January 2019: Following a Star ...

Words and pictures from the January/February 2018 Visit

In January, we asked John to speak about our Outreach project in Rwanda.  He spoke as we commemorated the Epiphany, part of the Christmastide celebration.  Epiphany means manifestation – in our case, when the Jewish infant Jesus was made known to the world. In our church life, we remember the journey of the Three Wise Men (Magi) who followed the star to Bethlehem. John used that theme to shine light and understanding on the wonderful work in Rwanda.  We hope you will be enriched by his words and enjoy the wonderful photos.   

 

Following a star requires trust.  Stars are distant and detached from down-to-earth issues. Yet here are the Magi following a star.  Wise men, the keepers of accumulated wisdom, also magicians and fortune tellers.  And they have travelled from the East, probably Persia, the former Babylon, to Herod’s palace, looking for an extraordinary peace-bring king.

How did they know?   Well, we know the Hebrews had been held hostage for a hundred years in Babylon and been required to tell their stories, share their wisdom.  Surely the prophesies of Isaiah regarding the promised king and his star had been told and, it seems, believed. 

But it was a long way to Jerusalem, and for a 600 year old prophesy?  From a foreign people, slaves? What empowers such determined effort?  Would I have gone?  Would you? The Magi leave Herod’s palace in confusion and without direction.

Herod and his assembled wise men and priests know nothing.  They’re much too busy with down-to-earth issues.  Maybe it’s time to just see the sights around Jerusalem and head home.

Seeking a prince promising peace in this contentious world is a dubious pursuit. Would I have left?Most of us follow stars: love and marriage, new lands, and professions, seeking the full realization of our life.  And most of us have followed causes and ideals seeking to extend the realization of a fuller life and justice to others.

Ever since the Resurrection, however, we are invited to follow  stars on a new horizon of a new kingdom.  The magi came to see a peaceful, earthly king whom we now know to be peace Incarnate.  To this day we listen to his words and recount his deeds and embrace his invitation to make him incarnate again and again.  In our life of faith, we watch for and respond to the glimmer of a star that says: love, peace or justice struggle to be born here.  Will you come?

11 years ago a star rose over Africa.  First I, then you followed it. 

There we find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes housed in a stable.Today we celebrate Epiphany-- in church parlance, the manifestation of God’s presence to the world.   In Jesus’ story that manifestation is of a baby to the outsiders and the poor.

It’s interesting to note that in its secular meaning, Epiphany is a sudden insight into the essential meaning of something - usually initiated by a commonplace occurrence.  Like the sight of a child held by poor and simple parents full of hope.    Being a part of these almost daily miracles, I found myself one week in a state of mild euphoria. 

Walking home I would replay how beautifully events worked out and how much I had been able to accomplish. Unsettled by my self-congratulation, I spent days assigning my part versus God’s part. 

One day I set out with my team across a valley to build some eco-toilets up a high ridge.  I had crossed this bridge before and though it was uneven and unstable, I could use a martial arts technique of dropping my weight into my feet, grounding me solidly. 

After my team had crossed, I set out but stopped after 5 steps, very unsure of myself. My team called to me but I waved them back. I concentrated on grounding myself, took a breath and stepped forward.  I felt weightless, as if my feet supported none of me and I fell headlong onto the logs. The heel of my left hand just barely caught the outside log.  In that split second I knew I couldn’t hold myself from falling head first into the river. 

But I didn’t fall.  I hung there frozen while one of my team bounced out across the logs, knelt down and lifted me slowly up and led me step by step to the other side.  On solid ground I stood there, still weightless, empty. No thoughts no feelings.

And then these words entered distinctly into my mind; I do it all.  You do nothing without Me.    And immediately I felt at peace.   I think that is Epiphany.