One of the most tiring things about work culture is change. Change and stress are closely linked, and even the adventurous character needs some measure of stability. As the government launches its latest initiative for improvement, or your managers implement the next phase of their plan for growth, or your team adopts a new system for something, change leaps up and bites you on the hand.
There is a further feature of human change strategies which appears to be flawed. It can be found in phrases like ‘radical overhaul’ or ‘complete re-structuring’. The implication is that all that has gone before needs to be discontinued and replaced with a better, improved and – wait for it – ‘future proof’ system.
The story of the Magi in Matthew’s Gospel is shot through with mystery. How did they know to go and look for a new King of the Jews? How did they connect the star with this search? Why on earth did they set out from their Persian roots to travel a hazardous and tortuous journey? And how on earth did they achieve their goal?
The Magi episode is a classic demonstration of working spiritually. They had to do the ordinary, normal tasks. They monitored the sky and they observed changes in the stellar maps. To embark on their journey they would have needed to plan, prepare, acquire provisions and pack carefully. All of these were normal tasks. But these were tasks that were connected to the unseen world. Somehow it had been shown to them that the change in the stellar map meant something. With a combination of their study and God’s information, they had been able to work out the deeper meaning of the visible events.
The journey itself required them to continue combining the seen with the unseen. They had to ride their animals, eat their food and follow a star. But whilst they were doing these things they had a sense of the deeper meaning and purpose of the events. All of these activities meant that their journey could be described as spiritual.
The star continued to guide them to the place where the Child was, and they opened their gifts and worshipped, but there was an intervening sequence of events. On the way to the Child they visited Jerusalem and met with Herod and his advisors in order to get help in finding the King. This is logical and sensible. Where better to find a new born king than in the seat of power in the palace in the capital city? Indeed they did get help in the form of very useful geographical information, but when they left Herod the star still continued to guide them.
Did they really need to go to Jerusalem? Could they not have followed the star all the way? Could it be that the Herod episode is the result of their taking their eye off the spiritual nature of their journey?
We don’t know for sure and forgive me if I speculate while I make a valid point, but there may be a clue at the end of the story. They were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their country via another route. It is as if they had been journeying spiritually, taken a break and then journeyed spiritually again.
God is calling to us work spiritually all of the time. Sometimes we work in touch with him – doing the ordinary but seeing its meaning and relying on him. Then we do the obvious, logical and human activity and visit our Herod. Although we can still achieve we may be taking the poorer route.
The dream warning may have been God calling them back to journey spiritually – to recognise that this should be a permanent practice. The change in their lives, as in ours, was not to throw away all wisdom, but to recognise that the Christmas event provides the opportunity for consistent working and living. This is the nature of the change. God is calling us all to take another route. This route is not into Herodian arrogance and deceit but to work by other methods. Anyone can see the stars, anyone can plan journeys, only those who work spiritually can see past that and take another route home.
25Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” 27and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
1After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 2″Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began
Luke 11: 1-4
1One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2He said to them, “When you pray, say: ” ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3Give us each day our daily bread. 4Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation
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