Friday, January 17, 2020

Remembering The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 19 January 2020



John 1:29-42        John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).
Reflection        Rather than reflect on the gospel I want to join our entire country recognizing an ordinary Holy man.  In his now famous and final Sunday sermon preached at the National Cathedral on March 31, 1968 I believe The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words are as relevant today as they were fifty two years ago. “Human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and the persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God.”

As it is with prophets throughout the ages, King’s words pierce the veneer of culture and call all citizens to right action. King confronts us, “On some positions, cowardice asks the question: Is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question: Is it politic? Vanity asks the question: Is it popular? Conscience asks the question: Is it right?” Now hear King’s call to action, “There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.” King was an ordinary Holy man calling on each and every one of us to be ordinary Holy men and Holy women (and forgive King his lack of gender neutral language) living for what is right. 

Prophets are ordinary people who dare to speak when others are silent. Prophets are people like you and me who choose to stand on the ground of our relationship with God even when it is not expedient, politic or popular because prophets are ordinary people who live by our conscience and choose to reveal God’s love every hour of every day, even, and perhaps especially, when it makes us uncomfortable.

Are prophets perfect? No. History has a scathing way of slicing and dicing a prophet’s character. And, that is actually good news because, prophets are ordinary people like you and me, imperfect people who have taken to heart and fashioned their lives as best they are able on the words of that Jewish prophet Jesus whom we hear praying, “Not my will, your will be done.” Somehow prophets know, and have always known, that God is present and active in the world today, something that we affirm at the beginning of our worship every single Sunday.

The presider acclaims, “God is with you.”   The people respond, “And also with you.”

Are these empty words? Do we mean them? It we do that means each one of us stands with God, derives our blessings from God, finds our courage in God, and acts deliberately to be a co-worker with God. 

It takes humility, courage and audacity to claim our identity as ordinary Holy people. Humility to admit that all that we are and all that we have is pure gift. Courage to put our faith in God with us, enabling us to be more than we can imagine. Audacity to not only hope but to act deliberately to call out the evils we witness and extend the blessings we enjoy. 


The world is crying out for us to  be co-workers with God and claim our place with ordinary Holy women and men like Martin Luther King, Jr. Shall we choose to live by our conscience?

Friday, January 10, 2020

Gospel text for Sunday 12 January 2020




Matthew 3:13-17       Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Reflection      The question humanity is faced with is not, “What do you believe?” It is, “How are you living?”The clue to answering this question is hidden in plain hearing, in Jesus’ response to John’s hesitation to baptize him. And Jesus said, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” We are meant to live in fulfillment of all righteousness.

What is righteousness? Let’s begin with what it is not. Righteousness is not an abstract moral code nor a mark of religious piety. Righteousness is not about belief. Righteousness is right living.  It is an attribute of God and as beings created in the image of God, righteousness must also be an attribute of each one of us. Righteousness means living in right relationship with God, all people and creation. As righteous people we are honorable, virtuous and act deliberately for the good of all people. 

Which brings us to Jesus’ other weighty word,  ‘fulfillment.’ To fulfill is to make real and carry out. It  presumes there has been an order or instruction that is to be performed and perfected. When Jesus says, “for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness,” we understand the order or instruction to be performed and perfected is righteousness, living in right relationship with God and with all people. 

We are not intended to fill our lives with empty rituals (as a friend recently noted, champagne, sparklers, exotic vacations and flaming deserts are titillating but they have no lasting value). We are meant to use our lives to embody and express God’s promise of dignity and love for all people. 

Last week I challenged parishioners to go out of their way to extend God’s love to a homeless person. Here is Dave Arneson’s description of how he and his wife Shelly were transformed by doing just that.

