Sermon December 20, 2009: A journey of faith

Posted in Sermons
[Roberto Miranda]
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Date: December 20, 2009
  • Location: Congregación León de Judá, Boston MA

Mathew, Chapter 2. Verses 1 through 12. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Judaea, during the time of King Herod, Magi came to Jerusalem and asked: “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the East and have come to worship him”. When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him. When he had gathered all the chief priests and teachers of the Lord he asked them ‘where’s the Christ that had to be born?’

“In Bethlehem, in Judaea they replied for this is why the prophet has written. But you Bethlehem in the land of Judah are by no means least among the rulers of Judah. For out of thee shall come the ruler that will be the Sheppard of my people Israel. And Herod called the magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He said to Bethlehem, “Go and make careful search of the child. As soon as you find him, report to me so that I too be going and worship him”.

“After they have heard the King they went on their way and the star they had seen in the East went ahead of them until the star stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star they were overjoyed. On coming to the house they saw the child with his mother Mary and they pound down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod they returned to their country by another route’.

I’m going to take my jacket off as it’s kind of hot and this is a wool jacket. I think it was a little too efficient in getting myself, you know, ready for the cold out there so I’d make myself comfortable.

This week I’ve found myself meditating and thinking about these men, these magi as they’re called who came to adore, to worship the Messiah. And I found myself wondering… I’ve tried to put myself in their shoes, I’ve tried to go through their mental processes as they journeyed from a far away land to come and worship the Lord.

There is not a whole lot that is told to us about, you know, how these men got to Israel. What prompted them to do this? I mean, even if they just saw a star and I think by the way, the term ‘star’ may not necessarily be, I mean, literally one of these, you know, stars that we see in the Universe. These giant balls of energy. I think it probably means some sort of luminous object. And the term is used for ‘star’ in that sense.

But really, we don’t know why and how these guys concluded that that star pointed to the birth of someone first of all; number two that that someone was a King, number three that that King was worthy of a worship. It wasn’t just obedience or respect or reverence, I mean, it was worship. You worship a God and these men they understood a whole lot of things but it is not told to us how they arrived at those conclusions. So, I was a little curious about that as well.

You know, I found myself wondering about journeys and about going into the unknown. These men, it is thought they came from Iran and the Ancient Babylon and it was a long journey. It’s not like today that you take a plane and you’re there in half an hour from Iran to Israel, to Jesusalem. It was a perilous, adventurous journey and they didn’t have a whole lot of information, really, on how to get there or how to find that person that they were going to adore and to give presents to.

So they have to take a lot of risks and they had just to exercise a huge amount of faith. There was a lot of uncertainty associated to their travel. So, I think that’s kind of an interesting thought and that’s why I’ve found myself thinking about this, about a faith filled journey and about when God speaks to us and gives us certain clues about things and they we’re simply called to get going and move and trust that He’s going to provide as we go along.

These guys are to exercise a huge amount of faith in the journey.

Let me make a parenthesis here for a moment. I will get back to voyages and journeys of faith. But let me think a moment just to dispel some myths about these men and to clarify. I think it’ll be just interesting to clarify who these men were and how they, perhaps, go to receive this revelation from the Lord.

The first myth that we have to dispel about these guys, you know, these three magi: it was not three. We don’t know how many they were. We are not told their names either. In Latin culture, in Latin America, for example, there are these traditions about the names of these Kings. The fact, is that the Scripture doesn’t tell us what their names were either, but it is a very powerful tradition in Latin America culture about their names. We are not told the names, either. Okay?

You know, in Latin culture, there’s all this thing that one of them was dark-skinned and two were white-skinned. That’s also a myth. Pure tradition. There’s nothing about that description, either.

They had to be more than three men, really, you know. History and some historical reflections suggest that these men belong to a cast that was a priestly cast so almost like a lineage that in Iran and in the Babylonian areas, the Iraq area and so in the Eastern area were a priestly cast and that was their main thing.

I suspect that they were much more than three. Probably a whole commission that came to worship the Lord and probably not three would have taken that long, perilous journey. They would have had a lot of other people with them to make sure they had all their needs and taking care of themselves.

The other thing is, as I’ve said, they were not Kings, they were members of this cast which was a priestly cast, were also probably they were scientists, they were astronomers, astrologers. In those times science and theology and religion were all mixed and men saw … The beginnings of science are mixed with religion and religious inquiry, curiosity about the creation of the world and about all these different things. And only later on the Renaissance and perhaps with the enlightening of the XVI and XVIIth centuries the science and theology sort of goal each their own way.

But in those times, you know, these men were curious seekers of truth and wisdom and they enquired whatever they could, the planets, the stars, and the mysterious things. The birth of science is believed, you know, can be traced around that area in terms of enquiry about the nature of the Universe and all of its own force. So these guys were not Kings, they were astronomers, astrologists, theologians, priests and so on and so forth.

