This week, on January 6, Christians celebrate Epiphany, commemorating the visit of the Magi, or the “three wise men” from the East, to pay homage to the infant Jesus. The Magi were most likely Zoroastrian priests from Persia, who were seeking the fulfillment of a prophecy in their own religion for the coming of a messiah. As this example shows, we should be willing to look for truth wherever it can be found, even if it’s outside the boundaries of our own religion or culture.
In a world full of mixed messages, how can we know when we’ve found a source of spiritual truth? In our first service, we commemorate the discovery of Jesus by the Magi, who were seeking a savior — and we reflect upon the importance of discernment and building our faith upon a solid foundation. We also celebrate the life of Julian of Norwich, a woman who survived a pandemic in the Middle Ages and received revelations of God’s love.
Today, more than half the world’s population — 31% Christian and 23% Muslim — regard Jesus the Son of Mary as a messianic figure who brought God’s message to the world. And what was that message? As Jesus announced to his hometown synagogue, reading aloud from the Torah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for He has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the captives
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19, quoting from the Book of Isaiah)
Jesus taught a religion of boundless hope for all people — that we are beloved children of God, called to a high destiny as sources of light and ministers of compassion in our world.
But in a world full of ignorance and suffering, there were bound to be misunderstandings. For 2,000 years, people have been twisting the religion of Jesus into the very things he opposed — and in so doing, they have impoverished their spirits in a prison of darkness, bringing God’s disfavor upon their cause.
Pastor Eric Stetson shares the good news that God is a loving family and we’re all part of it. He discusses the significance of Jesus and Mary as exemplars for the sons and daughters of God, and our calling to grow up to spiritual maturity.
We’re living in a difficult time. But it’s also a great opportunity to think about really matters. The coronavirus pandemic should inspire us to reflect on our faith and the meaning of life — and to share with others who have similar values.
About a year ago, I began reflecting on the growing need for a new type of church — a community of faith that brings people together in a coherent understanding of who we are as beloved children of God, and which, while being open-minded and inclusive, inspires people to live a devoutly religious life. The combination of progressive faith and a strong commitment to organized religion is hard to find, but for many years I have believed it to be the answer to many of humanity’s problems. This elusive synthesis can facilitate the greatest moral progress and spiritual maturity both for the individual and society.