“Tuesday is date day for Shelly and me.  I asked her what she wanted to do and her reply was “I want to go and take care packages to the homeless.”  After Sundays For God’s Sake Listen, we both had a better appreciation for what homeless meant to others, and allowed us to start thinking a little differently. 
So we put together some sacks with water, a granola bar, and some fruit and headed downtown to find some individuals to share them with.  As we got closer to the area, my impression was that we were going to just hand them out through the car window as we came upon those that looked like they could use them.  Well, Shelly had a different idea.  She wanted to go greet them and spend some time talking with them.  My insides started churning as this was not what I had envisioned.  
As we neared the park near Speedway and Stone, there were several small groups of folks that appeared to be homeless.  We saw one man by himself on the far side of the park, and Shelly said let’s start with him.  I immediately said, “are you sure.  I don’t think he looks well and might possibly be talking to someone even though he was there by himself.”  I wanted to just go find someone else who might be a little safer.  Shelly said, “you can stay here – I’ll just take this over and you can watch from the car”.  Well, I wasn’t going to let her go alone, and I know after 27 years of marriage that she was going to do it anyway.  I told her to wait while I locked my wallet in the car and we could go together, that I would be right behind her, literally right behind her!  
As we approached, the gentleman he was busy sorting through his array of what can only be described as garbage in a heap around him.  There was some sort of blanket, maybe a tarp, several cardboard flat boxes, papers, etc.  I thought how can anyone live like this.  Shelly approached him and began a conversation.  He was wearing pajama bottoms, a tattered sweatshirt, a flip-flop on one foot and a sock on the other.  He looked as if he had not seen a shower in a very long time.  He had been talking to either himself, or to someone or something around him.  We assumed he was suffering from some type of mental illness.  
We learned that his name was Bernard as Shelly offered him one of the care packages that we had brought.  He took the package, then held up one finger while he searched his area.  After a minute or so, he came back with an orange that he had in his “home” and gave it to me.  Apparently he felt the need to give us something in return.  We talked with him for 10 or 15 minutes trying to find out if he was OK, and what could we bring him.  He said he could use some beef jerky – food and protein that would not go bad so quickly.  Shelly asked how he was going to eat and he said “God will provide”.  We said how do you know He will…..and he said “Well, he sent you”.  We looked at each other and both thought the same thing that his faith was what was keeping him going.  He had not only one bible in his goods, but two!  We thanked him for his time and said we would be praying for him.
As we drove home, we talked about meeting him and his situation.  That’s when it occurred to me that I don’t think God sent us for Bernard, but he sent Bernard for us.
Many of our assumptions about the homeless were just that – assumptions.  Until we took the chance to spend time with them, to listen for God’s sake, did we truly see His presence.” 
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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Matthew 2:1-12        In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Reflection        Walking south on Shattuck on the East Side of the bay in Berkeley, California, heading toward Church Divinity School of the Pacific I lost count of the number of homeless people over or around whom I had to step. It was my first day in seminary. Before I arrived at the chapel for Morning Prayer I had given away my lunch and cash. Following a week of this heart wrenching ritual I went to my faculty advisor, The Rev. Dr. Louis Weil, and asked, “What shall I do?”

After duly acknowledging the gravity of the situation Louis counseled, “Choose one person, make them your person and take care of them.” Now you might think this would be easy, but how, oh how could I possibly choose one person out of the hundreds in need? Every day I walked, scanned the sidewalks, curbs and benches silently asking, “Are you my person?” Every day until the late afternoon I saw a star shining in the eyes of a man sitting on the sidewalk, back against the street sign outside the corner Blockbuster franchise. (For those who may not know, once upon a time people actually walked into brick and mortar shops like Blockbuster to rent videos!) I will call “my person”  Zeke.

I have no idea how I knew that I knew that Zeke was “my person,” but that is what epiphany is about. It is recognizing the divine in the world around us, in the people we encounter. And the natural response is to offer our gifts. Most days for the next three years I made my way to Zeke’s corner, offered a gift of cash or lunch, conversation, or help getting an id card and access to human services. Each time I looked into Zeke’s pacific eyes I recognized divinity therein and realized, I needed Zeke more than he needed me.  You see, Zeke always had the last word, pausing after each utterance to articulate his benediction, “God….bless…. you.”

Epiphany celebrates the journey of the wise bringing gifts to honor the Incarnation, the enfleshed presence of Divinity. Which begs several questions. Are we recognizing the presence of the Christ in the people around us? Are we being deceived by the rich and worldly? Are we seeing the Christ in the least, the lost and the lonely? Are we celebrating the revelation of Christ present by offering our gifts unselfishly?


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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Gospel text for Sunday 29 December 2019

John 1:1-18        In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.'") From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.


Reflection        Having just enjoyed Christmas with my family, including loquacious 11 year old Alec and 18 month old Wesley, I cannot count the number of times I heard Wesley invited to, “Use your Words.” Each time he complied, expressions of glee and encouragement resounded. The evocative power of words is compelling. 

Perhaps that is why the writer of the Gospel according to John begins, “In the beginning was the Word” and “all things come into being” with the Word. The Greek for “Word” is “logos.” It refers to the wisdom, reason and order of God incarnate through Jesus, the human revelation of creative Divine Presence. Jesus reveals the expressive capacity for taking all things into account, considering them and using his words to instruct the physical and ethical grounds for right relationships, human with human and human with Divinity. 

