I am currently enrolled in a social and cultural psychology class for my master’s program. My fascination with groups and influence on individual’s thoughts and behaviors had led me to begin a journey exploring scripture in light of group dynamics surrounding the life of Christ. I want to explore his behaviors and perhaps intentions in terms of his in-group (followers) and out-groups that opposed his teaching and example. I am not really sure what I will find, but I began my journey in Matthew 2:1-12.
This beginning section of Matthew 2 provides the account of the wise men from the east; men of science and faith, exploring what they have researched and adventuring beyond their borders to prove or disprove what the science had exposed.
The star –It must have been unique or it would not have ignited their curiosity. They were curious enough to dig deeper and reach a conclusion that it was more than a universal anomaly. Their research led them to ancient text that pointed to its purpose. It was a guiding and locating star. The first GPS (Global Positioning Star) and they were driven to follow it.This same star shown a light on a social and cultural environment that was about to change. That change was ushered in by the birth of Jesus, identified by the wise men as ‘King of the Jews’ who they asked for by position rather than name. This change was illuminated and exposed by a star with a purpose.
The Social/Cultural climate
Social and cultural conditions is at the forefront of my thought process and the fodder for my recent exploration into scripture. Briefly, as the terms might suggest, there are in-groups and out-groups within a culture or society. In-groups are the groups with which one identifies closely, out-groups are a comparison group that contrast with the in-group. Prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination are developed within this context of group comparison. In our text we have two salient groups; Romans under the leadership of Herod and the Jew, under the leadership of their religious hierarchy. Rome was the majority group, if not in number in political power and control. Jews were the minority, in bondage to Rome. God had been silent for 400 years. This is an important point because to normalize their existence under the Roman government, the Jewish leadership had acquiesced to their position and seemingly have lost faith in the promises of their God. When asked by Herod what they knew about the prophecy referenced by the wise men, they answered with accuracy. They knew the information but had lost sight of the God of promise. This singular question produced the emotion of fear (vs 3). It is unclear if their fear was due to the in-congruence of their faith or of Herod or both. Change was coming and storms always elicit an emotion. Herod, on the other hand was troubled, probably in more ways than one, but this question from the wise men set social and potential political wheels in motion. It upset his norm. His power was threatened and his response was control.
The Storm is brewing. This beautiful unusual star so important to the sweetness of the nativity story is a warning star with purpose. The silent God has kept his word, his promise of a Messiah and things are about to change.
We often see storms as negative, however, they are energy in motion, conflict reaching a peak, the hidden being exposed. In Recovery, we often say that nothing can be healed unless it is brought into the light. Light, not darkness provides healing. The transition between the two, the storm, is painful, but purposeful. If you have ever experienced a tornado, the set up for the storm is an eerie pea green sky, that looks menacing, followed by temperature change, light winds, then often hail, torrential rains and short lived but enormous winds. What follows the storm is the freshest air, rainbows and peace; none of which would have been experienced unless there was an atmospheric change in the climate. Any climate, social, environmental, cultural or spiritual.
What does your storm look like? Did you miss the warning ‘star’? Is it possible for you to re-frame the whirling winds of change that are for good, for betterment, for purpose and see it in light of the work God is doing within its context? How? Do not be afraid of the storm. It is only energy, God’s energy. Be still, firmly planted in faith, even if God seems silent. When trees are bent in a windstorm, their roots go deeper. Feel your roots expanding deeper into the God of purpose, spread your branches and embrace the storm. Even if uprooted, there is a purpose. Change is coming. Romans 8:28 says it’s for our good and God’s glory.
Matthew 2:12(b)- speaking of the wise men … they departed to their own country by another way.
Picture taken by Jason Blum and his son in Colorado (https://www.google.com/search?=tornado+and+rainbow+picture&espv=2&tbm=isch&imgil=iOmu_TAhFkIBdM%253A%253BmQ6lrXHuozjvdM%253Bhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fweather.com%25252Fscience%25252Fnature%25252Fnews%25252Ftornado-rainbow-photograph-colorado-amazing-jason- blum&source=iu&pf=m&fir=iOmu_TAhFkIBdM%253A%252CmQ6lrXHuozjvdM%252C_&usg=__2nZgi4PoYZnYBTLqjNALzoDoxWw%3D&biw=1448&bih=758&dpr=0.9&ved=0ahUKEwiYyt3N98_MAhVW7GMKHV78CZIQyjcIOA&ei=Lw0yV9j2M9bYjwPe-KeQCQ#imgrc=iOmu_TAhFkIBdM%3A