The church year and the commemorations of the church are not bound to Sundays only. June 24th is the day set aside to commemorate John the Baptist. Luke 1:26 tells us that Elizabeth was 6 months along when Mary had her visitation from Gabriel. If we are going to celebrate the eve of Jesus' birth on December 24th then you need to back up 6 months (that is, June 24th) to get to the time when we would celebrate John the Baptist's birth.
You might not hear about this text this Sunday in church but that is just another reminder of why we are blessed and grown as Christians if we diligently study the scriptures including those not in our three-year lectionary cycle.
May you be blessed this day (and you are--may you discern those blessings and share them with others).
Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem; but they went on from Perga and came to Antioch in Pisidia. And on the sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.” So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: “You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’ Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.’ “My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to use the message of this salvation has been sent.”
The text above is one of the appointed lessons for this day. 4 things jump out of this text as ways that we might allow the Spirit to shape us this day:
Eagerness to receive exhortation.
The leaders of the synagogue in Antioch ask for a word of exhortation. They are desiring to be instructed and guided in the ways of God. They are in their house of worship on the sabbath and eager to hear. The leaders are seeking to be fed. How open are we this day to hearing what God would say to us? How easily are we interrupted today if God would speak something to us--even if not at church through the called pastor on the sabbath. Are we like Mary ready to drop everything else that might distract and sit at the Lord's feet or are we clanging and fuming and fussing in the kitchen--or in the cubicle--or at the playground with the kids--or in the garden--or ... ?
Remembering our history
There is something powerful about being able to rehearse from whence we came. We are forged in the cauldrons of our families, our communities, the particular historical events that catch us at impressionable times and mark us forever. Knowing our past helps us embrace what is needed to enter into the futures that God has prepared. Paul knows his history and the history of those to whom he is speaking. Part of how God can use us more effectively in reaching others is for us to truly know the people to whom we are speaking. As the Spirit moves in your life this day find ways to share your story and enter into the story of another.
Allowing our hearts to be shaped after God's
David had a heart that was after God's. Clearly David wasn't perfect and didn't fulfill all of God's wishes. We don't need those kind of performance anxiety pressures heaped on us either. God would, however, make our hearts more like God's if that was our desire. God will not coerce us but God will beckon and woo. This day maybe we can be open to God doing work in our hearts. David's life was not only a powerful testimony but God continued what was begun there to bring about salvation through his legacy in the person of Jesus. God can work through us and the legacy we leave as well. But it starts with our hearts.
Humility in pointing away from ourselves to God
Pictures of John the Baptist often show him pointing away from himself to Jesus. John ultimately decreased so that God might increase (see John 3:30--source of the bumper sticker " I < + > " ). We need to find ways to allow our egos and our statures to become smaller so that God's grace and love and mercy might grow and thrive. It starts with redirecting people to God when they might want to fix their gazes upon us. John's real gift was that he was able to catch the imaginations of lots of people but only to redirect them towards God. Perhaps God can use us in that way today too. (I'm okay with avoiding the head on the platter part--you?!?)
God, help us this day to be open to your interruption and your correction. Exhort us and give us courage and faith to live into those callings. Help us to remember our histories and the places that have shaped us. Draw us into your plans and places that you have prepared for us. Take our parched and heavy hearts and shape them into ones more like yours. Help us point to you in ways that people can understand. Help us to live lives of courageous testimony like that of John the Baptist. Amen.