The Stranger's Gospel:

The Modern Magi

Quadra was a calm rustic island, just off the northern coast of Vancouver Island. Locals consisted of lumbermen, very independent fishermen and the odd blue collar worker, that is until the migration of eighty young intellectuals in the late sixties who sought solitude.

Quadra is the kind of place where you hear the oysters pop as you stroll down the beach, breathing in the fresh sea air. Vestiges of turbulent times are found in the cafeteria on the ferry from Campbell River. Under the newly lacquered trim, scrawled like a fossil, is an ancient peace symbol, or an upside down chicken track as the early locals saw it. From a table filled with laughter comes an anachronism of an early time, "That's really right on!" The slip doesn't go unnoticed, everyone groans. The men's hair is still long but groomed and graying; briefcases have replaced satchels on the daily commute to and from the 'mainland' where these teachers and lawyers work up and down the island.

Many of these ex-hippies returned to the faith of their fathers and mothers in the early eighties when a seminary student arrived on Quadra with a bag full of new ways to express the old faith. This was fortuitous for the Quadra community, since it healed the breach between the Island Patriarchs and the Newcomers. (You were a Newcomer for at least ten years residence at Quadra.) The squabbling and scratching that happened regularly, setting the old against the new residents, was curbed when both communities prayed and sang in the same log chapel of Morning-Star Christian Community. They owed a lot to the unifying effects of the gospel; they appreciated the young preaching peacemaker Bob McDonald.

“What kind of junk mail is this?" thought Bob as he read the address emblazoned on the fibre envelope that Rick the postman had left on his desk. "Templeton Contemplative Community, New York, New York". How it found its way this far northwest Bob could only guess. Even harder to fathom was the galactic distance between the mindsets of these two religious groups. The message, which was printed on mauve stationary, read

The members of Templeton have through the process of various religious networks discovered that the Christ of the first century is going to make His Earth Spirit particularly potent in North America since the planets Jupiter and Saturn have aligned themselves beneath the same house of Pisces.

While not particularly interested in conservative theology, several of us would like to investigate the claims of those who live out of the Christ Self. In a recent seminar conducted at the Unity Truth Centre in Vancouver, your community was mentioned as a likely spot to discover Christ's energy.

We would be honored if you were to share your insights with us when we arrive at Campbell River on August 17, 1987. As you may know, this is when the harmonic convergence is to occur. We are expecting to experience Christ in your community; perhaps we could worship Him together.

Toward consciousness,

Dr. Ralph Gipford

"Should I pitch this weird letter in the oval file Pat?" Bob asked.

"No way, keep it for a laugh. Or better yet, read it at the next leadership meeting," snickered Pat as she remembered that the most exciting agenda item of the night was the preservation fund for the Cape Mudge Lighthouse.

When the letter was read, the Morningstar leadership failed to see anything humourous in the dispatch. For some reason, the normally cool board chair flew into a rage and said that the church would be split in two if these strange New Agers as much as stepped into the sanctuary never mind worshiped with the community.

"What's all this bull about Christ being more present now? The Bible says, 'Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.' We've gotta stick to scripture and forget this New Age hocus pocus. If Christ is coming back, don't you think his church would be the first to know, not a bunch of kooks?"

One of the more perceptive members of the group commented that it might be potentially more dangerous if they turned the group away. Better to billet and dialogue with them than set them loose on the whole Island community. Not only would they spread their distorted message about Christ but they'd make them look mighty narrow to boot. The policy was set: they'd be pleasant, avoid arguments and if the Newcomers couldn't be converted, send them back to New York pronto.

Brenda looked preoccupied after the meeting. She pushed aside the sliding doors and went out alone on the cedar deck. Bob poked his head out between the half opened door.

"You ok?" he queried. Brenda's faltering "ya" seemed more like a question than an answer.

"It's just that last May I was on the south side of the Island when I saw a huge star or comet sweep the sky. A strange feeling came over me as I watched its brilliant mauve and yellow tail trail across the sky. I felt like I was out of myself, not like when we did weed though. I felt connected to Creation and to God. I cried that night Bob. I also spoke in tongues, something I haven't dared do for years. I got scared tonight when you read that letter. The phrase harmonic convergence made me think about my star. The only bad thing is that these people are not Christians, so how can God reveal Himself to them and to me, in much the same way? Even worse, I thought that even though they're wrong about this Christ energy and astrology stuff, at least they're on a journey; that to me seems better than sitting around bored stiff listening to the old, old story."

