Saturday, June 24, 2017

We Are Not the Messiah

Last night, my spouse was feeling despair.  He found out that one of his classes that he's about to teach is a class that comes to him with a syllabus, book, and assignments that he's not allowed to change.  Instead of feeling thrilled about the reduced work load for this week-end (creating a syllabus takes no small amount of time for him), he started to feel huge sadness about the state of higher ed in the U.S., where adjunct faculty aren't allowed to create their own classes or make the important decisions and where there aren't many full-time jobs left.

I have had this conversation many times in the past decade.  I, too, despair, and I have such a yearning to fix it all--but it's a problem much bigger than I am and far outside of my meager powers to do anything.

Last night, I thought about the fact that the next day would be the feast day of John the Baptist.  I said, "I wish I could fix this, but I can't"--a differently worded version of John the Baptist's answer to the question of identity:  "I am not the Messiah."

Now of course the fact that I can't fix the dynamics affecting the larger social picture doesn't mean that I can just shrug my shoulders and go with the status quo.  I must do what I can to ensure that the students get a quality education, that faculty have what they need to deliver that education, and that the staff are supported too.

And to continue this metaphor, John the Baptist reminds us to stay alert.  He's not the one for whom we wait, but that one is coming soon. 

We live in a culture that likes to keep us busy and distracted. We are all too busy to heed John's message: "Repent." Turn around. Do it now, before it is too late.

Today is a good day to think about John's message.  What parts of our society need salvation?  How can we be part of the redemption of all of creation?

And today, we might take a gentle look at ourselves.  We're none of us perfect, and while John's message about vipers and the ax that will chop down the tree that isn't bearing good fruit may sound harsh, it's one that we should sit with for awhile.

John the Baptist reminds us that we are called to emulate Jesus. Some days, though, I’d rather emulate somebody else. I’m so tired of working so hard to be a light to this fallen world.

When I feel that way, I need to listen to the words of John the Baptist again. I need to listen to God, who often calls to us from the wilderness. Most of us need to be reminded to listen to that call that God makes. Let the words fill our hearts with hope: "The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3: 5-6).

Our salvation is at hand: our grieving hearts will be comforted, our anger and irritation will lift, the planet will heal itself as it always does, God will take care of us and everything we need is on its way.

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