S. Epiphany 2.20 “Journey of the Magi, Pt. II” John 1:29-42a

    If you journey as the wise, magical kings of old, you will discover some interesting side benefits along the way (yes, we know they were wise, magicians. We covered that last time. How do we know they were really kings, though, huh? Well, our OT lesson today tells us so: “Kings shall see and arise and they shall prostrate themselves because of the LORD…” Yes, definitely Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior were kings kneeling in the straw in the stable at Bethlehem. Kingly kings, indeed!). And, another thing about the Magi’s Journey: as with all truly heroic quests, you never make the trip alone. You always make and take friends along the way, as Mary-Patrice Woehling expresses so well in her poem “Melchior’s Wife”. You didn’t know Melchior had a wife? Well, now you do! Here’s her side of the story…

    “In truth, I was not born to royalty;/ My power came from pleasure and my smile./ I used my supple body to beguile/ A bookish, awkward prince who spoiled me/ And I became “Great Lady.” Other wives/ And concubines he kept conveniently/ Could never breach the deep affinity/ Between us, or the love that bound our lives./  He gallivanted after a new star/ And wanted me to be part of the chase./ I jostled in my litter to that place,// A stable, where I witnessed the bizarre:/ I saw three silk-clad kings kneel in the straw/ Before an infant and young girl, in awe…”

    You didn’t know the Journey of the Magi was also a love story? Well, now you know! It’s Pt. II of the Journey of the Magi, our part, today—another part of the secret of journeying with magi: you don’t start out as wise, magical, kings/queens. This… happens to you; along the way. You become that, you see, when you see what they saw, when you kneel like them, in awe…

    Here’s the secret of the love story part, the love that bound Melchior and his wife: I forget who said this first (it wasn’t me, but I have discovered it is most true)—real love is not staring into the eyes of your beloved, enraptured. No. That does happen, sometimes; but that isn’t the magic that binds lives truly, as one. No; the magic of true and divine love comes from gazing side by side together at the same distant Object of Desire, the Undiscovered Country where we find our Place. It comes from gallivanting after a new star, being part of the same chase, together. It comes from kneeling together, side by side, hand in hand, before the One who made the stars we chase in the first Place (which is where and how God pronounces them husband and wife, if you’ve ever witnessed a proper wedding Liturgy—and I’ve had a good view of a few).

    This is what the Christian Church is, really, deep down: it’s nothing more (and nothing less!) than thefriends we make and take along the Way to kneel before Christ the King. Tissot in his “Journey of the Magi” a print of which we have hanging now in our lobby, knew this. His 3 Magi have a large retinue trailing along behind them. Look closely, and I think you might just find Melchior’s wife in there, somewhere…

    Jesus didn’t have one best friend Biff who wrote his Story down. No. He had 12 apostles and they had wives and friends and friends of friends; and strangers who became friends along the Way. Jesus had a whole entourage he journeyed with to Jerusalem, to die. Some became friends only at the last minute, like the thief dying next to him on the cross; like the centurion seeing him die; like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who become friends late, in gathering the courage to go to Pilate and claim the body, wash him, anoint him with the myrrh the magi first brought, with aloes and sweet smelling spices, swinging a little incense mix as they laid him in Joseph’s own tomb, which happened, conveniently—like this was all divinely arranged or something—to only be about 33 paces from Golgotha’s cross.

    Oh, the places you will go and the things you will see if you journey like the magi! And, as we said: you don’t have to be wise, magical, or kingly at the start. No, that’s the best part. You don’t have to be born to royalty. You can be like Melchior’s wife; you can beguile an awkward prince, have your lives wonderfully bound up in some shared quest; and along the way the wisdom, the magic, the whole royal thing just kind of happens when you were looking for Something Else, gallivanting after a new star, part of a chase…

    Consider how it happened in our Gospel today for Andrew, John, and Simon Peter. For they also are on the Magi Journey, Pt. II. And there is nothing wise, magical, or kingly about the three as we meet them today, at the start, by Jordan’s bank where the Baptist cries. No. They are awkward (and not even bookish, it seems, or not as much as Melchior). They aren’t particularly wise either. Not yet kings. They were fishermen, simple, blue collar working men…

    Andrew and John have been hanging around with John the Baptist. Probably it was his sharp dressing, his exotic bug diet that hooked them. Maybe, it was the criticism he doled out to the ruling elite, the smart mouth that got him in trouble with King Herod. I don’t know. You can ask them yourself when you see them in Heaven. But I will wager a goodly sum that it was no grand or lofty philosophy that put them beside John that day by the Jordan when Jesus goes walking by…

    “Lamb of God!” John says to the two as Jesus strolls by. “Look! See! Chase!”. And Andrew and John, out of curiosity?, boredom?, an itch for a new adventure?, who knows? Anyway, they see their star and go gallivanting after it. Jesus turns and sees them following, the first two lured along on the chase with him. And Jesus says, with a wry smile and a twinkle in his eye that could light up a whole night sky, “What are you seeking?” And Andrew and John stare awkwardly at their shoes, and go, “Uhm… where are you staying?” Which is another way of saying “Where are you going? What is the destination, here?” And Jesus says, “Come and see.” Which is exactly how all great romantic adventure quests begin: “Come on along…”

    But, because the Magi’s Journey always involves making and taking friends with; Andrew finds his brother and goes: “We have found the Messiah.” Peter’s always up for road trips! So he joins the Magi chase…

    Now, here’s another fun thing about this journey: it wasn’t only the first three: Melchior, Caspar, Balthazar who won the prize by getting there first to the stable in Bethlehem, kneeling in awe in the straw. No, that was not the Final Destination. Actually, it’s Peter and John—early on a Sunday morning, 33 years later, racing each other to Joseph’s tomb (they’d heard was haunted) 33 paces from the cross—they arrived first at the Place, (well, after the faithful women), heart of our chase. John was faster, Peter braver in graveyards.

    But you don’t have to be first one there, to win. 300 years later, another Great Lady, a Queen, Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine the Great made the journey to the tomb. She built a church there, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that makes cross and tomb one church. Evelyn Waugh in his book has her say to her royal, magical brothers: “you were here first, but he receives even latecomers like me…”

    It’s why all churches (the good ones!) look, smell, like that tomb. Because here, kneeling with wise, magical kings, in worship, holy awe, you become wise, magical, kingly too; as Peace surpassing understanding guards heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.