By Pastor Mark Combs
Frederick Buechner is quite a skilled writer, and several years ago a book of excerpts of his writings was compiled as a daily devotional. I often go to it when I am looking for ideas and illustrations. I would like to share this one with you. It is called Epiphany.
The gifts that the three Wise Men, or Kings, or Magi, brought to the manger in Bethlehem cost them plenty but seem hardly appropriate to the occasion. Maybe they were all they could think of for the child who had everything. In any case, they set them down on the straw — the gold, the frankincense, the myrrh — worshiped briefly, and then returned to the East where they had come from. It gives you pause to consider how, for all their great wisdom, they overlooked the one gift that the child would have been genuinely pleased to have someday, and that was the gift of themselves and their love1.
As we face a new year, I think the challenge that Buechner raises for the Magi is a valid challenge for us as well. Our world does not seem to be all that different, because we often miss the point of what is needed and how we deal with challenges. The bigger challenge, of course, is in how we deal with our relationship with God.
Let me explain. In our society, anytime there is a challenge the thing we are asked to do is send money. People are hungry – please send money. People are dying from disease, cancer and AIDS – please send money. Animals are being abused – please send money. Elections are coming – please send money. The church building is in need of repair – please send money. It seems that our society has equated being involved with sending money.
I am not saying that these causes are unimportant and yes they do need our help, but the real challenge is that we have limited ourselves by making our monetary contribution to be our only involvement. What is worse is that we carry that same attitude on to our spiritual lives – to how we deal with God and the church. Somehow we have come to the conclusion that if we send money to the church, then we are covered and don’t have to do anything else.
Yes, it is true that money is very closely connected to what we believe! The challenge that comes from this story of the Magi is the challenge for us to be connected and involved. The mission of the church is a challenge of involvement. I am sure that you remember that the mission of the church is to make disciples (see Matthew 28). The way we do that is in being in relationship with God and each other.
The challenge for us in this anniversary year is to be involved in our relationships with God and the people around us. Imagine what great things can happen when we actually engaged in what is happening around us. Until next time.
See you in church,
1Frederick Buechner, A Epiphany, January 6,@ Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner, Comp. George Connor (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1992) 5-6.