They didn't look as foreign as their ideas sounded when they came off the ferry. Some were single, others came as families; they laughed too much to be a cult. Brenda, Pat and Bob stiffly greeted them and hurried them down to the Fellowship Hall. The reception agenda was crammed full of pre-planned sharing and singing. Room was left near the end of the evening for the guests to introduce themselves. None of them had hard to pronounce names like the sixties' cults. Ralph Gipford, the coordinator of Templeton, asked each member to share a little about themselves, their name, occupation and the reason for their coming to Quadra. They were an impressive array of individuals: electrical engineers, social workers, teachers and even a computer sales rep. Certainly not your regular esoterics living on the fringe of society. It was kind of funny when Ben, a hard of hearing lumberjack whispered much too loudly in his wife's ear, "Geeze, they're just like the hippies, only more educated and better behaved."

When they shared their reason for coming to Quadra the room seemed altered with a sense of holiness. It was a spiritual journey they were on. They clearly knew it and the Morningstar people were taken aback by their disarming honesty. Each one of the newcomers made some kind of reference to the fact that they wanted contact with Christ, not just an intellectual understanding of Christianity.

There was a sense of nervousness when the Morningstar people shared. It was all too polite and stilted. Their energy was mostly expended on explaining their occupations and how the Morningstar church operated. When the spiritual dimension of the community came up, it lacked depth. In fact, it was downright shallow compared to the Templeton group. They shared the same pattern of conversion, and used the same cliched words to explain what the spiritual life should be like. Many quoted from scripture and even tried to subtly, and yet not so subtly, challenge the Templetons by remarking about how objective the revelation of Christ was, unlike some of the more experiential based non-Christian groups. At this a few Templeton faces turned red; you could feel the importance of moving on to the next item quickly. Ralph thanked the Morningstar Community for sharing their stories and their homes.

"They're not foreign to me," said Brenda. "In fact, I think they're in many ways more open to God than many of us. Would you or I have the courage to follow a star and seek the truth wherever it led us? They haven't been locked in to their own views. They have allowed scripture to modify their beliefs. I saw Gipford in the Christian bookstore buying a $50 commentary. Most of us complain if we have to shell out for Sunday School material. Last week at old man Thompson's out by Camp Homewood four out of the six adults shared how Christ has been real to them during their stay here. I think Christ has made them one of us. The problem with this community is that we think, always have, that there is such a thing as a foreigner."

"Brenda, I haven't got a thing against these people but for the sake of the community they have to leave. The disruptive effects they are having in this community are horrendous. And what it boils down to is all this talk of experiencing Christ. It's upsetting even the more mature believers. They hardly use Christian language to speak about their conversion. They say the Christ Star has risen in their hearts. That kind of talk smacks of New Age philosophy. I think they are promoting a new gospel and on that the scripture pronounces anathema. It's just another case of experience against scripture."

"Bob, I know that you know a lot more about scripture and how it came to us and how to interpret it than I probably ever will but it looks plain to me that you are afraid to experience Christ. When was the last time that you let go of your control and prayed spontaneously from your heart, not just out of your prayerbook? It doesn't look good for the seminary educated to break down and cry. Sure we at Morningstar have the scriptures, but Bob, we haven't been changed much by them lately. The Templeton group didn't come here by reading scripture. They had a lot of vague ideas, some of it really scrambled stuff but they followed a star they hardly understood the meaning of and here at Quadra they found the Christ of Scripture. Gipford told me that the greatest thing he learned from you is that Christ is not a force, he's a person. That's been our gift to them. Now, how about us accepting their gift to us? They've shown us what it is to be hungering after the Truth, to have hearts that yearn to discover more about who Christ is and to enter into a more vital experience with him. I've learned something else too, that God will shine His light on whomever He wants and wherever He wants and we can't stamp it out, even by appealing to scripture. If having the Bible doesn't lead us to experiencing and worshipping Christ then something is profoundly wrong."

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