Finding Our Way

Matthew 2:1-12

Poet Wendell Berry writes:

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

I am enthralled by these words.
Is Wendell Berry saying
that our journey begins,
when we admit we don’t know what way to go,
that our work starts,
when we can at last say, I don’t know what to do?

I don’t know what to do.

These are words that I imagined
the wise ones, the astrologers,
muttered too.

After all,
they had studied star maps and night skies,
they used astrolabes and studied books,
but it was only when guided by a bright star
that they could find their way.

This reality rivets me
because the wise ones reveal to us
something about asking for help
and creating space
for Love to lead the way.

Ask for more help.
This passage invites us to ask for more help.
Even the wisest ones did not know the route
and needed guidance from above.

Asking for help, however,
does not seem to come naturally.

Have I ever told you that
I once applied to and was accepted at law school?
It was because I was so good at being right.

I loved being contrary.
I loved to list off all the reasons
that what I thought was so truly true.
I even took a summer debate class in high school
to finesse my excellent arguing skills.

It is true:
I once thought
I knew everything there is to know
about myself or others.
Either that,
or I knew nothing
and I was afraid to admit it to be true.

What I learned, though,
is that it is a lonely place to live,
that is a restricting place to inhabit:
being obstinate and
making others go around you.

What I love about the story of the sages
is that they teach us what it is:
to leave home,
to find a fresh path,
to cultivate a life that is
nourishing and receptive.

After all, it is their humility,
their willingness to take direction,
that ultimately leads the wisest ones
to find priceless treasure,
to discover a life that fills them up,
to stumble upon a holy Child,
who places salve on their wounds,
who heals the hurting places of their life.

What grace.

The story fills me with wonder.

Are we open to receiving Light?
Are we open to guidance?
Are we open to help?

Jesus came to earth,
not because we have it all together
or we are pretending
we have it all together
but because we all need more help.

Where do we find help?

In wise companions with whom we journey.
In holy Scriptures
that teach us about
being human,
following Jesus,
and living lives of radical compassion.
Through professionals,
like doctors or therapists,
who specifically train
to help us on our journey.
Hotlines that provide support.
Prayer, books, hymns, community.

Support is all around us,
waiting for us to ask.

From where does my help come?

It comes from a Source greater than myself,
who teaches me
to live from a place of communal dependency
rather than self-sufficiency.

In my own life,
there came a time
where I no longer wanted to live
from a constricting place of:
‘I have it all figured out.
Thank you very much.’
Instead, I wanted something more:
more fulfilling,
more loving,
more joy-filled.

So I quit.

I quit dying on the hill of
I am always right
and you are always wrong.

I started living on the hill of curiosity, wondering:
What does Jesus want to teach me
– about myself
– about others
– about this beautiful life
that we are living together?

That is the same time
that I quit wanting to be a lawyer,
and starting wanting to do something
with people and ministry.
At first, I considered pastoral counseling,
until at last I discerned,
that I wanted to be a pastor
because there was something
about gathering in expansive community,
worshiping God,
that set my heart on fire,
that filled it up
and gave salve to my soul.
It cracked me open to a vast grace
and to an even more immense love.

What I appreciate about this faith journey
of trekking together,
of following a star,
is that it reminds me that
faith is a process of
the Great Mystery who is God.

That is what
this season of Epiphany,
which we are now entering,
is all about.
It is a revealing of God in baby Jesus,
of God in the star that accompanies us
in the deepest night,
of God who comes to meet us
again and again
wherever we may find ourselves,
knocking at the door
of those who are stuck or lonely,
telling us, telling them,
there is more to life than this.

There is more to life than this,
and the treasure lies at the beginning,
at the moment,
when we are willing
to set out,
to ask for more help,
to receive direction,
and to say aloud,
I don’t quite know where to go from here.

Wendell Berry writes,
“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work,
and when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

This is the epiphany that the wisest ones had
when they bravely ventured out at night,
putting aside their desire to be right
and putting at the forefront
their desire for something more:

to become more,
to believe in more,
to discover way, way more
than they could conceive
in their small living spaces.

The painting on the PowerPoint,
is called Night Visitors
and is painted by Janet McKenzie. [You can view it here]
It depicts the moment when,
after traveling for such a long time
under the sweeping canopy of the sky,
the sages discover at last
what they are searching for.
Looking at the painting,
what do they find?

Even now,
the unbounded love and brilliant light of God
beckons us to embark on our own adventure,
turning our hearts to wonder,
opening our minds to the infinite
and setting our feet in a new direction.
In the words of today’s hymn:
O star of wonder, star of night,
star of royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.

That is my prayer for us this season
during these long nights:
Star of wonder,
guide us to thy perfect light.


Categories: Sermons, Uncategorized

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