January 6, 2013: “God Sightings”

Posted on : Jan 3rd, 2013 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

We are survivors!

Congratulations on surviving all the craziness of Christmas, “the end of the world” at least according to the Mayan calendar, and the insane antics of the 212th Congress of the United States, especially in not leading us over the fiscal cliff – well, at least not at the moment.  Yet, with all those victories, we face yet another challenge.  It’s the challenge of “Epiphany.”

I know, that doesn’t sound nearly as challenging as all these other things we’ve survived, but as 21st century people of faith, I think it is.  Why?  Because Epiphany is about “seeing God” in our “everyday” life experience and that is more challenging than many of us want to believe.

This Sunday our scriptures offer two contrasting views about how it is we see God among us.  The first one is the traditional reading for the Day of Epiphany, the story of the magi or “three kings” or “wise men.”  The story seems pretty lame to us, however if we contemporized it, it would be a bit more “revealing.”  How about if a few Mayan prophets followed a guiding light to a remote place in the middle east and announced that “Jesus had returned” in a new-born child born to peasant parents, who are not yet married.  Would you be convinced?

The writer of Matthew’s gospel intentionally adds “the shocking element” by having the “Seers” come from outside the Jewish tradition.  If that weren’t enough, just imagine that these “kings” were actually “queens.”  Our friend and former pastor of MCC/Los Angeles, Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, in her Book Our Tribe makes quite a compelling case for this!  In the chapter, Outing the Bible:  Our Gay and Lesbian Tribal Texts,” Nancy writes:

My favorite eunuchs of the bible are too obvious to be believed.  The wonderful story of the magi in Matthew’s narrative of Jesus’ infancy is a tale of eunuchs.  It doesn’t say there were three wise ones; postbiblical legend invented that number.

Matthew 2 tells a story of what the New Oxford Annotated bible calls, “three wise men, a learned class in ancient Persia.”  They were Zoroastrian priests, astrologers, magicians, shamans from the courts of ancient Persia.  They were the equivalent of Merlin of Britain.  They were sorcerers, high-ranking officials, but not kings – definitely not kings.  But, quite possibly they were queens. We’ve always pictured them with elaborate, exotic, unusual clothing – quite festive, highly decorated and accessorized!  But, not until I recognized that they were probably eunuchs did I realize that never once did I imagine that their wives accompanied them on this trip!  Deep down, I never thought of them as having wives.

Also, the wise eunuchs, shamans, holy men were the only ones who had the forethought to go shopping before they visited the baby Jesus!  This seems to me to be an obvious gay clue!

I mean, who were those guys?  They get a whole chapter in Matthew and then disappear forever from the scene (another classic eunuch trait). ..Just think of all those children in their father’s bathrobes in Christmas pageants every year, trying to portray three queens in semi drag!  Jesus had gay fairy godmothers who dropped in on him and saved his life, so he could save ours.  What a great book!

Interesting “take” on this story, isn’t it?  But what Nancy “reveals” or at least helps those of us who are gay or lesbian to see, is to see ourselves in this story.  And, in seeing ourselves in this story, we see God in a new way.  We see God in Jesus, but we also see God in us, and one another.

The apostle Paul in one of his more insightful moments, warned us about ever thinking that we know it all or have all the answers.  He wrote in the great “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13, “For now we see as in a mirror dimly, but one day we shall see God face to face.  Now I know in part; one day I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.”

“Seeing God,” which is what the word “Epiphany” means, is not easy.  And we’ve even made it harder than it needs to be!  So, in the next five weeks we’re going to look for “God Sightings” – the places in our lives where we see God today.  Each week we will reveal next week’s theme.  As you experience these glimpses of God, please take out your smart phones and send us a picture of where you see God.  I’ll include them in our worship each week.  More on Sunday!

Blessings,

Dan

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

two contrasting views about “seeing”

Matthew 2: 1-12

The Seers “see” Jesus as the Christ Child.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?  For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”  And hearing this, Herod the king was troubled, and all Jerusalem as well; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told Herod, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:

‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who will govern my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the magi secretly, ascertained from them what time the star appeared, and sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”  When they heard the king they went their way; and the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.  Then, opening their treasures, they offered the child gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.  And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 (contemporary language)

The apostle Paul speaks about our current “limited vision and understanding of God, followed by the time in which “everything will be clear and understood.”

If I speak in ecstatic religious language or the language of angels, but have not love, I sound like a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for ecstatic speech, it will cease; as for knowledge, it too will pass away.  For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect one comes, the imperfect will pass away.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but one day we shall see God face to face.  Now I know in part; one day I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So, faith, hope and love abide, but the greatest of these is love.

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