chief priests and scribes who told the magi where the child would be born were in a town just a few miles away. Why weren’t they there?
But that’s not the epiphany. The epiphany was this: people live in different countries. Metaphorically speaking, I mean. And believe me when I say I think our church can do a heck of a lot better job keeping people involved and included – people for whom our churches are their native land.
But I think a lot of us are like that preacher long ago: we believe that to be truly faithful, you need to stay in our country. Never mind how far you have traveled. Never mind what efforts you have made. If you don’t stay with us, then clearly you are not truly faithful. And all our efforts are spent on making sure you stay in our country, our denomination, our worship services, our programs.
Maybe this year we need to do some more traveling. Maybe this year, we need to visit their countries – not to change people, not to convince them, not to draw them back, but simply to visit, to bring gifts, to rejoice, to pay homage, and to return to our own country, transformed by the God who leads us home.