Guides to the Divine
- Tuesday, January 2, 2018
- By Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
Part of what makes Christianity and how we express our faith through the Anglican Tradition difficult for some is that so much of our language is wrapped up in metaphor. We are constantly looking to describe and provide meaning for things we cannot see or explain. No one has seen God in the flesh per say, nor do we have a sense of what the Holy Spirit looks like for example. This is frustrating to many because we live in a world that demands evidence and proof. The scientific community is constantly looking and analyzing data and taking notes on what can be measured or captured. This runs counter to when we are then asked to explain our faith and what we believe. How do we do that? What are our tools or measurements to capture what it is that we believe about the Divine and those elements that are not seen?
Because it is hard to fully capture the essence of the Divine and explain our faith via traditional scientific means we are forced to use common, ordinary, everyday elements to carry the meaning for us and offer a “gateway” into the Divine. These ordinary elements become for us the symbols of our faith. We use incense to help create the essence of the Holy Spirit, bread and wine is used to describe the body and blood of Jesus for example. Then today, on Epiphany, a star is used as a guide and landmark for where the Divine is to be found.
Stars and planets have been some of the earliest forms of navigation and guidance systems. If you ask my children what the purpose of the star is on the Christmas tree, they will say it is so that Santa knows how to find us . . . I guess even Santa still uses astronomy for navigation.
The star in the context of our faith becomes for us a guide and source of comfort. We need guides and landmarks because faith is a journey. There are many times when we find ourselves lost or unsure of the way forward. We need guides, the star to still pinpoint where the Divine can be found.
Epiphany is the time for light and revelation. A time when we see anew and come with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective on our faith journey and our relationship with God. As stars light up the night sky, we find that there are aspects of our life and faith that are being exposed to the light by God. Perhaps these are areas in our life where the Divine can be found. But then again, they may also be areas that we need to bring closer in relationship to God, perhaps by a different way and means than what we have been doing. What I find fascinating about the magi who visited Jesus is their bravery and foresight to return to their homelands via a different road.
Sometimes, all too often, we find ourselves having to make similar choices. We find ourselves having to decide to choose between what may be most comfortable for us, and what may be the right choice to make. As we know, making the right choice is not always the comfortable choice. Sometimes, once exposed to the light, we realize that the right choice takes us down a different path, one we had not anticipated taking at first.
While King Herod ruled thousands of years ago and instilled great fear in the known world, we are called as Christians choose differently. King Herod goes by different names today, racism, violence against women and vulnerable, exploiting natural resources to name just a few. These are all areas that need to be brought into the light, to be exposed and seen and where we, because of what happened all those years ago when Herod first sent the magi, are called to take a different road. A road that leads to an end of fear and domination, a road that rather brings forward the reign of God and marks where the Divine is found. Yes it would be easy and comfortable to sit comfortably in the safety of our homes and environments and pretend that someone else will deal with all that - because any one or more of those issues are just so complicated and bigger than any of us can deal with on our own. Yes it would be easy and comfortable to ignore our pain and the pain of the world. But that is not what the Lord requires of us.
Because of Epiphany, we are the “someone” who will make things right again as best we can. Sometimes it simply is a matter of standing alongside the vulnerable and those being persecuted and saying, “I see you. You are not alone. I believe you.”
May this Epiphany season be one that illuminates and highlights your faith in a new way. May we look to the stars in our lives where the Divine is found so that others may come and see God doing new things in the world.