Blessed…A Road Traveled Less

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.” When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah, because from you will come one who governs, who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route. (Matthew 2:1-12, Common English Bible)

Having never ridden a camel before, I am not about to say what it would be like to make the journey of the magi. I think the closest I could come would be riding horseback. Without question I don’t know what camel back riding would be like but it really doesn’t look very comfortable.

I do have some limited knowledge of what it is like to spend a few hours on horseback. Admittedly I was much younger then and I carried significantly fewer pounds around my mid-section. Even with what knowledge I have, it is difficult for me to imagine driving a herd of cows to market during the days of the old American west.

Let’s just face the simple facts as they are, if I have a distance to travel I am going to get in my car to go. If I am really in a hurry I might fly. If I want more of an adventure I might catch a bus or a train. There is no doubt, I will not be making the journey on a camel or even a horse.

The Bible doesn’t say from where the magi actually came. In my research I found speculation for any distance from Babylon (about 900 miles) to The Forbidden City in China (some 4400 miles away). Assuming 25 miles per day that would mean the magi traveled between 36 and 176 days to reach Jesus and worship him. That is between just over one month to just under six months of riding on a camel just to see a baby.

Earlier in my career I served congregations in Lovelady Texas and Grapeland Texas. In between Lovelady and Grapeland is the county seat, Crockett Texas. One day something clicked in my mind. These three towns are 13 miles apart. It is thirteen miles from Lovelady to Crockett and another 13 miles from Crockett to Grapeland. That same 13 mile theme goes south from Lovelady to first Trinity and then another 13 miles to Riverside. Going east from Crockett it is 13 miles to Kennard.

So what is my point? Each of these towns have a United Methodist Church either in the town itself or not far outside the town (I was pastor of the church in Kennard too. It is not far outside town). So, these churches are thirteen miles apart. It is my guess that the location of the towns had more to do with the railroad than anything. With the exception of Kennard, the Union-Pacific Railroad connects each town. But the churches, these churches were strategically located at a reasonable distance for horse travel, either on horseback or carriage, for a family to travel between home, church and back again.

When you think about the magi, they traveled between one and six months to go and see Jesus. To spend time with God and the body of Christ, for residence of East Texas in the days of the Old West was an all day affair. Both were a real sacrifice that was made willingly.

Today, most all of us have cars that reduce travel time considerably. For many of us, it isn’t close to thirteen miles between churches. At most, going to church isn’t a sacrifice of more than a couple of hours. Yet many people, and a number that continues to grow, won’t make the small sacrifice. For the magi, it was worth it. For the residents of old East Texas, it was worth it. It makes me wonder why a small sacrifice is so difficult for so many of us to live out. It makes me wonder, would the magi and the settlers of the old west question our faith? Would they ask, “Hey, what’s your problem?”

God expects us to be about worship and fellowship with the Body of Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…” (Luke 16:1oa, New International Version)

What would happen if God expected even more from us? I think God does.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

"The Pastor Ponders" is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. Bishop and I live in Sweeny, Texas where I am the pastor of First United Methodist Church. I have served here for the past two years. For the past 27 years I have served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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