I’m back. . . after four weeks of guest speakers in Advent and on Christmas, and after our deacons preached on the feast of the Holy Family – now you’re stuck with me. . . for a while. . .
So on this feast of the Epiphany we hear a great one liner: “Then they opened their treasures. . .”
I’m sure we have all had the experience of loaning something of ours to someone else – and we know that can kind of be tricky business. We might be a bit hesitant to loan anything that really matters a great deal to us – it might get broken or it might get lost.
But probably the reason that causes us the most anxiety – is that when we loan something to someone else — WE MIGHT NOT GET IT BACK!!
And that can be frustrating. Sometimes people just forget. Sometimes they turn around and loan they thing they borrowed to someone else. Or in some cases – they just decide they like the thing so much – they keep it for themselves!
And so we mention and remind and nag repeatedly about returning whatever it is we loaned to them – sometimes even offering to come by and pick it up ourselves. . . Sometimes that works, other times it doesn’t –
and the thing or things we lent disappear into the black hole of no return – never to be seen again.
So pay attention to this one liner: God has loaned to us – and God wants his stuff back!!
“Then they opened their treasures.”
As we celebrate the Epiphany – we remember the incredible story of the magi from the east attempting to find the newborn king of the Jews. This is one of the stories which can take a homilist off in many different directions – perhaps preaching about light and darkness // or the journey each of us has to take to discover the divine // or how God is alive and well and at work in hearts and minds of people outside of our group: religious, ethnic, race, status – however we want to divide up the pie // or how we need to strive to see God in the most unlikeliest of places. . . and all of those are valid directions to take a homily. . .
But I think sometimes we can forget the simple, obvious messages in a story – and this might be one of those times.
You see, in one sense, this story shows people simply going to great lengths and distances — to give gifts to someone they feel deserves them. It really might not be any more complicated than that.
Of course, each of the gifts have some symbolic significance, which is another homily in itself – but we, having two thousand years of perspective – know how much Jesus really did deserve those gifts – because he is after all – God: Emmanuel, God with us.
A so the story of the magi, in our time and place, becomes kind of a model for our own spiritual lives – a story worth imitating – a story about an encounter between God and his people – between a creator and his creation – between a spirit and those within whom that spirit dwells – a story about a Savior and those he died to save. . . And if that’s the case, and we certainly believe it is — then WHAT DOES GOD DESERVE FROM US?
Remember the one liner I told you to pay attention to: God has loaned to us – and God wants his stuff back. . .
The most important word in that sentence is the possessive pronoun: HIS. You see, every good thing we have and every good thing we are able to do – every quality and skill, every kind or generous impulse, every material thing we possess and every holy thing that dwells in our hearts, minds, and souls — it all belongs to God. Every bit of it.
And God is simply lending it to us – throughout our lifetime here on earth. God has loaned to us – and God wants his stuff back. . .
And so will we give back to God what is his already?
You might want to think that we are sort of “off the hook” – after all it might seem impossible to return to God what is God’s. I mean – where exactly do we drop these things off? Where do we take them to return them? How does God go about collecting what is his? Where is our Bethlehem manger?
You might know the answer: “Then they opened their treasures. . .”
My sisters and brothers – there is only ONE way to give to God what God has loaned to us. And that is by paying these things forward to each person in need of a little kindness, a little mercy, a little understanding, a little generosity, a little love.
By sharing with others, especially with those who are not as blessed as we are — by sharing with others all the good things God has given us and done for us — we are giving back to God what was his all along. Love of others IS love of God – they are not separate things. . .
It’s not a stretch to say that, at its core, the spiritual life is a life of good stewardship: it’s nothing more than gifting to others what has been gifted to us.
And so let’s become good at – downright experts at – opening our treasures and laying them at the feet of every person who needs to experience God and experience God’s great love and mercy and generosity. . .
May the magi be an example of what and who we are called to be every single day. In others words – let’s start giving God his stuff back!!