“Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” – Matthew 2:13 (NRSV)
Mary and Joseph had to return home another way because Herod was after their baby. Thank God for their dreams.
The best book I have read in a very long time is by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Water Dancer. It is a story about the underground railroad, about dreams, about flight, and how Herod doesn’t win. Hiram tells a long story of losing his mother as she tries to escape slavery. He becomes the aid to “Moses.” They are always going home another way, tricking their would-be masters over and over again. They even swim across the Delaware River at Philadelphia. They follow a great conduction. Their path becomes clear after they take their steps, not before. They experience what Jesus experienced as a baby: protection by way of dream and dreaming!
They made possible witness stones, like those in front of the First Congregational Church of OldLyme, Connecticut. These read:
Cato Enslaved Servant, Child
By Rev. Jonathan Parsons,
Died here 1734, age 10.
Lewis Lewia, 1779 – 1852
Baptized age 16 in 1795.
Down the road in Guilford, Connecticut, there is a sign for the Third Congregational Church, long gone, but attesting that it split off from the others over abolition.
All these people join Coates in knowing about Herod and how, generation after generation, we outwit him by going home another way.
Perhaps you have had a dream that tells you to change course? To conduct change? To go underground? To split? To cover your tracks? To take another way? I sure have, over and over again.
Conduct us, O God, in the ways you would have us go. Keep testing our path, every day, every way. Amen.
Donna Schaper works nationally for Bricks and Mortals, a NYC-based organization that provides sustainable solutions for sacred sites. Her newest book is Remove the Pews: Spiritual Possibilities for Sacred Spaces, from The Pilgrim Press.