Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

Date: January 4, 2019

Star Words

This year, Cedar Park United will join with an ever increasing number of Christian faith communities who use a daily spiritual practice known as “Star Words” (…Words!! not a George Lucas franchise- I see you!!) .

I first learned of this practice through an article on the Reformed Worship website quite a few years ago. It’s a tradition that has quickly caught on, and for good reason.

The concept is inspired by the story of Magi who travelled from the East, following the guidance of a star, to visit the Christ Child. (You can read the story  here at Bible Gateway). Like the Magi, we choose to be led towards the life of Jesus Christ by the guidance of a star. On the Feast of Epiphany, all who come to worship are given a star, upon which is written a word.

This Star Word becomes ours for the length of a season (from Jan 6 to the last Sunday before Lent, March 3), and we’re invited to ponder it, reflect on it, notice it. We may not like it, it may not resonate… at first. But noticing it show up in our daily experience is what makes it become a lode-star, a guiding-star, a north-star for the way we approach and respond to the world, and our life within it.  I’ve heard from two clergy colleagues who “lived with” their Star Words for a year, and noticed how much it both reflected and shaped their experience of God-with-Us, and their way of discipleship. You can read one story here.

Let me also share this wonderful, humorous story of a family who were guided by Star Words for a month.

Our family (two adults, one teenager, two toddlers and a dog) were given Star Words at church last month: Peace, Wonder, Balance, Integrity, Protect.  We wanted to swap them around, because “Peace” was given to our warrior, and “Protect” seemed more appropriate for our dog. But we did as we were told, and tried to be attentive to our words at least once a day.  It’s been frankly amazing to become aware of these words and the way they show up in our lives. My normally pragmatic/stoic partner – given Wonder- has started saying “Wow!” as she notices beauty, hears music as if for the first time, and is amazed when the toddlers stop fighting.  Our teenager, who normally lets the world go by, has joined the school anti-bullying group, and won’t use straws or plastic forks “It’s for the fish, Mom, duh…!” I’ve noticed the innate integrity (or honest emotion and action) of two year olds, and the effort it takes them to balance night and day, sleep and play, food and fighting. Yes, peace is definitely lost, often in this crazy blended household, but I’m noticing, it is more often regained.  We were asked to hand the words back on Sunday. Not happening. We’re not letting them go. Not ever. They’re ours now. Peace out.

So that’s what we’re going to do this Sunday.  You’ll all get a Star Word.  If you can’t be in worship on Sunday, and want to join in, then leave a comment on this blog, and we’ll give you your own Star Word.  Or check out our Facebook pages on Sunday 6th, leave a comment and we’ll give you your word.

And on the Feast of Transfiguration, we’ll see where these Star Words have led us….. I can’t wait!

Dismantling the Creche

We’ve heard this tale already, a few times, in the past few weeks.
It is after all the “Reason for the Season”
Luke’s telling of the birth of the Christ child.
Some of us perhaps retell the story while we put up our crèche scenes.
We find a stable – or something that looks like one-
we line it with straw, and populate it with barn animals, a donkey, a cow,
setting the backdrop to the central tableau;
a manger, (no crib for a bed),
a woman and a protective man,
and the swaddled infant,
perhaps complete with halo.

And scattered about and above,
a star (not Luke’s),
an angel (not a heavenly army as Luke would want),
some shepherds, and their sheep.
(And not for today, because Luke doesn’t tell their tale, three magi with their camels).

What our manger scenes may not display however,is the dominance of Rome.
I’ve seen no manger scenes with Roman soldiers patrolling the back alley where this tale occurred,
no Syrian Governor Quirinius doing the dirty deeds for his “Augustan” Emperor,
safe in Rome, moving Palestinian pieces
like pawns on a chess board.

But I wish we did.
Because if we did, there’d be more of this this Christmas story
we’d recognize when we open tomorrow’s news feed,
when we watch the displacement or the forced unemployment
of millions because of the fiscal, or military, or geopolitical whims of the mighty.

When, on January 7, I wrap my infant Jesus up in the same yellow tissue paper that holds his kneeling mother, Mary,
I know I will remember swaddling my now grown children.I always do. I will ponder the life given, the faith grown,
the discipleship that they have made for themselves and their children.

When I wrap up the cow with the broken horn, I will think of the ways in which
life has its knocks and bumps and imperfections;
but horn or no horn, we all still have a place close to the miracle
of Christ’s birthing in the world.

When I wrap Joseph though,
I want to remember he is one of 68 million
people who are no longer welcome in their homeland,
who are forced to eke out some semblance of protection out of the “make-do” of temporary shelters.

And when I bubble-wrap with care my one broad-winged angel,
I want it to be the awe-filled care of one who has just been bowled over again
by the sheer fearful potency of his message;
God’s declaration that despite the reach of Augustus and his kind,
despite their attempts to control borders, colour and kinship,
and who is in and who is out, who is blessed and who is cursed,
there is indeed fearsome “Good News of Great Joy for all the people!”
born each and every day wherever a swaddled life is cherished,
and most especially, when life is born in places of desperate displacement, and fear.

And when I wrap my shepherds, I want to remember that they are not in fact superfluous to Luke’s telling of the tale, but that they are crucial to it.
For it was they who ran from the stable
and heralded with the human voice of wonder and praise, giddy, hysterical laughter, and irrepressible delight
in all that they had heard and seen of God’s glory and light,
God’s infinite might and strength,
swaddled in the tiny fragile flesh of a newborn mortal.

I want to be one of those shepherds
and herald God’s fearsome Good News
in a world that’s sick and tired of fake news.

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