Tag Archives: John the Baptist

Being Hope

Being hopeLent February 22, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:9-15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ — Mark 1:14

John’s arrest must have been a bitter blow for Jesus. John was a mentor, cousin, and friend. Perhaps the arrest was the catalyst for the start of Jesus’ ministry. He surely had been working in some capacity with John before the arrest but he now moved onto center stage.

It is hard to watch one’s society imploding, crumbling inside itself as external pressures seem to be insurmountable. John had become an irritant to King Herod, chastising him for his personal misdeeds, and soon Herod would simply have John beheaded as a favor to his wife. Living in such a situation leads to hopelessness and futility. Yet this relative and friend of John’s, this Jesus, responds to the arrest by declaring the good news that the kingdom of God was near.

How do we apply that lesson today in parts of the world where there is little or no hope left? How do we bring hope to our own inner-cities where poverty and lack of opportunities stifle wellbeing? How do we live out being the hands and arms and heart and legs and feet of the Body of Christ in our world today?

Take a few minutes to ponder these questions and then literally write down at least one, maybe two or three, things you can do today that will bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to a hurting world. Perhaps it’s checking on someone who is alone and snowed in. Perhaps it is writing and sending a check to an entity bringing hope to the world, perhaps it is gathering all those shoes you no longer wear and taking them to a ministry that distributes shoes to people on the street. Now do it.

Prayer:  Lord, enable me to be that part of the Body of Christ that you have called me to be and to do the tasks that are associated with it. I understand I cannot do everything, help me realize and actualize that I must do something. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Beginnings

BeginningsEpiphany
Celebration of God
Manifested in the World
January 11, 2015

 Scripture Reading: Mark 1:4-11
[John] proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

  In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ — Mark 1:7-11

 Baby dedications or christenings, baptisms, weddings, initiations, commissionings, ordinations all are rituals of beginnings. These are momentous occasions where something comes to fruition and starts something new. The baptism that John practiced acknowledged the end of slavery to sin and the beginning of living into forgiveness.

Now Jesus stands before John and asked for baptism. Why? He by all accounts is not in need of forgiveness. He had been dedicated appropriately at birth and made his trip to the temple at the age of 12, but we know little else about him until this moment as he asks to be baptized. In a very real sense, he is witnessing to his being fully human, fully capable of sin. In another sense he is setting an example for future followers of the need to turn around from their way of being and follow a new way, his way. But it also serves to mark the beginning of his ministry, transferring the mantle of leadership from John to Jesus.

I thank God for God’s plan of new beginnings because I have experienced them in my life sometimes by choice but other times due to situations beyond my control. I have mourned the loss of what was and feared the future of what was to be and I can attest that God can make all things new and clean and good.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the richness of your renewal to wholeness. Keep me ever in the palm of your hand in all my future beginnings. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Who are You?

Who am IAdvent
December 14, 2014

Scripture Reading: John 1:6-8, 19-28 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said. — John 1:19-23

A strange new preacher had moved to town and was attracting a lot of attention. He was even baptizing. The religious leaders of the community being concerned, went to check his credentials and he quoted their own scripture, Isaiah 40:3, to them.

 

While in graduate school learning the ropes of being a social worker, I had the privilege to do one of my field placements in the office of a woman who was pretty remarkable. She was quiet and unassuming but she had a power that was not readily turned back. She headed an office that was assigned to develop services for the aging under the Older Americans Act. It required input from the community to formulate plans for the use of the funding and she took that requirement very literally. An Aging Council made up of local people who were senior citizens was created and trained in the work that was to be done. They took their jobs very seriously and developed a plan that they felt would best meet the needs of their population while using the available funding wisely. Local politicians had other ideas about how the money was to be spent. They had been caught off guard and had not been contacted to fill the Aging Council with their selected representatives. The Aging Council did include some very powerful people though whose main concern was the senior citizens. The plan they developed was implemented. It angered the politicians, but that is another story. She had followed not only the letter of the law but the spirit of the law also.