The “Word” may be said to represent the convergence of Divine and human genius. It conveys the gift of intellect present through the receptivity of humanity to Divinity. And here is the astonishing news. The “Word” is not the exclusive purview of Jesus. The ‘Word” represents “the true light, which enlightens everyone…” With the exception of those born silent, the spoken “Word” reveals the capacity of each of us to receive and express the wisdom, reason and order of God right here, right now, on earth.

It used to be that we heard the “Word” of God breaking through to us from some distant and surreal region beyond the beyond. It was the Word of remote God spoken through angels or a motley crew of snarky and sometimes cranky prophets. But today we have the feet on the ground revelation that ever since the very “beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And this Word that has come into being... is life itself ..life that is the light of all people.” This changes everything.

The “Word” of God is not distant or remote. The “Word” of God is the light and life at the very center of each one of us. The “Word” of God is with us... with all people. We have never been separated from God, not for an instant, not since the beginning because the creating Word of God is our very light... the radiance of our life. And with it we are meant to represent God’s wisdom, reason and order on earth. 

Here is the invitation for 2020. Use all your words to express the compelling power of God’s wisdom, reason and order on earth and every thing will be changed for the good. 


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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Gospel text for Christmas Eve 24 December 2019

Luke 2:1-14        In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven,


Have you ever seen a newborn or very young infant? There is something unspeakably fragile about them, something that breaks through the accumulated layers of our composure, lifts our eyebrows and the pitch of our voice and renders us rather ditzy dolts. Even three hundred pound men in grey flannel suits cannot resist a quick “koo chee koo chee koo.” And then, there is that other moment, when the weight of responsibility for this utterly vulnerable being dawns upon us. 
I will never forget that experience with my daughter Leela. She was ten days old and it was the first time I was alone in the house with her. I put her on her change table and then remembered I needed something on the other side of the room. As I turned to walk away I was overwhelmed with the realization, “If I walk away she could fall and die. Her very life depends on me. Oh no. What have I done?”
Before the nativity of Jesus we expect God to arrive with an army and break the ranks of our oppressors. We expect God to burst onto the scene and execute an apocalyptic event that destroys all that is evil and rescues all that is good. But God enters our human story as a vulnerable infant born into seriously compromised circumstances, evoking our wonder, compassion and love. 
Is that not apocalyptic? Awakening the wonder, compassion and love of humanity?  It certainly was for me. As a grievously self absorbed grad student, bent on completing my dissertation and playing hard ball with the boys in academia, Leela was born into seriously compromised circumstances. The realization that I was directly responsible for the life of this vulnerable being was like ten years worth of forth of July fireworks going off in my mind at one time. I was awestruck. I wept. I picked her up and looked at the light in her eyes and finally saw beyond my own self interest. I held her close to feel her breathing on my cheek, a breath I cherish more than my own. In hindsight I believe this is how compassion and love were born in me, and it was apocalyptic. It changed everything. This weak and dependent newborn broke through the accumulated layers of my composure, uprooted my evil (self absorption) and rescued my good.
I am not saying that Leela is God, not any more or any less than any other child. I am saying, the nativity of Jesus changes our minds and our hearts about every single child that is born, which of course comes to be every living being. Every one of the more than seven and a half billion people on our planet today enters our human story as a vulnerable infant born into seriously compromised circumstances. Our lives depend on one another. Make no mistake, we are meant to respond to each and every human being with wonder, compassion and love. Thanks to the nativity of Jesus, God enters our human story and makes this possible. Emmanuel. God is with us! Merry Christmas!!

