Wednesday, December 10, 2014

e-vo for week of December 10

Dearest e-votees-

Our appointed gospel reading comes from the first chapter of John

For a second week our emphasis is on John the Baptist.



6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 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.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

John 1:6-8, 19-28, NRSV

John, like Mark last week, has none of the familiar Christmas birth details--no Mary, no Joseph, no census, no star, no shepherds, no angels, no wise men--none of that. There is the poetic and beautiful prologue of John which resonates so well with the beginning of Genesis. And then the text turns to John the Baptist:

The religious leaders come out and question John about who he is and why he is baptizing people.

He denies that he is the Messiah. He denies that he is Elijah (which the Messiah takes some issue with--see Matthew 11:11-15 and Matthew 17:9-13). He denies that he is the prophet. He self-identifies as the one Isaiah described as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” John the Baptist finds his roots and grounding in the Old Testament prophesies. Jesus also finds his roots and grounding in the Old Testament prophesies--he opened his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4:16 ff. which quotes our appointed Old Testament text from Isaiah. John understands the work to which he has been called. He is grounded and rooted and steps courageously into the call God has given him. Jesus calls him the greatest born among women (see Matthew 11:11a).

John also knows that he is not the end all. He is sent to point towards another. He directs people towards one whose sandal straps he isn't worthy to loose. He is helping usher people into the kingdom of heaven. Anyone, even the least, who makes it into the kingdom of heaven is greater than John (see Matthew 11:11b). John must become smaller in order that Christ must become greater. John understands the passing nature of the work to which he has been called. He is rooted and grounded in that calling so he can humbly fade to the background.

God, give us courage to step into the bold callings you have on our lives. God, give us humility to let ourselves fade to the back so that you and your plans might come to the fore. Amen.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

e-vo for week of December 3

Dearest e-votees-

Our appointed text for this coming Sunday is the first 8 verses of the Gospel of Mark.

It is interesting to see what level of detail Mark has about the birth and early childhood of Jesus.



1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He 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. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:1-8, NRSV

In Mark the beginning of the good news (aka the Gospel) of Jesus Christ is found in the prophecy in Isaiah. The fulfillment of the prophecy is found in the ministry of baptism of John at the river Jordan.

We have records in Mark of neither angels nor shepherds; neither betrothals nor virgin births; neither extraordinary star nor ensuing gift bearing wise men; neither divinely caused inability of speech nor divinely inspired uttered Magnificats; neither newborn king nor attempted assassination of said king. Mark offers none of the Nativity details of Matthew and Luke (which are often hopelessly conflated) but rather begins with the account of John baptizing.

John is dressed in the garment of a prophet and was proclaiming that people should repent and be washed in preparation for the one who was yet to come (no mention of the familial connection). John isn't worthy to even touch the shoestrings of the one who is coming (in contrast to that one washing the feet of all of the apostles if we fold the testimony of the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John into the story). There is one coming who is holy and to be treated with great respect. Yet this one to come puts aside this regard and takes his place among saints and sinners both, among religious leaders and tax collectors, at the basin with a towel and on the cross with a mocking crown. Jesus comes but not as John expects which explains his dispatch from prison in both Matthew and Luke asking if Jesus was really the one to come.

Jesus comes into this world but not as we'd expect. We need the Holy Spirit to help us see and believe in the message he bears. Thankfully Jesus gives the Holy Spirit away just as John gives away opportunities for repentance. As we linger in Advent waiting for Jesus to come into the manger liturgically and to usher in the full reign of God at the end of all time perhaps we might trust that God, the Holy Spirit, will continue to draw us into these holy promises.

God, blow your Holy Spirit into our waiting that we might have revelation and hope; power and wisdom; peace and joy. Give us courage and faith to trust that the good news that began in Jesus Christ will find its end there too all to your glory. Amen.