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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Epiphany's enduring question

What will we do with new wisdom?

A scientist seeking knowledge in the laboratory ... a pastor discerning truth in the Scriptures ... an adult son of aging parents searching for the wisdom to lighten their burden of failing health: I am all of these things. Growing up I was nurtured in Christian faith, yet also encouraged to pursue my curiosity about the natural universe.

A good-natured father helping me set up my telescope on the roof ... a mother nervously wondering what she might find dissected on the kitchen table, relieved when bedtime devotions arrived without injury or explosion: these memories come flooding back to me now in that same house in Oklahoma, where I’ve come on leave from pastoral call to help them face the shadow of lung cancer, fading senses and ailing limbs.

I need the season of Epiphany, a celebration even more ancient than Christmas, for its reminder of the many ways in which Christ, the light of the world, shines in our darkness. The story of Jesus’ birth begins with ancient sages seeking a star and, for me, continues in the saga of modern sages seeking a different star, becoming my own story ....

Those ancient sages are known to us only through their appearance in Matthew 2:1-12, the Gospel for the Epiphany of the Lord, Jan. 6. We know little about these wise men. “We Three Kings of Orient Are” were likely not kings, nor three in number. Most likely these Magi, the biblical term, were learned observers of the skies from the Middle East, possibly clergy in the Zoroastrian religion dominant in ancient Persia.


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