Summary: Three journeys ... and a fourth one, our journey. Reflecting on famous believers, and how God led them, to prompt us to hear God's individual call to each one of us
Led by a star.
Except it wasn’t actually a star that led Agnes to travel her 7252 mile odyssey from her home to where God led her. It started in Agnes’s childhood with her mother saying: “My Child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others.” “Mama, who are these men and women around our dinner table?” “Them Darling? Some of them are our relatives but all of them are our people” Perhaps childhood shaped the Magi too - legends of Daniel shaping the Persian Court, or the Queen of Sheba shaping the childhood of the Ethiopian Magi.
I wonder…. What is it in our childhoods that has shaped our following of God’s call….
And so it was that aged 13, Agnes felt the call to become a nun. And after much waiting (Did the wisemen have to wait? What’s it like to wait?) And after much waiting, aged 18 Agnes left Albania and travelled to Dublin to train with the sisters of Loretto. 3132 miles in the wrong direction. Do you ever feel God has been taking you in the opposite direction of where you think you are meant to go?
But after a year in Dublin, her training was complete. She took the name Sister Maria Teresa, and travelled out to Darjeeling to teach in a missionary school. Mileage-wise she was almost there, like the Wisemen arriving in Herod’s Palace in Jerusalem, so close to their journey’s end, and yet so in the wrong place. So in the wrong place. 7252 miles from Skopje to Dublin to Darjeeling. It would 17 years until she would travel the last 380 miles from Darjeeling to Calcutta.
And like the wisemen arriving in Herod’s palace, the bible spoke to her. For the wisemen it was the location of the Messiah “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah…” For Sister Maria Teresa it was the sheep and the goats (Matt25:31-46) “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” (v40)
And so it was that like the wisemen, she had to kneel before the infant Jesus and offer him Gold. What sort of Gold? Gold like the treasure St Lawrence offered when the Romans came demanding the Christian’s treasure, expecting their challices. “Come with me and I will show you our treasure” and so Lawrence led the Roman soldiers out to see the beggars and paupers whom the early church cared for. “Here is our treasure” Sister Teresa would have heard those stories about the early Christian Martyr Lawrence. And she knew God was speaking to her and telling her to give up her order, give up teaching her children, and go and serve the poorest of the poor, the homeless dying beggars of the slums of Calcutta. I wonder…. What is it like to have God speak to you so strongly that you give up everything you know to follow his call of your life?
Gold of Obedience - the curse of the nun. For two long years she waited for permission to leave her order and begin her new calling, two long years like the journey of the Magi through the desert from Persia to Palestine. Till finally permission came, the missionaries of Charity were born, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta began her new journey worshipping Jesus in the poorest of the poor.
Led by a star.
Except it wasn’t actually a star that led Jackie to travel her 5969 mile odyssey from her home to where God led her.
In began in the early 1960s by doing the wrong thing. Astrology is a wrong thing. The Old Testament is quite clear. It is condemned. Yet God speaks to the Magi through it and led them to Jesus. The wrong thing. Jackie was coming home on a train from a party. Not a salubrious party. And friends saw her on the train and spoke to her. She would never have gone to the bible study if they hadn’t mentioned racing cars, and bikinnis and boys. She’d never have gone to the bible study if it were not for the boys.A wrong thing? Yet God spoke to Jackie through it and led her to Jesus.
I wonder… what is it like when you are doing the wrong thing, and God uses that to lead you to Jesus?
And so it was that Jackie became a Christian and began attending churches. And just as the scribes and chief priests of all the people gave wisdom to the wisemen, Jackie went to consult a vicar, Revd Richard Thompson of Shorditch. “I think God is sending me to the mission field, but where to?”. He gave her a word. “Buy a ticket for a boat going as far as you can. And pray. And you will know when to get off the boat”.