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Magi Steer Clear of Paved Roads

Could the Wise Men be role models for Jesus’ followers in a postmodern world?

Traditionally, we encounter the story of the Magi following the birth of Jesus, but this year I find myself thinking about their story in the context of the missional church. What  made them pursue this star in search of a king? Scripture tells us very little about the Wise Men or Magi or Scholars (as Eugene Peterson describes them).

But I think perhaps they had their own season of Advent – of watching and waiting to see God on the move. Then they did more than watch and wait – they went to join God in his work:

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

On the opening night of the Presbyterian Global Fellowship conference in August, Dr. Steve Hayner reminded us of the most important marks of the missional church.

    * Churches that are growing see the primary purpose of the church as joining God’s mission in the world…the action is “out there”, not “in here.” The Wise Men must have had their eyes turned constantly outward in order to have seen the star and noticed that there was something unique about it among all the constellations. Their outward gaze allowed them to see God at work in the world.

    * Churches that are growing see the whole world as the arena of God’s work. Joining God’s work is the identity of the missional church. The Magi didn’t look at the star and say, “Oh, isn’t that interesting,” and go on about polishing their telescopes. They dropped everything and picked up and went to see and celebrate the presence of the King, and to offer him their most precious resources.

    * Churches that are growing see their life together as preparation for joining God in mission . It’s highly unlikely that a solo astronomer would have made that trip alone. Tradition has it that there were three Wise Men, but we don’t know how many there were. We only know that there was more than one. Had they lived together, worked together and studied together for years in hope and expectation and preparation for this divine breakthrough?

I love the line that says that after seeing the Christ Child, the Wise Men “went home another way.” Now I know that means they went home by another route, but I also like to think that it means they went home as changed people, looking at the world in a different way and that their encounter with the living God was transforming for them.

- Vic Pentz, "Wisemen Steer Clear of Paved Roads," December 19, 2006 edition of the e-newsletter of the Presbyterian Global Fellowship