Following the star - Reflections 1-3-18

This Sunday Gloria Dei will celebrate the day of Epiphany which is actually January 6.

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany celebrates the journey that Magi “from the East” made to pay homage to Jesus bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Epiphany in many cultures is a pretty big deal; “Three Kings Day,” is the date of annual gift-giving instead of Christmas. If you don’t know the story, check out Matthew 2. Read all of the 2nd chapter of Matthew to get a sense of what was at stake. It is a story of treachery in which power tries to snuff perceived competition by any means. It is also used to show that Jesus came for all people, a “light to the Gentiles”.

A couple of reader’s notes: there is no inn, stable, angels or shepherds – those come from the Christmas story as told in the Gospel of Luke. Magi (notice no number is mentioned; Easter traditions set the number at 12) are believed to be priests from ancient Persia. According to Matthew, they show up in Judea, having been notified of the birth of a king by the appearance of his star in the night skies.

This story has a lot to say about a Messiah for all people, or about a humble king not born in the city of power, or about an arrogant, fearful King who slaughters anyone who threatens his power. But today it is the journey of the story that captures my thoughts. These magi traveled quite a long distance. My Google Maps say that it would take 455 hours to walk from Persia to Bethlehem; that is like walking from Iowa City to Missoula, Montana. 

I don’t know how riding camels might reduce that time. Google maps didn’t offer me a camel option.

Since early in September, Gloria Dei has been talking about a journey, not quite as far as the magi, but close. We’ve gathered a group of people who are headed by bus to the Gulf Coast of Texas to provide some hands-on Hurricane Harvey recovery support. We somewhat randomly picked Epiphany as the departure date; we wanted to go during the university’s winter break. All those months of planning are now coming into reality in a couple of days from this writing.

The magi followed Jesus’ star which signified a King of All Nations. Our Gulf Coast group also follows a star of Jesus. This one signifies a Servant King who knelt before his disciples and washed their feet; a Humble King who said “I have given you an example” of what means to follow: serve others in humility; love others with your service and by doing so, you love me.

Our group will work on two family homes for a week, replacing flooring in one and repainting the rooms of another. We bring care for the stranger, honoring Christ in each person we meet. We proclaim Epiphany: Arise, shine; for your light has come (Isaiah 60:1) - the darkness will not overcome the light. Our group also carries hope - of renewal, restoration, and rebirth that is ours through Jesus’ resurrection. We carry the promise of Easter "into the ruins". 

I send my prayers and blessings along with this crew of servants as they head south.

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245