January 9th, 2022 - "Close to Home: Home By Another Way"



The First United Presbyterian Church of Loveland

“Close to Home: Home By Another Way”

Rev. Amy Morgan

January 9, 2022

Ephesians 3:1-12

This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given to me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow-heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.


Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.


Matthew 2:1-12


In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

   who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.


“Back to normal.” That’s what we all want. It’s what we wanted for Easter in 2020. It’s what we wanted for Christmas that year. And this year. “Back to normal” is what everyone has been wanting for a long, long time now. 


It’s almost hard to remember what “normal” was like. “Normal” seems to mean a time when we didn’t fear the very breath in one another’s bodies. “Normal” was when we didn’t condemn our friends and neighbors as heartless imbeciles or spineless sheep, depending on our political affiliations. “Normal” was when we could be discontent with politicians and policies without fretting over the survival of democracy itself. “Normal” was when every new tragedy and crisis didn’t feel like another pile of trash heaped onto the dumpster fire of the last two years. 


“Normal” feels like coming home after a long and arduous journey. Normal is that place and time where we last felt at ease, comfortable, safe. Normal represents what is familiar, and therefore right and true. When we say we want to get back to normal, we’re saying, in a way, that we just want to go home. 


Through this pandemic, we have been on a long journey full of hardship and heartbreak. It was not a journey any of us chose to set out on. But we are on it nonetheless. And so, if we are wise, like the Magi of old, we have spent this journey seeking something. Perhaps we are seeking peace, or health, or wholeness. Or perhaps we have been seeking resilience, security, or hope. Maybe we have been seeking liberation from isolation, uncertainty, and fear. Maybe we have been seeking blessing – for our loved ones, our world, ourselves. 


Right now, all those things may feel like they are still very far away. We are far from normal, far from home. But it also feels like we are still far from our destination. That star we are following keeps moving, farther and farther away. 


Poet T.S. Eliot imagined the hardships of the journey of the Magi, who, while they may have chosen to seek out the Christ child intentionally and willingly, still experienced moments when the travel was tiresome and the destination elusive. In Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi,” one of the Magi reflects:

“A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year

For a journey, and such a long journey.”


It has been such a long, cold journey, friends. And on that journey, we, like the Magi of 

old, have encountered not only many challenges and hardships, but also forces that are 

determined to destroy those things we have been seeking. Media outlets that profit off 

our division and discord and fear. Corporations that prosper by keeping us feeling 

inadequate and insecure. Politicians that gain popularity by proclaiming the loudest curse 

on their opponents. Systems of injustice that oppress our neighbors and diminish all our 

lives. 


So as much as we may all long for “normal,” we also know we can’t get there by going back along the road that got us here, the road that will lead right back to those forces of greed and oppression and fear, those forces that will do everything in their not insignificant power to undo any gains that might come from this arduous journey.


We must press on, friends, toward our destination for a while longer yet. And, if we are wise, and we must be prepared to go home by another road. In James Taylor’s song about the Magi, “Home By Another Way,” he sings “Yes, they went home by another way, home by another way. Maybe me and you can be wise guys too and go home by another way.”


The time will come, likely not a particular date on a calendar, but a season will arrive, slowly, like spring, when the pandemic will subside, when the fear and anger will abate, when we’ll take a deep breath and realize we suddenly feel hopeful again. We will be able to let down our vigilance, bask in wonder, be, like the Magi, “overwhelmed with joy.” 


This destination will be, I hope, all we could wish for, and so much more. At the very least, it may be “satisfactory,” as Eliot’s Magi describes the Epiphany. But this place of peace and hope, this turning of some great tide, this destination we’ve been seeking, is not the place we will stay. 


Because, as wondrous as it may be, it will not be home. It will not be “normal” or even the “new normal.” It will be an arrival, a revelation, an inauguration that we may only recognize in retrospect. But very soon, we will have to move on. We will have to seek home once again. 


And in order to avoid playing into the murderous hands of the powers that are plaguing our peace, hampering our hope, and wounding our wonder, we must “be wise guys too, and go home by another way.” Whatever fragile hope and peace we may find at whatever is determined to be the end of this journey, it will be forfeit if we allow ourselves to take the easy and familiar path back home, back to “normal.” It will be incredibly hard to resist this temptation. But it is the only way we will be able to return home with the Epiphany intact – the new insight, the appearance of something precious and magnificent. It is the only way we will be able to return home, period. 


In Matthew’s gospel, the Magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod. If they had tried to retrace their steps, follow the familiar paths back home, return to normal by the normal route – the power seeking to destroy the hope of the world would have ensnared them. And it is unlikely they would have escaped with their lives. Herod would not want anyone alive knowing about this new king that threatened his power. 


And so, the Magi must go home by another way. 


Going home by another way is not easy. There are not familiar guideposts. We don’t have good directions. We don’t know how long it will take. We might get lost along the way. 


But this is the risk we will have to choose to take. Because it is the only way to preserve hope and peace. It may be the only way to get home. 


This journey has taken us places we’d never imagined, in our wildest dreams or nightmares. The journey home will force us to traverse even more unexplored territory. And so, it is likely that whenever we do get “back to normal,” it will not feel normal at all. In fact, it might feel foreign and disappointing. 


The conclusion of Eliot’s poem speaks to the transformation that has 

occurred years after the Magi return home. Instead of enjoying their “summer palaces” 

and “silken girls bringing sherbet,” the Magi are “no longer at ease here, in the old 

dispensation,/With an alien people clutching their gods.” 


When the Magi return home, return to “normal,” it feels alien, uncomfortable. They no 

longer take pleasure in the same things they used to. They, uniquely in their community, 

have witnessed the new dispensation, the transformation of the world order, and they 

now view what was once “normal” with new eyes. They, uniquely in their community, 

can see that their “normal” is a thing of the past, that “normal” is diminishing and 

deluded. Normal is a source of despondency for this Magi, not the source of comfort. 


And as much as we are fed up with this journey and wish we could turn back, as much as 

we long for the familiar comforts of “normal,” I’m certain that by now we have all 

realized that “back to normal” is not where we’re going. Perhaps we already have a 

sense that “normal” wasn’t as perfect as we might remember. Travel tends to color our 

image of home in a rosy hue. 


And so perhaps in going home by another road we will be able to find, or create, a new 

home, a “new normal,” that incorporates what we have learned on this journey, and 

what we will gain in the end. An epiphany is knowing that the road ahead of you will be 

different from the one behind you. In the end, the home it leads you to may be a 

surprising place. But I trust it will be a better place. 


Going home by another way, I pray we will find a home shaped by what we have seen 

and experienced. A home that refuses to bow to the forces of oppression and injustice, 

violence and fear. A home that continues to worship the One who reigns with love, and 

justice and peace over all our homes, through normal times and strange journeys. I pray, 

friends, that we are almost home. 






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