John’s Epiphany

Scriptures: John 1:29-42

Let us pray:

Now, O Lord, calm us into quietness. Transform us to be more holy. Turn our hurts into healing, our words into listening and our wandering into purpose. Reveal your Word to us, that you might nourish our spirits anew. Amen.

Why is it, as David Toole writes, “We need more than Christmas…we need to see Jesus walk into the Jordan. We need to see the clouds part. We need to hear the booming voice name Jesus a beloved Son. We need to hear Jesus himself ask us, as he does Peter and Andrew… “What are you looking for?”[1]

Could it be that we so easily forget the Angel voices from Luke? Could it be we forget the visit of Matthew’s Magi, signifying that Jesus is indeed born more than just King of the Jews but Lord of all Creation? Could it be that we forget, Gentiles that we are, that Jesus also came for us in our mortal finitude? Has contemporary culture of anxiety, disappointment, fear and cynicism sucked us in? Have we fallen sway to doubtfulness and suspicion, losing sight of a hopeful light in the darkness?

Then perhaps, if nothing else, our current times will enliven our souls to better understand God’s perspective of us, and thus help us understand better why the Christ was needed as an avenue for salvation.

Think about it: imagine sitting at a favorite café, sipping on a steaming vanilla chai, listening to the conversations around you; perhaps we can identify with or maybe even simply follow along with the masses and take a “wait and see” approach to life right now. That might include the economy, healthcare, public education, benefit packages for public employees, politics, or maybe even religion in general. Would that effect our understanding of Jesus, a homeless immigrant itinerant preacher from Palestine? Even if John the Baptist came along and pointed out the Messiah, “the lamb of God that takes away the sin” (v. 29) of today’s world, would we take a second look or dismiss such a crazy prophet from the wilderness – I mean, he’s not even wearing the right clothes, you know? Camel hair tweeds went out centuries ago.

Okay, maybe go ahead and stick Jesus up on that Sunday only shelf and talk about politics or health care or what’s on sale this fine MLK weekend when we celebrate cultural acceptance of diversity. But what if you were daring enough to take your faith seriously? Daring enough to really listen to the teachings of Jesus and put them in to practice in your life? Not a Sunday only shelf religion but a daily reality that informs your inner and outer being as you choose your course for the day? Would you hear him out, decide if the words he says are true enough to live by?  Would you dare to pair his teachings with action in the social and environmental justice spheres of our current times and lead the way to true justice?

In six of the next seven weeks, we will be hearing almost exclusively from the teachings of Jesus found in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. We have ample time to hear him out. We also have two thousand years of continued study and reflection on his teachings as they may relate to contemporary thinkers, writers, and doers for each and every age since John’s Epiphany revealed the Incarnate One as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (v. 29).

A colleague and mentor of mine, Rodger Nishioka of Columbia Theological Seminary, reminds us what the basic foundation of incarnational theology is: “that God became incarnate – became flesh – in Jesus Christ to embody fully God’s love for the world.”[2]

In today’s passage, John the Baptist, “provides testimony as to who Jesus is and points the way so that others come to recognize Jesus Christ,”[3] making him the first “doer” if you will.

Several hundred years after John the Baptist and Jesus walked the land witnessing to God’s heavenly kingdom, Teresa of Avila shares her take on incarnational theology as a poem in a letter to her nuns as she was nearing the end of her life:

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours,

No hands but yours,

No feet but yours,

Yours are the eyes through which to look out Christ’s compassion to the world;

Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.”

I wonder: for us, in our contemporary society, and perhaps especially this year, finding the balance between living our lives embodying Christ and pointing the way to Christ is what we, as faithful followers of the Way, should be about. Yes, we are the hands and feet of Christ now, but no, we are not – and cannot be, individually or even as one Unified Christianity – fully become the Messiah who sets out to save the world – much less the one who does so. No, we still need Jesus – just like we need all the other life-giving expressions of Spirit represented as the light in the world, which the darkness cannot overcome. May all glory be unto the Holy One;

Let us pray:

O Most Holy, you who sojourned among us for a time, guide us in our wandering ways that we might set our feet in your path and see you, the Christ, in the faces of the other, offering divine hospitality to all whom we meet in need. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord; Amen? May it be so.

[1] Toole, David. Feasting on the Word—Year A (Feasting-Year A);

David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, General Editors. Copyright © 2010 Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc., Version 2.0

[2] Nishioka, Rodger. Feasting on the Word—Year A (Feasting-Year A);

David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, General Editors. Copyright © 2010 Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc., Version 2.0

[3] Ibid.

Questions for Reflection

Andrew invited his brother Simon Peter to meet Jesus, and Peter’s life was changed forever. Do you invite others to come and see Jesus? How do you watch and listen for those who might be seeking Jesus? Do you trust God to give you gifts for sharing the story of your salvation? How then do you show the world God’s love made real in Christ?

Household Prayer: Morning

You inclined your ear and heard my cry, you lifted me when low; strengthen me for service, Lord, to carry your light in the world. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Fill me with your peace, O Lord, strengthen every end.  Find us resting in your arms, our life with you to spend. Amen.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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