 

John, the Baptist, had drawn the assignment to make straight the way for the coming of the Messiah. His whole life was totally focused on that tasks. He was preaching to the choir as they say, but he was telling the old, old story in ways that had been lost on some of the leaders of the temple. They asked him, who are you? Probably more of a challenge with a bit of a tone that suggested he did not have the authority to be speaking for God.

 

As church leaders and members, I think that is a question we might want to ask ourselves. Are we focused on what God is calling us to do? Are any of us or all of us not called to cry out against the wilderness of a society lost in greed, injustice, racism, domestic violence, human trafficking and terrorism? Are any of us focused on introducing people lost in these gaps to the one who has come to save us and to show us a better way?  Who am I; what am I called to do? Who are we; what are we called to do together? We are no less than the Body of Christ in the world today. We need to work toward oneness among ourselves that will lead to justice for all.

 

Prayer: Lord the world needs many voices crying together countering the ways of greed and hate. Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, For the facing of this hour*. Amen.

*From the hymn, God of Grace and God of Glory by Harry E. Fosdick. All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Light

Light bulbAdvent
December 13, 2014

Scripture Reading: John 1:6-8, 19-28

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. — John 1:6-8

My mother, born in 1908, grew up in a time when light, in general, was provided by the sun, the moon, on perhaps on a very clear night by the stars. The family had lanterns and candles, if absolutely necessary, but their lives were basically shaped around the natural availability of light.

My “guest” room is actually my office filled with a computer and monitor, two printers, and a modem with seven little blue and green blinking lights all in a row. Not to mention the digital clock by the bed and the digital telephone on the desk. The first night Mom came to stay with me, after she had gone to bed, she called out to tell me that I had left several little lights on in the room. I had shut the computer down and I actually had no idea what she was talking about when I entered the room and began to look around and there they all were. I recalled that she had frighten my sister once when she failed to answer the telephone. Arriving at Mom’s home to see what was wrong, my sister discovered that Mom routinely unplugged the phone by her bed to turn off the little light. The discovery of electricity and the electric light bulb changed our lives forever. Those of us who did not live through that change, take the availability of artificial light for granted every day. Even when the electricity is off for some reason we have our battery powered backups.

Advent is a time of year, each year, when we as individuals and as communities of faith throughout the world take the time to remember the time before the Light of Christ was introduced into the world. We do this for many reason, but one of them surely is to remind us to not take the gift of the Christ Child for granted.

Prayer: Light of the World, let your light shine through and among us so that the whole world can know a clearer vision of your love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Forgiveness of Sin

clean heartAdvent
December 6, 2014

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-8

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. — Mark 1:4

I don’t think we deal very much with sin anymore or we deal too much with it. We seem to have shuffled sin to the back of the deck and hope that it is never dealt.  In the 1960’s situational ethics* took its turn in explaining sin as being related to agape love and thus sin was describe as not being ridge, set in stone, but somewhat flexible based on the circumstances. Situational ethics was of course translated by some as “If it feels good, do it”, which wasn’t what it was about at all. The other side did define sin in specifics usually related to human moral behaviors often behaviors that related to others not themselves.

Such is the case today, just as it was the case in the first century when one of those radical prophets of old came forth with the message that sin was a problem and once we repent of our own sins and are cleansed through baptism we can return to a right relationship with God. Of course, John, the Baptist wasn’t saying anything new either. He knew the Psalms and the prophets of antiquity. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:2) In the final analysis, sin separates us from right relationship with God. When individuals are not right with God it is impossible for them fully to be right with one another.

John is telling the people that being right with the God who is love is the only way to be right with self and with each other and all others. We were wonderfully made by the God of love and God wants nothing less than the very best for each of us and all of us. I call it wholeness, oneness, and justice, but it cannot be attained until we turnaround and grab hold of it with all our hearts, minds, and souls.

Prayer: Lord forgive me when I settle for lesser gods and turn away from you. Cleanse me and make me whole. Amen.

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Situational ethics

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.