They were not magicians, either. In Latin America this is believed, because of the word “magos”. The word magi comes from “magoi” which is what the Greek originally says in Mathew and it was a Persian word referring to men who enquired about the nature of things, about the Universe, about religion and you know, so on and so forth.

All these things, you know, these were seekers of the truth.

You know, why did God reveal himself to these men? I think He revealed himself to these men because these men were seeking Him. They did it in the light of their limited understanding and much of that understanding was probably false. Much of that understanding has been prohibited by God because God had specifically in The Old Testament forbidden the Jews to search the stars and to enquire in the planets and all that kind of stuff. What was knowledge that was forbidden by God? These people did not know this, they have not been given to that part of the revelation but God saw their heart and God saw that these men were hungry for him.

They spent their time enquiring in the planets and the theologizing and philosophizing and trying to get ‘Who is God?’ because they were seeking and they were curious and restless and open, God revealed himself to them. And He revealed himself to them with the instruments that they had, in the light of what they knew and what they had access to. And that leads me to think or suggest about the great mercy of God.

You know, we have a God that we don’t have to have everything perfect and everything down to the point. We don’t have to have all our theology, you know, absolutely straight and correct. Salvation is not dependant on perfect theology, you know. I think when we get to Heaven you’re going to be surprise of many things that we thought that we knew and we were so sure about and we were willing to die for, and God says: “Sorry, babe, you’re wrong about that one there. But I’ve decided to give you some space there because I love you”.

Are we glad that Salvation is not by perfect knowledge or perfect behavior but through the mercy of the grace of God who sees our heart and who sees our desire to serve Him, love Him, and please Him? And He sees our hearts so He’s willing to meet what we are and He’s willing to take us there, from there to the next stage.

You know, the Christian faith, the Christian journey, it’s a journey and we begin where we are, with whatever light we have in the light of our condition. God doesn’t need us to be perfect, God doesn’t need us to have everything squared away. If we didn’t what we needed and he wouldn’t be interested in us because God loves us. Somebody with deeply aware of their faults, their flaws, their needs, their imperfections. God is attracted powerfully to a person who’s broken and aware of their sinfulness and aware of the fact that they don’t have it all together. That kind of attitude, just, God loves to meet and address and bless us. You know, it’s a broken heart; it’s a consciousness of our limited understanding and our limited state of perfection. That is what really attracts God.

And then He says ‘Okay. Come with me. Let’s go on this journey’. And He takes us slowly, and gives us more light as we begin the journey until we finally come to the full perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ. In this case for them it was being able to see the child, there, that they have been wondering and speculating about.

And even then, there was another journey that lay ahead because when they returned to their land, you know, they still were limited about the knowledge of who this marvelous being was. I mean, they probably speculate their whole lifetime thinking: ‘Wow! What does this mean?’

They didn’t have the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, Romans or Galatians or whatever there to tell them. They didn’t even have The Old Testament, probably to guide them. And yet I’m sure that if God guided them to the child He also had in His mind that they would be saved. I mean, can you imagine? I can’t conceive of these men not being saved after they left the child there. Why would God call them? Guide them to this journey? Lead them to worship the child, the God child and then condemn them? Because they didn’t have all the theology correct.

They went back and, you know, God had mercy on them and I’m sure that these men were blessed and chosen by God. Even Mary and Jesus’ brothers and Joseph didn’t know fully who Jesus was. These men they left and they didn’t know totally who that child was. Mary, herself, the mother of Jesus, Joseph and the Bible alludes to the fact that for her was a mystery.

When Jesus was in the Temple speaking to the wise men there in the Temple, Mary heard about this and it says that she kept things in her heart. She was going over all these mysteries. She, who had been given to the announcement of the Archangel didn’t quite understand everything.

This leads me to another thing, which is, and I want to be very careful here. We need to reserve a certain amount of space in our journey of faith for mystery and the fact that we don’t know everything and that there’s certain truth that we need to hold gently and very respectfully and reverently about other people who don’t believe like we do and about theology and about all the things we are a hundred per cent sure and we’re willing to die for. Many are willing to kill, unfortunately for these truths. And about people who, you know, when I get to Heaven I think, I will find a lot of people that I would have never thought I would find there. Even from other denominations that who knows, my God.

This is not to say about Jesus and about knowledge that is through Jesus Christ and the existing of Jesus, the way that is through the life but the fact is that we have a mysterious God. Sometimes we want God to put things in a box and to say “These would be saved, those would be saved” and so on and so forth.

