A Place to Flee

"The Flight Into Egypt", Vittore Carpaccio, c. 1500
“The Flight Into Egypt”, Vittore Carpaccio, c. 1500

Scripture Passage:  Matthew 2:13-2313Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”14Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”  16When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.17Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:18“A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” 19When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,20“Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”21Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.23There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

(OK, see, I had something else in mind to write today, but my journey took me another way…Thanks, Mary! :))

We keep talking about our “journey” like it’s some neatly-mapped pathway from one point to another, like there is only one way to get to where we need to go.  But, really, our “journey” is a series of journeys, all connected, all with a beginning and an ending that pushes us into the next leg of our Way.  Rainer Maria Rilke speaks of living one’s life in “ever-widening circles”, all complete and yet inter-connected, each in its completion giving way to the beginning of another and all together creating an infinity of time and space and being.

We don’t deal with this particular Scripture a whole lot.  It appears in the Revised Common Lectionary once in Year A on the first Sunday following Christmas, so it is in competition with New Year’s, national Associate’s Sunday, and, depending on how the calendar falls, Epiphany Sunday.  So what does this mean?  Well, on one level, it is indicative of the unstable and almost chaotic way the world was put together then, with people vying for power and doing anything to make sure that their position stayed as it was (OK, maybe it’s not just about then!).  It is also a depiction of the great love that Mary and Joseph showed for the child Jesus, wanting to protect him, to rush him away, giving up themselves, giving up their own lives, leaving their families, probably Joseph’s carpentry business, leaving all that was familiar and all that was comfortable to make sure that the one that they loved was safe.

But Egypt?  If I remember, Egypt did not go well for Joseph and Mary’s ancestors.  In fact, Egypt represented oppression and slavery and forced labor and loss of home and way of living and way of being and overwhelming despair.  Well, apparently, God can redeem anything!  After all, Joseph is told to flee into the very place from which those before him fled.  This time around, Egypt means safety and freedom and redemption.  Oh, how our journeys turn, giving way to one another!  Perhaps this is a taste of what is to come.  Jesus will never be “safe”; Jesus will never be “comfortable”; Jesus will never be in a place of stability.  Jesus will always be journeying, fleeing from one circle to another–from a home that has no room for his birth to a place of exile that offers freedom and life.  Jesus will spend his life fleeing toward temptation and walking away from self-centeredness.  Jesus will spend his life with no place to lay his head and fleeing toward Jerusalem.  Jesus’ life of ever-widening circles will take him from rejection by his own to welcome to a place of exile over and over again.

Maybe each of our journeys prepares us for what’s to come, for not only the next, but to resolution down the road of a journey that we once thought had ended.  Perhaps this image of Egypt not as a captor but as redemption is a foretaste of what’s to come, that an instrument of death, an ending that logic tells us has no redemption, begins again.  And there, we will be called to the home where we have always belonged, where there was always room.

So on this Lenten journey, think of your journeys, think how they connect, how they redeem each, and how each is part of calling you home.  And imagine that the one that ends in despair could possibly be the one that begins your life.

Grace and Peace,

Shelli

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