In Uncategorized on January 10, 2006 at 5:52 pm


Human beings are remarkable creatures. We seem to have an innate drive, deep in our souls, to leave our homes, and explore the world. If scientists are correct, early humans left Africa and spread over the whole earth. In these migrations humans spread through Asia and crossed the Bering Straight into North and South America, and, from Asia humans got into boats and traveled to Australia. It is an amazing story. Why did they go? What were they looking for?

In modern times, European explorers “discovered” the world. As the world was being discovered, scientists began exploring the mysteries of mathematics and science. Now telescopes and astronauts explore the heavens, while microscopes and particle colliders explore the world of the very small. Human beings are many things, but perhaps first and foremost, we are explorers.

My great grandfather was an explorer. In 1849, while he was living in Ohio, gold was discovered in California. My great grandfather and a group of friends talked it over, formed a team, and set off across the great plains to rush for gold. He wrote a diary about his adventures which was later published as a book. Why did he leave his job and family, and undertake a punishing seven month trip to Sutter’s Mill? Because he hoped that if he could get lucky, and get rich, his life would be different forever. He got reasonably lucky, though it took him three years. And his life was changed. Forever.

Today we celebrate the feast of Epiphany, and I have always thought of the Magi as explorers. We know almost nothing about them, but we can figure out some things, and I’ll bet they were like my great grandfather in many ways.

Like my ancestor, word came to them that something important, something precious, had happened in a far away land. They were probably astrologers, and one day they realized that all the stars had lined up, and a new king had been born. But the new king was far away. Like my great grandfather, the Magi had to decide if it was worth making a long trip. Were they up to it? Was the “pull” of finding the new king strong enough to overcome the “pull” of staying home? Sure, a long trip could be fun. But it could also be very dangerous. If they didn’t go would they regret it? If they did go, would they regret it? These are the questions that all explorers ask.

Like my ancestor, they decided to go, and in my mind it was, all things considered, a more difficult journey than the one my great-grandfather made. The biggest problems my ancestor faced were indians, disease, and snow. But, it only took seven months. My guess is that it took the Magi close to three years to get to Jerusalem. We know this because after the Magi met Herod, he ordered all boys three years and younger to be killed, so the Magi probably saw the star three years before they arrived. Three years on the road is a long, long time. I am sure many times they asked themselves, “why, again, are we doing this?” And, “what exactly are we looking for?”

It was a journey where they had no idea if they would find the “gold”. Every good astrologer, then and now, knows there is a great deal of interpretation involved in predictions. Before they left, I imagine they talked among themselves, saying things like, “are you sure that star being in that house means a king?” And every year that went by, that question got louder and louder. My great-grandfather knew for sure there was gold in California. He hoped he would find some. The Magi didn’t know for sure that there was a new king in Israel. And there must have been times when they had virtually no hope of finding him. But still, they pressed on.

And, they found the gold. They found the king. They probably stayed a few days, maybe a few weeks, and then they went home. It was worth it. They made the right decision. And I imagine when they were old, they believed, like my great grandfather did, that those years, and that journey, were the best times of their lives.

All of us are on a sacred journey. And I believe that all of us are explorers. Most people in this world simply live life. The good that comes their way, and the bad, are simply lived and experienced. But we, as Christians, are looking for more. We believe that the journeys we are on have meaning. We believe that in the journeys of life, both easy and difficult, Christ is conforming us into His image.

And so, in each journey, we explore. We search out God’s will. We try to figure out what we should do, and then we try to do it. We ask ourselves, “What is God doing,” and, “what are we supposed to be finding on this journey?” We believe with all all hearts that there is pure gold in everything we experience, and so, at all times, we are looking for that gold. We believe that both the destination, and the journey, are infinitely valuable. We already know it is worth it.

For that reason, I believe that many times the journey of a Christian is the hardest journey of all, because we seek meaning where the world screams at us that there is no meaning at all. Sometimes nothing is harder than to trust that God is there, when all the evidence seems to say there is no God. We do everything we can to go the distance, when going the distance is the hardest journey of all. We believe, and that is both the best thing, and the hardest thing, we will ever do.

That’s why none of us can journey alone. We need help in finding the gold. We need the help of our brothers and sisters. We can do it, we can get there, but only in community. We can go the distance, but only if our brothers and sisters help us and encourage us along the way. We will find the gold only as we deeply rely on the gold in the hearts of our fellow Christians.

Human beings are explorers. Christians are the greatest explorers of all. The Magi are an example for us of faith, commitment, perseverance, and ultimately, reward. As we journey into Christlikeness, within the community of the Body of Christ, may we too find the gold, and the King, in the year of our Lord two thousand and six.


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