Leave a little room for mystery in the journey of faith. Okay? And I’m not saying -again- doubt that we have believed as believers but I’m always impacted by these moments the Scripture works. It’s like saying ‘don’t presume too much. Leave some room for me being Lord and Sovereign and so always treat people with mercy and compassion and respect others and respect the beliefs of others because I can review myself to whoever I’m pleased and I can do whatever I want’.

In many parts of the Middle East right now it is said by many that God is appearing in visions and dreams to whole villages even that have been converted to the Lord because they have no access to the things we have access to about Jesus Christ so God appears to them. You know, and reveal Himself to them. You have this God and we should not so rigid and attack people just because they don’t believe exactly like we do. We are invited yes, to disagree, but we should disagree in a respectful, compassionate and loving sort of way and give space to others.

You know, many times we see people who, in other denominations, we see the story in the Bible where the disciples were disturbed and angry because there were some men preaching the Gospel who were not members of the group that Jesus led and they were announcing him as the Messiah, or as the son of God. They were preaching but they were not part of the school of Jesus. They didn’t have all the credentials or so to speak and they would say ‘Lord, you should tell them to shut up and not to announce the Gospel’ and Jesus said ‘No, let them preach because no one calls me Lord and can say any evil thing about me. So give them space, give them room’.

One of the eminently important things about this narrative is, again, the fact that these men they left by faith and God revealed himself and more, He’s the purposes of that trip and the specifics of that trip as they went along and that the Christian life is like that. Many times God tells us to do something or to undertake something or to begin something, a chapter of our life and all we can do is do all that we can, investigate as much as we can, try to get as much information as we can and do our part. And then, when we have done all that we can, convinced that this is what God wants begin to take steps of faith and we trust that He will be our provider as we go along the journey.

We should do not do something just because we don’t have it all together and have everything well squared away and have every penny and every piece of knowledge and every understanding squared away. You know, we have to take the journey, begin the journey and trust that God will open the way as we go. And it may take a very long time and it may lead you to places where you have never expected you would go, there may be some accidents on the road, there would be mistakes that you would make in that journey. There will be loss, perhaps, in that journey but the entire process would be part of God’s plans for your life. There would not be any waste because everything that happens to you as you journey by faith, God will use for His glory and for your blessing and for your growth. So this is why we can be free to undertake these journeys.

As Christians we should undertake great journeys and not be afraid of the path. We should be daring in the Lord, we should be ambitious and we should always be living creative lives. Don’t live a safe life. Live a life of daring and adventure and creativity for the Lord.

Christians are like Don Quixote we believe commissioned us to be knights, we are not sure Dulcinea lies but we’re going to go after her and we’re going to find her and if we don’t find her, Dulcinea will make her up somehow but we take the journey and don’t let Sancho Panza take you away from your ideals.

There would be Sancho Panzas on the way. Sancho Panza is the principle of normality, good sense, common sense so the lonely way of looking at life and not the ambitioning to too many things and that’s the earthly principle that brings you down: the gravity, the force of gravity as Don Quixote and his dialog with Sancho Panza, you know, you have to believe. No! God has made me a knight and I’m going to go after the prize and on the way I’m going to meet giants and I’m going to have all kinds of adventures but that’s part of the journey. Praise God. What a great book came out of that journey!

That’s really God’s calling. Let’s live creative lives.

The Bible when God tells Abraham ‘Go from the land of your people into a land that I shall show you’. Abraham journey is the paradigm because that journey which begins the very beginnings of The Old Testament defines the essence of the Christian life. It’s a life of journeys, it’s a life of undertaking things and trusting that God would guide you every step of the way aware of your fragility, aware of your limited knowledge, aware of your imperfection but yet merciful, compassionate, loving, patient and willing to give you information and light as you go trusting in Him.

And God led Abraham, and how complex and contradictory Abraham’s journey was. On the road he offended God a couple of times, he made huge mistakes, he lied, he did all kinds of things without caution and he also had moments of great faith that blessed the Lord, also. And all of that God took it in a box, shook it and out of that came that great man which is Abraham, the father of faith. There cannot be faith without mistakes, there cannot be faith without fear, there cannot be faith without… that I make a mistake because that’s part of what God enjoys. He enjoys drama; God is a great dramatist who conquers all kinds of very complex plots in order to get the maximum out of the drama from His narratives.

So drama needs mistakes, drama needs confusion, drama requires contradiction, conflict, all these things, darkness. They are required for true drama to take place and so our lives have to have that too. Don’t be afraid when things don’t look totally clear in the journey. Trust in your God, He will not leave you. He rebels, he enjoys the complexity of the Christian journey and He delights when we’re coming to a dead-end and we say “Lord, oops! I think I’ve made a mistake, here. Our GPS failed me. What do I do now?” and God says “Don’t worry, son I knew you are going to get there and remember who’s the boss around here, Okay? Now, this is the way you have to go: go back and then turn left, go right and you get there”. And He’s blessed and honored by that fact.

