More than Enough
Rev. Lindsay L. Fulmer
Ladera Community Church
January 17, 2010 – Second Sunday of Epiphany
Isaiah 62:1-4 John 2:1-11
It’s the third day of the New Year…how are your New Year’s resolutions going? It’s that time of year, isn’t it, for making resolutions (or resolving not to make them!), clearing away the Christmas clutter, finishing off the everlasting fruitcake, and taking down the old calendar to make way for the new. Yet before the twinkle lights dim, we have this twelfth night story to celebrate, the arrival of the magi and the shining star of Epiphany offering us three gifts to carry into the new year: the real power of resolutions, a starlit path to follow, and revelation leading to change. Following the magi’s journey, we find wisdom for our own.
It’s a journey that begins first with observation, then imagination stirred up by curiosity. Observing the appearance of a strange new star, the wise ones resolve to leave their routine and set out on a pilgrimage. The biblical record plays this refrain again and again. Just when the story seems set to head straight toward a predictable conclusion, God shows up and the narrative shifts in an unexpected direction. Come around a corner, and suddenly appears a crossroads and the choice that follows makes all the difference.
Remember, just when he thought his story was all played out, Abraham, in his old age, was compelled on a journey to find a new homeland. Moses, stuttering, was led up the mountain and down again, called into reluctant leadership by a burning vision. Peter, James and John were pulling in their nets when Jesus showed up, saying, “Come, and I will make you fishers of people.” Again and again, a divine detour reveals a whole new horizon. The God who beckoned to patriarchs and slaves, to fisher folk and kings, is the same today as yesterday. God calls each of us to move forward toward new dimensions of faith, service and love, putting one foot ahead of another along a winding, starlit path. In the mid-nineteenth century, Adelaide Proctor penned this:
Have we not all, amid life’s petty strife,
Some pure ideal of a noble life that once seemed possible?
Did we not hear the flutter of its wings and feel it near,
And just within our reach? It was.
And yet we lost it in this daily jar and fret.
But still our place is kept and it will wait, ready for us to fill it,
Soon or late. No star is ever lost we once have seen.
We always may be what we might have been..1
Without studying the sky, the magi might have missed the star altogether. Without examining the constellation of our own lives, might we too, miss the glimmer of light, a quiet revelation, that may, by wisdom welcomed, change our course and lead us in a new direction? Sometimes what looks to be an enveloping emptiness can by closer look reveal even a pinprick gleam of light, resulting in refocus, redirection. Story after story, God offers the possibility of change and growth to those with the wisdom, courage and faith to realize it.
The story of the magi is not only about the beckoning of God, but also about the wisdom of the Magi’s response. Notice there was no voice of command that compelled them, no thundering threat. There was simply this bright vision of a shining star, which they could choose to ignore, or follow. The freedom and responsibility was theirs, and that’s the way it works with God. God does not force, coerce, or impose. Instead, God tirelessly gives, and leaves what happens next up to us. God gave the moral law to the people through Moses, what they did with it was up to them. God gave signs of warning and caution to people through the prophets; how they responded was up to them. Jesus asked his disciples, who do you say I am? The answer was up to them. So it is with us. However much we might like God to take over and make us what we ought to be and want to be – and some of us keep praying for this to happen – still nothing changes, because God’s not going to do it for us. The responsibility is ours to discern God’s beckoning in our lives, and the freedom is ours to choose to respond or not. Sometimes we need prompting from another to get the message.
Two years ago, I was out here on a summer visit. Days after I
arrived, my mom ended up having major heart surgery, totally
unexpected. Weeks later, as I packed up to head back to the east coast, my dad stood in the door watching. “When are you going to move back here?” he said, a frequently asked question. “Oh Dad,” I replied, “I don’t know, it’s a challenge.” Later that night, unable to sleep, I got up. The house was quiet and dark, except for a nightlight in the hall so you’d find your way. Out in the living room, I sat in the dark, across from his empty easy chair, his reading glasses there on the table, waiting. In the night, something shifted. The next morning, over toast and coffee, I said to him, “You know, Dad, I think I’m going to do it. I’m going to look for a new church out here. It’ll take awhile, but it’s time.” He lit up like a Christmas tree, and that light illumined the path I knew I had to follow. I felt resolved, and it’s a resolution and choice I will never regret – brought me here to this place, and you, brought me a year I would never have had with him, a time of deep challenge and tender, irreplaceable communion.
Having found what they were seeking, the magi return home by another way, and leave us with this last lesson. They let what they had experienced change them, change their course. Chances are, it would not have been possible for them to return the same way. For they had their epiphany, a moment of insight that leaves one confident of a deep truth, opens up a new way of thinking and perceiving. Wherever they went, it would have seemed different, for they themselves were changed.
I came across this thought, from a book called Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. She says, in the end, “The meaning in life is found, not in what happens to people, but in what happens between people.”2 The magi, changed by their encounter with the one they found lying in a manger, left precious gifts and went away changed. Remembering them, may we wisely resolve to seek, and seeking find; then give freely the best we have to offer, and so find our way home by a different way.
1. Proctor, Adelaide Anne, Legends and Lyrics 2, “A Legend of Provence.”
2. Beck, Martha, Expecting Adam.