Sunday, January 07, 2007

And Frank sent this … light from any quarter?

Although “and Frank sent this” is the poor punch line of a child’s joke (or a dodgy playwright’s sense of humour), there’s a big challenge to the Christian community in the Epiphany story of the Wise Men.

You see, the Christ child wasn’t surrounded by Jewish dignitaries. Not even kept in the confines of a strictly Jewish community. Nor did his family or God prevent from being exposed to, or from influencing, Gentile culture—even as a young child.

No. Right in the early years of Jesus’ life, he was open to non-Jews. Outsiders. Astrologers. It’s a picture of Russell Grant and friends (perhaps more academic versions) coming to see Jesus. From over the hills and far away. And they brought gifts.

It’s not a picture that today’s church can ignore. Exclusivity doesn’t seem to be an option. If God didn’t allow his son to be closeted away and protected, then God hardly expects the church to do any different.

So as the church celebrates Epiphany (or Little Christmas) today, shouldn’t we generously accept everyone, trusting that like the Wise Men they will receive something of the wonder of Jesus as they visit, and not forgetting that we may benefit from their gifts and culture too.

When elders or ministers get ordained in the Presbyterian church, the ordination service always includes a phrase that gives me hope. It’s at the point when someone reads out the “standards of the church”.

In exercising the inalienable right of private judgement the Christian is not to set his reason above the Word of God, or to refuse light from any quarter.

There isn’t always light to found in every corner, so it’s not carte blanche to stop holding onto your beliefs or water them down. It’s not a call to ecumenism, but it does seem like an obvious call to value openness and inclusivity above rejection of what hasn’t even been seen or understood.

Light from any quarter … let’s not refuse it when the door opens and it shines on our faces. Could be some more wise men from the east (of the city!)

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