God will be with you. You know, this drama of these men it’s so complex, we don’t have time to elucidate every detail of this narrative but you see that Herod was to, Herod is threaten by the fact that this King has been born, threatens his insecurity as a King. He was not really a King, he was made King by the Roman authorities but his security is threaten, the people in Jerusalem are disturbed ‘What does this mean? Is this the Messiah or it something else?’

These men are running all kinds of risks. If Herod had gotten the word of where the boy was, the son, the child, he could have killed the child, the could have killed these men but God and His mercy revealed himself and told them: ‘No, don’t go back to Herod. Go back to your land and don’t let Herod know where the child lies’ and then Mary and Joseph had to flee to Egypt and so on.

You know, there’s so much tension, so much danger. Why didn’t God make just kind of a nice simple story? Kill Herod right from the very beginning, get him out of the way send some men, an angel or something to get his head. It would have saved God a lot of trouble but no, God left him in the plot because it’s a Christian life.

I can go on. If you don’t grab me and get me out of this platform here I’m going to go on.

Just remember about, I can’t repress. This morning, even last night as I dawned over the fact that it was going to snow this morning and I said ‘Why isn’t God more considerate? And, you know, put the snow a little bit ahead maybe Monday or Tuesday, come on! Maybe five o’clock on Sunday we can do any better!’

But no, he allows, you know and you think about life. Life is so complex like this plot here. I mean, why didn’t God just as I’ve said before [I don’t know if I’ve said in English or in Spanish that’s why my head is around] Why didn’t God kill Herod and just get him out of the way? Get the villain out of the son, so the son can be born in peace and these guys can have their party with Jesus and go home.

No, but, you know, children die. How many hundreds of children were killed in Bethlehem because Herod wanted to make sure he killed the God child? How many children were killed? Why didn’t God prevent that? How many families shed tears of despair over the children being killed in relationship to the birth of the son of God, the giver of life? And God did not repress this? God did not prevent it. This is the nature of the journey of faith.

And you know what redeems this drama of things that we can prevent that we don’t like that disturb us? Our faith. The fact that we’re here this morning. The fact that some of us like the magi felt the call of God to come over this come to the church and worship the Lord. And you’re here and it doesn’t matter if it’s snowing outside and the elements are raging we’re here worshipping the Lord despite the complications that we would not like because that’s the way God is, that’s the way the people of faith are.

I can’t prevent certain things from happening in my life. You know, there would be death, there would be loss, there would be mistakes, there would be things that I would feel it’s unjust. Why does that happen to me? I love God, I give to the Lord, I serve Him and yet things happen and I can’t prevent it, you know. God didn’t prevent the children from being killed; God didn’t prevent the magi from running all kinds of dangers.

These things happen; it’s the mystery of the universe. That’s why I say we have to hold our knowledge very likely because we do not know a whole lot of things. Why does God allow certain tragedies? Certain things in our lives? The only thing that redeems this uncertainty of the life that we lead is our faith.

Why did God allow for the snow? Well, we don’t know but you’re here this morning. By faith you’ve come. Each of you had to make a decision: do I submit to the elements or do I come? And you’re able to make it. Does not to say those of you that had their own journey. That’s fine. We’re talking about those we’re here this morning.

You know in the journey of faith all we can do is decide to honor God no matter what happens and trust the details of the journey to Him and take one step of faith at a time and that action brings great glory to God.

To conclude, just an invitation. Take the journey, begin, let the Lord lead you. Whatever happens on the way it’s his problem. Your part is to be faithful, walk with as much light as you have available to you and let God be God and one day you shall see the son as you have been seen by the son.

Those men finally saw the child and even then they didn’t see him fully. We shall also see Christ in fullness. Right now, we just make all kinds of speculations of who he is but we shall know him as he has no ‘no’s’. Let’s take the journey. We thank You Lord for your invitation to take the journey of faith, to take one step at a time. Lord I’ve found such relief this morning knowing that you’re so merciful.

I do pray Father that we will be pleasing to you and we will honor you with our journey and you’ll delight of pleasure from seeing us walking this and going through all different processes of life giving you glory, giving you honor and trusting in you because you’re in control and you know what’s best.

So we leave the details of our lives to you and celebrate the fact that we can live life joyfully, peacefully because that we know you know the end from the beginning and every detail of the journey has been carefully, carefully planned and foreseen by you. So we trust in you this morning and we glorify you in the of Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen.

Sermon delivered by Dr. Roberto Miranda December 20, 2009 at Congregación León de Judá Listen | View (100K) | View (350K) | View (1200K)

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