Rev. Timothy B. Tutt, Senior Minister
Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ
Sunday, January 4, 2015
“Of Stars and Such”
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite writers. He’s a Presbyterian minister, author, thinker, now 88 years old. Frederick Buechner says that vocation is “the work a [person] is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Super-ego, or Self-interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you've presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you've missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you're bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren't helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”
I have read that quote before, but it is one I return to often in my own life. That last sentence is worth committing to memory: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”
So this morning, on the first Sunday of this new year, I want to give you time to think about that. There is a piece of paper in the bulletin with three questions on. The first question is: What brings you deep gladness? There are different ways to ask that: What are the things you do really well, that you really like to do? What skills or interests do you have that really enthuse you? Or asked as I have already, What makes your soul sing? Take just a moment and answer that question: What brings you deep gladness?
The second question on the piece of paper is: What is the world’s deep hunger? That is, what does the world need? That is a huge question. You may want to break it down to our country or DC or maybe even your neighborhood. But think for a moment: What is the world’s deep hunger?
And the third question is this: How might you connect your deep gladness and the world’s hunger? How do we make your skills, your passions, your talents meet the world’s needs? Again, take just a moment to consider that question.
Now, let me ask you another question: Are you willing to do it? Are you willing to make your deep gladness and the world’s great hunger meet? Most new year’s resolutions are long dead by February. What about you? Are you willing to connect your deep gladness with the world’s deep hunger?
The story of the magi is such a good story to begin a new year. Those wise men, kings, philosophers, wanderers offer such a bold example: They saw a star and they followed it. They heard a call and they answered it. They imagined a journey and embarked upon it.
What about you?
I should offer a word of warning, of course: Following a star, exploring your vocation may change your life. The wise men enter the story as kings or magi, philosophers, adventurers. They experience something profound. And they go home on a different path. They leave the story as rebels, troublemakers, dissenters. Their paths, their lives, their purpose is changed.
What about you? Are you willing to follow a star, find your purpose, explore your vocation?