Last week the church challenged us, as we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, to expand our vision…. like the Wise Men from the east, to be willing to journey even great distances if need be, to appreciate the wonder of God’s vast creation, and the beauty of diversity. The great distances are often within the depth of our hearts, as the Wise Men have taught and shown us. This past week our Diocesan Bishop the Most Rev Jaime Soto, was literally travelling a great distance, as he led a group of pilgrims from our diocese on a spiritual visit to the Philippines, and at one point during this trip they witnessed young school children there celebrate the meaning of Epiphany.
He described the welcoming school children in this way… “They did a musical portrayal of the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi. One detail caught my eye; a 3-dimensional paper star hung from a string on a bamboo pole. A semi-circle of children formed around those portraying the Holy Family. The pole with the star was passed from person to person as the costumed magi followed the star around the semi-circle until it reached the last child who was the smallest of the group. This child took the pole, leading the magi to the place of The Holy Family in the middle of the stage, then took his place directly behind the Virgin and infant so that the star came to dangle over Jesus. The special effects were rudimentary but more eloquent than a Spielberg spectacular. The guiding star went from hand to hand. Each one taking a part in what was once a cosmic journey across the night sky. In a harmonious manner they guided magi-vested peers to the place where they could meet Jesus.”
A few days later Bishop Soto was still intrigued by the significance of the 3-dimensional paper star. He discovered that the Epiphany star in the Philippines is called a “Parol,” coming from the Spanish term farol which means “lantern.” For the Wise Men, the Epiphany star was like a lantern that brightly threw light upon their distant journeys. It guided them through the many lands and nations and cultures of the world as they sought the newborn King. Bishop Soto then reflects: “From the very beginning then, Jesus had a universal appeal. He spoke not just to the Jewish heart but the human heart, the human heart hungry for God. His coming has consequences for all of human history.
“The image of the star spoke a language that was scientific, poetic, aesthetic, romantic, and yet always mysterious. We can say that the star is primordial, from the very beginning of the world. The psalmist tried to capture this in the 19th psalm, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the works of his hands. Day unto day pours forth speech; night unto night whispers knowledge’..”
This weekend our country here in the US celebrates a hero of our nation, the Rev Martin Luther King Jr. In 1959 at a college commencement address Martin Luther King advised, “We are challenged to rise above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” He would later repeat this same train of thought in 1967 during a sermon at New Covenant Baptist Church in Chicago, “An individual has not started living fully until he can rise above the narrow confines of individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.”
Our church teaches the wonder and the beauty of God’s universal outreach, and how we must imitate last week’s Wise Men in recognizing that God’s embrace is an embrace for ALL people, of all countries, languages and color. Our great American and hero Martin Luther King still challenges us, generations later, to appreciate and respect and love all people, in all of our diversities. May we reject narrow-minded and closed-off attitudes and thinking, but instead personify in our lives the unconditional love and care for all people… as Jesus’ story, life and example has always taught us.