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Friday, December 20, 2019

Gospel text for Quiet Christmas 20 December 2019

Luke 1.26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Reflection       A teenage peasant girl of unremarkable lineage living among some one hundred and fifty people in a tiny farming village far away from any well traveled trade routes is visited by an angel.*  When the angel arrives this girl whom we know as Mary is not in a temple and as far as we know she is not even praying. So it is no wonder Mary is “much perplexed” when the angel says, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.”
Think about that moment. How would you feel if on an ordinary day you are standing in your kitchen, maybe you have just spread some almond butter on toast or ate some ice cream right out of the carton, when from the depths of your being you “hear,” “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.”
Would you be like Zachariah who also had an angelic encounter? You may recall the story. Zachariah, a priest, is serving at the incense altar inside the Holiest part of the temple when the angel Gabriel appears. “When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” (Luke 1.12-15) Would you be so terrified and overwhelmed that you would be dumbstruck and speechless as Zachariah? The story continues and Zachariah is mute until the day the child is born, thereby proving the angel’s promise. Then Zachariah finally speaks the child’s name “John.” (Luke 1.20)
Or, would you be more like Mary, standing and startled in her humble home? Perplexed by the angelic promise, Mary pauses and ponders, she goes deep inside her soul and asks, “How can this be?” Then apprehending angelic assurance in the depths of her being, “For nothing will be impossible with God,” Mary consents with uncommon faith. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” 
Here is the thing. The incarnation we celebrate at Christmas requires not only the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit, but also the consent of the ordinary peasant girl Mary. Mary could have said, “I must have had too much wine and now  it is making me hear an angel’s voice and have crazy thoughts. Surely my imagination is running away with me. I am just an ordinary girl. Great things are not meant for me.”
Mary could have reacted as did Zachariah and been silenced by  terror and disbelief. Or, Mary could have simply said, “No. There is no way I can consent to be being unwed and pregnant. Do you not understand, I could be stoned to death?”
But Mary rises to the occasion and accepts the angel’s staggering annunciation. “Let it be with me according to your word.” And so begins the intimate dance of humanity and divinity. Mary consents to the seed of divinity planted in her womb and from that moment on it is clear, nothing, no calamity, humiliation or mishap, no sickness, struggle, sacrifice not even death can separate humanity from divinity, because God is with us and we affirm the angel’s promise, “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
In the dark mid winter we listen to the angel of God saying, “Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you. And now, in the center of your being you will conceive the Christ child, the light that transforms the darkness. And your light will be the light of the world and you will help to bring about the kingdom of God on earth by revealing God’s love in your light every day.” 

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*https://www1.cbn.com/BibleArcheology/archive/2010/12/19/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-nazareth

Friday, December 13, 2019

Gospel text for 3rd Sunday of Advent 15 December 2019


Matthew 11:2-11        When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”


Reflection       According to Maimonides, the Jewish scholar, rabbi and physician who is to Judaism what St. Thomas Aquinas is to Christianity, belief in the eventual coming of a Messiah is a fundamental part of Judaism. Maimonides describes the “one who is to come,” the messiah,  this way. “A king shall arise from among the House of David, studying Torah and occupied with commandments like his father David...  and he will impel all of Israel to follow it and to strengthen breaches in its observance, and will fight God's wars, this one is to be treated as if he were the anointed one. If he succeeded and built the Holy Temple in its proper place and gathered the dispersed ones of Israel together, this is indeed the anointed one for certain, and he will mend the entire world to worship the Lord together…” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messiah  

This being the job description of the messiah for whom John is looking, it is no wonder John sent his disciples to question Jesus, “Are you the one who is coming or are we to wait for another?” Surely John heard about “all the things” that Jesus was doing; giving sight to the blind, restoring the lame to walk, cleansing the lepers, healing the deaf and raising the dead.  If he has not seen, surely he has heard about  the great crowds from Syria, Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem and Judea streaming to follow Jesus.

Rumors must have been rampant about Jesus’ mind-bending mountaintop sermon proclaiming the poor and the hungry are blessed, the meek who understand their place in God’s kingdom are happy and those who are just and sincere are satisfied. (Matt 5.1-11)  John had to be scratching his beard and wondering how Jesus' lengthy list of accomplishments coupled with his catalog of blessings could possibly align with the expected Messiah’s job description. 


From the point of view of John and the religious Jews of his time, Jesus does not fit the Messiah’s job description. This remains true today. Although many Jews understand Jesus to be an exemplary prophet, he fails to gather the “dispersed ones of Israel together.” Jesus cannot be the anointed one because he fails  to enforce the letter of the law and “to mend the entire world to worship the Lord together.”  

John the Baptist is more than perplexed by Jesus. The one whom John baptized in the river Jordan, the one whose sandals John was not worthy to tie, the one upon whom the Spirit of God descended, the “one who is to come” and bring the “kingdom of heaven near” turns out to be the unorthodox dissident, Jesus. How could this be the one John is looking for? How could Jesus  be the Messiah John is hoping for?  John’s expectations about what the messiah should look like prevent him from recognizing the Messiah as he is.

Which begs the question;  What are we hoping against hope will arise in the wilderness of our lives? What expectations, beliefs or preconceived notions make us deaf and blind and unreceptive to the”one who is to come?” Whom are we looking for this Advent season? An autocratic king wielding power from an imperious precipice, bursting onto the scene for a grand rescue intervention? Or a humble servant born to birth the Spirit of the living God in the heart of every one of us? 

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