To boldly go where no one has gone before. Anyone else here a Trekker? I’ve always liked the show, in all its incarnations, perhaps not all of the movies, but I like to imagine traveling the universe by the light of the stars, looking for new planets with new peoples. Perhaps in the future there will be missionary starships full of monks traveling around the galaxy. I know one monk who wants to do it.
There is one episode from the first series that came to my mind recently. It’s an episode where the Enterprise arrives at a planet named Organa just before war with the Klingons is going to break out. Kirk and Spock try to convince the local people, who seem very backward in development, to accept their help in fighting off the Klingons. Of course, before they can convince the Organians, the Klingons show up and seem to take over. They are quickly disgusted by the locals who can seem to do nothing else but smile at them, regardless of anything they threaten to do. The Organians try to hide Kirk and Spock among them as natives, but the Enterprise crew is too combative to stay undercover, and soon we have a series of guerilla actions to which the Klingons respond with mass murder. This goes on for a while until the leader of the Organians calls a halt to everything: they aren’t what they seem to be. They are really an advanced race who are not being killed by the Klingons and who have the power to short circuit the war before it begins, despite the protests of the Enterprise crew and the Klingons. People follow the stars to this planet and find something they don’t expect to find: peace.
The wise men were following a star on a mission of discovery. They must have come out of curiosity: Judea was a land that was a backwater of history on the fringe of three great civilizations: the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Persians. The wise men were Persians. They saw something in the stars that indicated that a great king was being born in the house of Israel. In ancient times, people believed that events on earth were played out in the heavens first, so astrology was a boom business. The wise men come to the area and the first thing they do is check in with the local king: after all, it’s probably a son being born to him that they’re looking for. Herod is grateful for the visit, but doesn’t know anything and it’s not happening in Jerusalem, but the local scribes would know where. So the Wise Men end up in an out of the way village called Bethlehem, and we know what they find: the Prince of Peace. They come looking for riches and find a king unlike anything they expected to find. Their search lead them to a place they didn’t expect. And of course, being no fools, they realize that Herod won’t take this news well so they go home another way.
Well, we’ve looked at a future and at the past, and we come to today. We might find ourselves looking for something special in our lives, looking for some special insight or special person to guide us. Some folks today take some very unusual travels into New Age or into an Eastern Religion or something obscure to try to find the Light. But our journey has lead us here, to a very ordinary place, with very ordinary people, using ordinary things. We don’t have secret signs, or hidden insights or magic wands to get what we think we want. We have bread and wine, and stories from years past that tell of a promise. We have a God who works in our lives, because we know that he has before, and we have seen God working in our midst.
We don’t have tricorders or sensors. We’re not hiding from Klingons, although sometimes we may want to convince a superior being that we know best, but God probably smiles at us and nods knowing that we’ll find out that we’re wrong sooner or later. We’re not riding through the desert carrying rare gifts of Gold and Frankincense and Myrrh. But the insight that we may miss that they discovered is that God is found in unexpected places. God is found in not only in small, helpless children, but in other folks who do very simple things to help out others. God is found in what appears to be bread and wine. The English theologian G. K. Chesterton once said that his voyage of discovery of faith was like fitting at expedition to find a perfect home on some South Sea island and discovering England. As we go through our journey of faith, let us remember that God is found in many places we don’t expect.