finding a new route home

Homily on the Feast of the Epiphany 2020

Joanna Manning

I know a lot of people in this congregation will be familiar with that popular feminist ballad: ‘Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened.” We’ve even sung it here on a number of occasions.

The
chorus goes like this:

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened
Sometimes I wish I could no longer see
All of the pain and the hurt and the longing
of my sisters and me as we long to be free.”

Please
excuse me if I take liberties with the lyrics this morning and change
the last two lines :

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened
Sometimes I wish that I just couldn’t see
All of the pain and the hurt and the longing
of the earth and her creatures as we long to be free.”

Here
we are the beginning of not only a new year, but a new decade for
earth and all her creatures. As we take a look around, tyrants
abound; innocent infants and children are being killed, jailed or
dying of hunger and thirst. Assassinations are carried out on the
whim of the new tetrarch south of the border. Innocent animals in
their millions are dying from the effects of fires, drought, and
floods. Definitely not a pretty picture. البلاك جاك

But
neither is today’s gospel reading for Epiphany. A child is born
into temporary homelessness; a star leads mysterious strangers to
offer homage to this child, but they are waylaid by the power-crazy
potentate in Jerusalem. So after worshipping the child and offering
their gifts, they take off in a hurry to look for a different route
home: possibly one that is more dangerous, and leads through the
desert.

As
a result of this, Herod orders the military to carry out a targeted
strike on all infants and babies. And Joseph, Mary and the infant
flee across the border to beg for refugee status in Egypt.

All
this is a reminder that there was and IS a political cost to
Christmas and Epiphany. Jesus was born not in a palace but in a feed
trough to parents who were marginalized at many levels.  But the
Bible is clear from beginning to end of the so-called Infancy
narratives of Luke and Matthew ,that the Principalities and Powers of
that age—represented by Herod and his military and religious allies
-The Canadian oilpatch is concerned that a push led by former Bank of
Canada governor Mark Carney to demand further climate disclosures and
climate risk assessments from global banks could increase scrutiny of
investments in the Canadian oil sands and nascent liquefied natural
gas sector.are threatened by a God who enters our world from below,
recognized by vagabond shepherds and mysterious foreigners.

 The
Incarnation
– taking flesh – of God
is
described in its context in terms of ambiguity, political violence,
displacement and danger—which is to say, of real life as it is for
the poor, then and now. Now, in 2020 the
earth teems with refugees, lamenting mothers of murdered indigenous
women,
their daughters.
The
murderous ambitious of the mad and mighty rulers of this age
mindlessly provoke war. And apocalyptic fires and floods cause the
death and displacement of wildlife and green forests.

In
today’s gospel, as soon as the Magi had left, Matthew tells us,
Joseph was instructed to flee immediately across the border to Egypt
to avoid the murderous rage of the tyrant Herod who will slaughter
the babies who are now regarded as a potential threat to his
hegemony. The Magi were
instructed to return to their own country by a different route.

They had, in all innocence, followed the Star and worshipped the
infant in the manger: now that experience had radically changed
them: they could never be ever be the same again. They HAVE
no choice except to return home by a different route. Not just a
geographical itinerary, but a cognitive and psychological on as well.

This
idea of experiencing the light of Christmas and then returning to
normal life by a different route is a powerful symbol for me at the
beginning of this new decade. The Magi were told to take a radical
turn of direction if they want to find their way back to a world that
is familiar but will never be the same again to them after seeing the
child in the manger framed within the starlight sky.

TS
Eliot describes this so wonderfully in his ‘Journey of the Magi’:

We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.

How
could they ever be at ease again, when they have learned that God has
sent a direct sign that the power to imagine a new world, to create
the earth anew comes through the combination of cosmic awareness and
guidance represented by the star, and the avoidance to the entrenched
powerful interests represented by Herod. Surely these Wise Ones must
have sometimes wished that their eyes had never been opened.

Our
pathway today towards finding a different way home is before us as we
leave behind the Christmas season and enter the New Year. The
direction is not going to come from the top – from the Herods –
politicians and the corporate powers of oil and coal who view any
leadership and mass movements outside their control as a threat. And
so they too, will continue, with the help of the military, to
slaughter the innocent, wreck the earth and destroy the means of
future survival.

The
scientists and experts trying to communicate the threat of climate
change, have been opposed and underfunded for years. An organized,
well-funded disinformation campaign of lies by the Herods of today,
fossil fuel industry among others has seen a concerted effort to
confuse the public and policymakers about the reality and threat of
human-caused climate change. Fake news on climate change abounds. But
in the face of the TV footage of Australians running into the ocean
to escape raging fires, it’s not easy to sustain the denial.

And
what started as a lone climate strike in Stockholm last year by
teenager Greta Thunberg has now gained global momentum with at least
six million young people in 150 countries marching in the streets
demanding action. This new moral authority of the children and youth
who have everything at stake in the future and who are skipping
school and taking to the streets to demand change has been momentous
and unexpected – and also hard to ignore or ridicule. It offers a new
route, a pathway out of disaster, to a jaded world community. We as
elders need to join this caravan.

Closer
to home, we have the witness of the Canadian water activist Autumn
Peltier, who is
15.
Peltier
is an activist from Wiikwemkoong First Nation on Manitoulin Island in
Ontario. Peltier has also addressed the international community at UN
headquarters to draw attention to the lack of clean water in numerous
Indigenous communities. “All across these lands,” – and yes,
these are out Canadian lands – “All across these lands,” she
said, “ we know somewhere where someone can’t drink the water. Why
so many, and why have they gone without for so long?” Surely we
cannot continue along this same road for another decade.

In
her New Year’s message, Angela Merkel said that in order to avoid
future disaster, “ we need more than ever the courage to think in a
new way, the strength to leave familiar paths. We need the
willingness to try new things, and the determination to act faster,
convinced that the unusual can succeed – and must succeed if the
generation of today’s young people and their descendants should
still be able to live well on this Earth.”

In
other words, to return to our true home on this earth, we must go by
a different route – and get there quickly.

Today’s
first reading tells us that “darkness shall cover the earth and
thick darkness the peoples; but the light will arise upon you and
God’s glory will appear over you.” Some of that glory of God is
in the colourful banners and signs carried by the children and youth.
They are clear, they are serious, and they are the voice of God
today. We the elders must get behind their leadership – running if we
must – to catch up.

You
may have heard Mark Carney, the new UN envoy on climate change and
finance, interviewed by Great Thunberg on the BBC recently, and he
told her: “my concern is that we will spend the next decade doing
worthy things, but not enough …and so the climate will stabilize
but at a much higher level than it should.”

And
within 24 hours, the Financial Post had reported that: “The
Canadian oil patch is concerned that a push led by former Bank of
Canada governor Mark Carney to demand further climate disclosures and
climate risk assessments from global banks could increase scrutiny of
investments in the Canadian oil sands and nascent liquefied natural
gas sector. “

Well
– if Mark Carney is striking even a frisson of fear into the
Canadian oil patch, then I’m sure glad that his eyes have been
opened to the possibility of change in the financial markets. As I
was thinking about bringing Mark Carney into this Epiphany homily, I
had this crazy picture of him leaping onto a camel in a business suit
and riding off into the desert to find the Magi leading the
children’s caravan and finding their way home by a different
direction.

There
are so many people in this congregation already searching for and
finding a new route home for this church community. Can you find a
fresh camel with new energy at the outset of this new year, to speed
you on your journey?

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