category: Musings, Sermon Starter

Leaving Herod Behind: A Prophetic Sermon for Epiphany based on Matthew 2:1-12

By Rachael Keefe

The problem is that most of us do not alter our roads home after we encounter Empire; we just continue on as if nothing happened.

Leaving Herod Behind: A Prophetic Sermon for Epiphany based on Matthew 2:1-12

My wife and I have a membership to the Minnesota Zoo. Before pandemic we went frequently. It’s a great place to walk and they have a working farm where visitors can go and feed the goats and sheep. Just before Christmas we went to a drive through event that’s an annual fundraiser for the zoo. This trip reminded me that Google never brings us home the same route it takes us there. Every time. No matter which way Google directs us there, we come home by a different route. I always think of the magi going home “by another road” when Google tells us to turn right instead of left after leaving the zoo.

While Google and its directions home from the MN Zoo is a bit of a mystery, the decision of the magi is not. We all know the story. The magi come from far away seeking the Christ child. When they get close, they are summoned by Herod, and sent on their way with instructions to return and disclose the Child’s location to Herod. They find Jesus, pay homage, give their gifts, and decide to avoid Herod by taking a different route home. There’s a powerful message in the story. Well, likely, more than one. Though the one I am hearing this year has to do with encountering Herod and having our routes altered as a result.

The problem is that most of us do not alter our roads home after we encounter Empire; we just continue on as if nothing happened. This is the way that evil spreads, or is at least maintained. Over recent years we’ve seen the powerful reach of Herod and all that are enslaved to Empire again and again. Yet, how many of us have changed our roads?

Think about it. Let’s say that “home” is the Kin(g)dom of God. You know, the one that is near and that we are supposed to be building/bringing into the here and now. We have visions of the Kin(g)dom and we’ve been shown again and again what it looks like. It’s based on loving our neighbors as ourselves and loving one another as God loves us. The Kin(g)dom thrives on mercy and grace, forgiveness, healing and re-membering those who live on the edges.

While there are plenty of people who will not agree with me, it’s clear that White supremacist culture serves Empire only. It thrives on fear, hatred, and division that maintains existing systems of power. When we subvert Christ’s message to serve Empire, we are not choosing another road home after encountering Herod. Herod was clear that he wanted to kill any chance of Christ living and growing in the world. There has been no change since. Empire and all those who serve it, do not want Love to grow or thrive in this world. God is not on the side of Empire, ever. Empire serves oppressors only. It needs us to ignore injustice and blame those who are oppressed for their circumstances. When we do not choose another way home, it is as if the magi went running back to Herod to report the location of Christ.

What if this year, instead of continuing on and allowing Herod to smother any indications of Love in the world, we choose to go home differently? What if every time we encounter injustice, we call it out and actively work against it even in some small way? What if we stop pretending that racism is acceptable in any way? What if we stop pretending that antivaxxers and COVID deniers “have a right to their opinion” just as climate change deniers do? What if we stop blaming people who are poor for their poverty? What if we stop acting like QT folx are not God’s beloved children? What if we stop pretending that people can fear and hate other people and still be Christians? What if we commit to building the Kin(g)dom and stop pretending that fear, hatred, violence, and division is acceptable?

If any of us made it to kneel before the Babe in Bethlehem this year, may we have the strength and courage to follow the example of the magi. May we choose to travel by another road after we encounter Herod, a road that avoids serving Empire with our silence.

RCL – Epiphany – January 9, 2022 – Isaiah 60:1-6  • Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14  • Ephesians 3:1-12  • Matthew 2:1-12

Image courtesy of janrye via pixabay
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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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