01.04.14 Giving out of Gratitude Matthew 2:1-12 Sermon Scraps
Here are six short ideas I didn’t pursue in my sermon on the visit of the Magi.
When you take time to look, you see “stars.” The Magi saw the new star because they were looking. We shouldn’t expect God to reveal something new to us if we’re not looking for it (though sometimes God does grab our attention without looking, like with the Shepherds).
“Stars” appear in our ordinary routines. The Magi were most likely a professional class of stargazers. Doing what they always did, the star appeared to them.
“Stars” may need scripture to reappear. Apparently the start disappeared for a while during the time the Magi visited Jerusalem. If a “star” of revelation or guidance appears to you, then you lose track of it, maybe supplementing that impression with scripture will make it reappear.
“Stars” plus scripture lead us to Christ. The Magi had the original star to guide them, but they needed the scripture to lead them to Christ. This is consistent with how John Calvin viewed the Bible: there is a universal (general) revelation of God, and then there is the biblical (special) revelation. The general revelation can only take us so far. We need the Bible to take us to Christ.
New “dreams” lead us with Christ. The Bible may take us to Christ, but the Holy Spirit leads us today to follow Christ. Christ is not limited to what is revealed about him in the Bible. He lives today, and the Magi’s openness to further revelation (beyond star and scripture) through dreams (Spirit), led them away from Herod and towards the path of Christ. (I elaborate on this final statement in the full sermon.)
Finally, consider this “Continuum of Response to the Poor.” This is an idea I had related to Epiphany’s revelation of light to the Gentiles and the intended effect of that light according to the Older Testament passages for Epiphany, namely, that all nations will come to worship the God of biblical Israel. Those passages emphasize the treatment of the poor by the people of God. I offer the following continuum, from darkness to light, for consideration with the question, “Does the way we treat the poor shine with God’s attractive light or not?”
Continuum of Response to the Poor (from darkness to light)
- Steal from them
- Exploit them (financially, intellectually, etc.)
- Keep them ignorant (of rights and opportunities)
- Do not prohibit their helping themselves (basically ignoring them)
- Give them charity (short term aid that salves our conscience but doesn’t substantively change their situation)
- Pro-actively equip them to advance (through education, training, mentoring, advocacy)
- Work to change systems of oppression (advocacy, how we vote)
- Sacrificing oneself (and one’s self-interests) working on their behalf (as Jesus did)