Sunday, January 18, 2015

That is what happened when the Wise Ones left??!

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”  When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under  Matthew 2:13-16

I am sure one of the reactions to reading the above passage is to question whether you want to keep reading this blog today.  "Gee thanks for this uplifting reminder."  Or maybe you never realized that after the Wise One's depart, King Herod, who was not the most emotionally stable king, let his rage and fear turn toward innocent children.  This past week I heard a pastor talk about how we often wall paper over the messy parts of faith.  This might just be one passage we want to skip or plug our ears and shout, "La, la, la, I am not listening!"  

Why study such a depressing and discouraging passage of Scripture?  Isn't there enough violence and hurt in the world?  What happened in France?  What is going on in villages of Africa?  And what about the concerns over the deaths of African American by police that a month ago the media was all over?  Have we forgotten?

Scripture is not wall paper.  Scripture shines a light bright on the realities of today.  Realities of violence and brokenness.  Scripture does that NOT to make us feel guilty, but so that we might continue to see that God is present both in good times and in the valley of the shadow of death.  Because that reality takes time to wrap our minds and hearts around we need to return to it time and time again.

The Sunday after Christmas is usually the Feast of Holy Innocents.  It reminds us that the first Christmas was messy for Joseph and Mary's relationship (whatever that was).  It reminds us that the first Christmas was less holy night and more holy nightmare.  Again, perhaps we'd rather not talk about it.  Perhaps it is easier, even now a few weeks removed from Christmas, to talk more diet tips to stay on your New Year's Resolutions or plans for the upcoming Super Bowl.  But again, are we willing to wall paper over the realities of life?

My point is not that we should all walk around discouraged or feeling like...well you know what. But I do think that reality is messy.  Life is not easy.  And the church needs to hold those realities and the dis-ease (or uneasiness) of life in tension when talking about grace and love.  I know why we stop short of reading this passage on Epiphany with the Wise Ones departing for home, "by another road".  We don't want to go down the road of innocent children dying.  I know why we skip right to John the Baptizer the next Sunday (even if his clothing and diet sound strange).  But I also think we need to begin talking about this passage too.  It reminds us that Scripture is complex and we never fully understand.

I invite you today as you read the paper about a tragedy of human life to hold that in conversation with Scripture.  Of course to do so might cause us to wonder, "Why would a loving God allow this?" The tension of suffering is you either have to let go of God's powerfulness or God's unconditional love.  Either God can't stop it (and is a weak force) or wills suffering (and is a real dent to the basic definition of love).  All of our efforts to explain or justify God are just that - OUR EFFORTS.  Scripture seems more content to shine a light saying, "This is the way life is."  Yet, Scripture also says that in the midst of messy, broken life, there is grace and there is hope even in the most difficult times.  There is hope in the face of hunger when food is offered.  There is hope in the face of death, when we grieve with another.  There is hope in the midst of life.  When we discover that hope, we discover another trace of God's grace.

Blessings and pax (peace)

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