In the gospel of Matthew, we read the story of the Magi, the wise and wealthy astronomers who looked to the skies, saw an unusual star and decided to follow it. When they reached the point where the star was hovering, they found a baby and his young peasant parents gathered in the countryside. And they worshiped him. Not only that, these three powerful men bent their knees around the manger to offer Jesus expensive gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In the spirit of the gifts that the Magi gave to the newborn Jesus, we adopted a new-to-us tradition last year at Worship at Five known as “Star Words” – star-shaped pieces of paper with a single word printed on each. On Epiphany of the Lord Sunday (the first Sunday of the new year), each worshiper was invited to receive a star word (at random) as a gift from God for the year ahead. Recipients were encouraged to contemplate their word and reflect on how God might be guiding them throughout 2018.
I wrote 100 words on blue paper stars last year to pass out at Worship at Five, and was so hoping that I would receive something whimsical like wonder or create or laugh. That was wishful thinking – instead, I drew accountability. It was a good reminder that the gifts we receive from God are not always the gifts we desire. And yet, in reflecting throughout 2018 on accountability, I found myself growing in ways I did not expect. I was invited to reflect on the communities to which I am accountable, the relationships that hold me accountable, and the practices that make up accountability. It was a rich and grounding exercise.
Audrey White shared this about their experience with star words:
“My star word, leadership, reminded me to be trust God's call in my life and inspired me to think of what the Gospel teaches us about leaders. There are those who abuse their power while others use it to empower people on the margins of society. I hope I am continuously getting closer to the servant leadership toward which Christ's example inspires me.”
And Marty Loman noted:
“Justice was my word – easy to remember given “do justice” is also tattooed on my left wrist but it was amazing to me just how many opportunities presented themselves this year just by keeping this word in my conscious thought. It led me to explore my biblical understanding of justice through the Hebrew concepts of tzedakah and tikkun olam; gain an added appreciation for the stance our denomination has taken over its history by being exposed to the PCUSA’s compilation on social policy; and then live out the concept in my daily life whether it be speaking out against injustice or by helping to feed or clothe the needy. This process was truly a gift.”
If you are seeking a star to follow, join us for our Worship at Five Epiphany Celebration on Sunday, January 6 at 5:00 p.m. in Founders Hall. Receive a star word as a gift from God and allow it to guide your 2019. We’ll also have special music from Sam Burchfield! Come, seek, worship.