I was listening to the lectionary scripture {Matthew 2:1-12} being read yesterday and began to reflect on the many times that I had listened to the story of the three kings and never asked a critical question. What are the lessons that we learn from the Magi that visited Jesus which will help me be a better disciple of Jesus?

They were full of faith – They had followed other stars that led them to other kings and they were confident in this new star also leading them to a new king.  This was not a spiritual journey for them but it was about honoring the office and person.  This required great faith. To grow as a disciple means that you are growing in your faith.  To become mature would indicate that you walk daily by faith. This is a place of surrender.  Faithree-kings-day-january-6thth is not about you and what you can acquire but faith is about God working in you so that you can trust God completely.

The journey was a part of the process – Many times as people are maturing in Christ there are complaints about meeting the class schedules, driving across town for to pray with a group, meeting a new believer at times that are not convenient to you and questions about “Why isn’t Sunday morning enough?” The reality is that if we are going to grow as disciples of Christ we will have to learn that the process is not linear and the process will not be the same for everybody.

The magi were clear that the goal was to see the new born king even if it was 2 years after his actual birth. If our goal is to become mature committed disciples, we have to expect some challenges during the journey but never give up on the goal

They were generous – They brought their valuables to a future king. They had no previous relationship or allegiance to the future king and they gave freely.  This is especially interesting since they had to barter for their needs during the journey.

As we grow in our discipleship may we all be full of faith, be comfortable with the journey and be generous.




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I have to admit that I didn’t get much caught up in the debate that preceded the recent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.

As a Christian I acknowledge that is not acceptable, especially since I see no way that one who takes seriously the teachings of Christ can find the death penalty tolerable.

In Matthew 5, Jesus decries the notion of an “eye for an eye” and teaches those listening that they should “turn the other cheek.” Indeed, Jesus sets the bar high, calling for us to react in ways that clash with the prevailing culture. But too many Christians today seem too comfortable with hatred and unforgiveness when love and forgiveness were clear mandates in Jesus’ message.

The principles Jesus articulated call us to a higher standard than what our society has embraced, and it’s time for Christians to be clear about whose side we’re on.

I don’t know the religious convictions of  the family of Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail, whom Davis had been convicted of killing more than 20 years ago. In comments to the media, MacPhail’s widow used language that suggested that she is person of faith, but her sentiments fell short of what one could argue Christ taught.

“I will grieve for the Davis family because now they’re going to understand our pain and our hurt,” Joan MacPhail-Harris told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. “My prayers go out to them. I have been praying for them all these years. And I pray there will be some peace along the way for them.”

MacPhail’s widow, who apparently has remarried, called the execution a “time of healing for all families.” Her comments suggest that healing could begin because Mark MacPhail’s accused murderer had been executed. She apparently concluded that Davis’ family members were not suffering as they and many others fought to preserve Davis’ life. Davis maintained that he was innocent down to the very end and growing numbers of observers cited growing evidence that cast reasonable doubt on his conviction.

After the execution, MacPhail’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said in a telephone interview from her home that she placed no stock in Davis’ claims of innocence.

“He’s been telling himself that for 22 years,” she said. “You know how it is; he can talk himself into anything.”

I wonder who’s really talking themselves into something.

Whether Davis was innocent or guilty, I have a fundamental problem with the death penalty because the nation’s criminal justice system is too often uneven. One’s race or economic status can often shape the outcome of criminal proceedings, and too many people are convicted based on circumstantial evidence.

Davis had been convicted of killing MacPhail in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah, Georgia. MacPhail was working off-duty as a security guard and reportedly rushed to help a homeless man, whom prosecutors maintained was being beaten by Davis with a handgun.  The gun was never found, but the prosecution said shell casings from that shooting were linked to an earlier shooting for which Davis had been convicted.

That hardly seems an acceptable standard for condemning a person to death.

Despite changes in the testimonies of some witnesses and claims that another man had boasted of shooting officer MacPhail, court officials and others upheld the execution.

It is even more troubling to think that many of those individuals would claim Christian identity. Yet their Christian faith somehow failed to distinguish itself.

My family has dealt with the issues that confront Christians when a loved one is murdered. My brother was shot five times by a man who once had been his friend. In court, the man never showed any remorse and was eventually only given a sentence of 10 years.

I still remember my father, who served as a church deacon for more than 50 years before recently stepping down, saying after my brother’s death that his heart was broken not only because he had lost his son, but because another life had taken a very wrong turn. He mourned for my brother and the shooter and prayed for the shooter’s redemption. The rest of the family followed my father’s lead.

When the man was released from prison, he returned to our small hometown briefly and requested a meeting with my father. My father met him, blessed him and sent him on his way.

To this day, we remember my brother fondly. One of my sisters remains best of friends with the sister of the man who shot my brother. We know now what we knew then: nothing that occurred in that court room would bring back our loved one. As Christians, we hinge our greatest hopes on the life we believe is yet to come.

That does not mean a society does not need a justice system, but it does mean that to be Christian within a society calls one to live by different standards.

Jesus asked for forgiveness for those who killed him and discouraged those who followed him from seeking revenge for his wrongful death.

I don’t believe anyone who has taken seriously the teachings of Christ can be totally comfortable with the idea of the death penalty, if for no other reason that there might even be the slightest chance that the one being executed is, in fact, innocent. Beyond that, there is no promise in Scripture that I am aware of that God will give us peace once we avenge a wrong that has been perpetrated against us.

Interestingly, Anneliese MacPhail told reporters that she felt “kind of numb” after word came that Davis had been executed.

“All the feelings of relief and peace I’ve been waiting for all these years, they will come later,” she said. “I certainly do want some peace.”

I somehow doubt she will find it in the death of Troy Davis.

The Burden of the Suburban Church – Bill Easum

Two other things caught my attention- when it rained hard the majority of homes on the West side of town flooded, and even though 75 percent of the city was Hispanic, all eleven city council members were Anglo. Neither of these conditions seemed right to me.

My last twenty-four years of local church ministry were spent in an up-and-coming suburban church. Like most suburbanites, many of my flock were into getting ahead, building fences around their homes, chauffeuring their children to this-and-that, and distancing themselves from the rift-raft of the world. . Most of the members were content with living lives isolated from the rest of the city and in many ways isolated from one another. I was 29 years old when I began my ministry in that church.

During those years I noticed several things about suburban Christianity and the city of San Antonio, TX. For one thing, suburban Christians thought salvation was something intensely personal and individual. It never dawned on them that biblical salvation is both individual and societal.

That all changed somewhere around my tenth year as pastor. I became involved in the Industrial Areas Foundation a community organizing effort of churches began by Saul Alinsky. Over the next decade I was to have the biggest learning experience of my life.

Click to Read the entire Article

This article gives great insight to the challenges and opportunities of suburban ministry.  Teaching personaly piety and societal responsibility demands a balanced approach to the scriptures and life that is often not present in many ministries.