Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, January 16, 2011:

First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-7

Psalm: Psalm 40:1-12 (Psalm 40:1-11 NRSV)

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Gospel: John 1:29-42

Today's Gospel continues the story of Jesus' baptism, and it has lessons for each of us. Notice that Jesus doesn't get baptized and go home to sit on the sofa. He doesn't say, "Well, I'm glad I got that spiritual landmark over with. Now I don't have to do anything else until I die and get to go to Heaven."

No. Jesus goes out and tackles his mission. What is his mission? The same as ours: to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is revealing itself right here, right now, that God is breaking through our mundane daily life to transform us into better people in a better world.

But notice that Jesus doesn't go around yakking about this all the time. He's not the type of guy that drives most of us crazy, all talk and no follow through. When people ask about his mission, he says, "Come and see."

And what will people see? They will see a man healing the sick, comforting the poor in spirit, feeding the poor, eating with the outcast, and supporting the lowest people in society's social stratum (women, children, demon possessed, tax collectors, and the like). They will see a man who sacrifices his social life and prospects for a long life so that other lives will have improvement. They will see a man of constant movement.

What do people see when they look at your life? I've said it before, but it bears repeating: people pay attention to your actions. If your actions don't match your words, people don't accept your words. But it's worse: people see you as a hypocrite, one of those Christian types they hate so much. But it's even worse: if your actions habitually don't match your words, people begin to assume that ALL Christians are hypocrites.

I know it's tough some days. We're impatient. We wonder why these out-of-towners can't turn when they get a green arrow, and we lean on our horns. In these days of gathering gloom (economic, ecological), it's harder to part with our money. We want to conserve and hoard. We don't want to comfort a sick coworker because she reminds us that human flesh is so frail and grasslike. We would rather retreat to our houses and watch reality TV shows.

What's a beleaguered Christian to do? Pray for help, of course. Each morning, when you wake up and wash your body, remind yourself that you are marked with the cross of Christ forever. Then ask God to help you be the light of the world today. Remember that the world watches you, waiting for your light. Remember that when your light shines, other people feel better about being people of the sun. Forgive yourself for days when you're a dimly burning wick (to use the words of Isaiah's, in last week's readings) and remember that God does not extinguish a dimly burning wick.

And remember, that we are called to do tough work. Remember to follow the example of your Savior. Surround yourself with like-minded people who will help you on the journey. With these people, take frequent food breaks (eat fresh-baked bread and drink wine!). Every so often, retreat from the world's demands so that you can pray and recharge. And remember that Martin Luther said that faith should move your feet. We are called to be Movement People. And even the smallest movements can lead to great changes down the road.

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