The new year often finds me reflecting on the big picture and where I fit in.
Most, if not all, faith traditions and spiritual practices are about following, — following the lead of another and listening to and abiding by the wisdom of another. Within the Christian tradition the one we follow, of course, is Jesus Christ. Our faith and spiritual practices are based on the Biblical stories of Jesus and his disciples.
But putting that kind of stock in the words and wisdom of another means, in part, giving up control. It is to admit that we do not have all the answers and need to seek the wisdom of some other authority. In a culture that seems to value the individual and encourage individual rights and freedoms, taking counsel from another can fly in the face of our need to be in control.
This is not news to anyone who has ever engaged in a twelve-step program. The first step in that process is always to admit that one is powerless over a particular substance or behaviour and the second step is to acknowledge that there is a power greater than ourselves that can help us gain control over that substance or behaviour and restore our lives.
There can be tremendous freedom in admitting that we do not have all the answers and that at times, we all need help or guidance. Sometimes the wisest people are not the ones who have all the answers but merely know where to find them.
We don’t need to know it all, we don’t need to come up with the answers all on our own, we don’t need to be totally original all the time. Many times it is not only easier but better to learn from a trusted individual. But that means subverting our ego and being open to the wisdom of others, a hard thing to do for those of us who like to think we are the masters of our destiny.
The Feast of the Epiphany, celebrated every Jan. 6, recalls the story of the three magi visiting Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus. These three represent the wisdom traditions of the Ancient Near East, philosophers and scholars and most learned of their time. Their journey to see Jesus and offer him their worship indicates that even they, the brightest and best of their generation, recognize that there is more to life in this universe than even they can know.
At the beginning of St. John’s gospel, we hear how Jesus is that divine wisdom come in human form, how Jesus is the cosmic Christ, the Word become flesh (John 1:1-18). He “was in the beginning, he “was with God and was God” and “all things came into being through him.” Or put another way, Jesus is “the true light, which enlightens everyone coming into the world.” For Christians, Jesus is that higher authority, our teacher and our guide, our wisdom and our enlightenment. Each faith tradition has its own that it looks to for the same guidance.
The magi remind us that we are not the light, that the light does not originate from within us and we are not the source of the light. They help to remind us who is ultimately in control and where we fit into the big picture. Like those who have gone before us, who have been drawn by the light, guided by that light and have inspired us to follow, we give our lives into the command and keeping of the God who was there in the beginning and will be there at our end. Now that’s “grace upon grace”!
Happy New Year.
By Reverend Brian Krushel, Trinity Shared Ministry