In the narrative of the Bible, there is a significant gap in the records between the final writings of the Old Testament and the public ministry of Jesus in his lifetime. This is not to say that important and significant events happened in the midst of that gap, nor to say that there are no records of writings from that time. Not at all. But the record that we have in most contemporary Bibles ends the Old Testament with the writings of a prophet named Malachi (sometimes known as Malachi, the Italian Prophet). And this makes it all the more interesting that some of the later writings in the book bear relevance for our reading of the coming of John the Baptist.
First, and as we heard read before us this morning, we hear the prophecy of the one who has been sent to prepare the way for the Lord who is to come. That there is a messenger who will come to the people to precede the one who is to come and who will prepare the people for the appearance of the Lord as he comes to the temple.
This has echoes in Isaiah, which is quoted in our reading from Luke’s Gospel, and which originally appeared in the 40th chapter of the writings of the prophet Isaiah with the words we heard read from the Gospel, along with these words:
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
This is the message of the one who is to prepare us for the Day of the Lord’s coming: Here is your God.
I’ve been reflecting a great deal lately on what it is that we as a church have to offer to the world. What is it that brings us together and can draw us and others to be part of this life we have together at St. Bede’s. What is our special sauce that when people experience it they will come back for more?
Here’s my response to that: A vision of God and life in Christ, shared among us, that is so captivating, so irresistible, that like the man who found a pearl of such great value that he sold all he had to buy it, that our lives would be so completely oriented to God and the presence of Christ in our lives.
Or, to be a bit more succinct in this, that our lives would be transformed by the message of the Gospel.
In this, I think I’ve been going about this wrong in my life lately, and that this may have been playing out in my ministry and work among the people of God. That I’ve been more focused on the “doing” aspect of what it means to be faithful to God, and of being loving, kind, and charitable toward others, and less so on encountering the magnificence of God and looking for the presence of God in my life.
I’m certain that this has affected my work among you as well, that it’s almost as if we’ve skipped over that part!
But I remember the days of being awestruck at the wonder and glory of this God who created us and all that we see around us, and who loves us and cares for us and is always with us, wherever we go. And ultimately, who came to us and to our assistance the life and work of Jesus Christ.
In many ways, I think I’ve come to take that for granted, especially in the deconstruction of my own faith as I made the switch from Evangelicalism to Anglicanism. That in that switch, my concept of God and what God is really like became more unclear and less certain, that God became less knowable because of the separation between my finite life and the magnitude of God. That sounds funny to say it that way, it sounds like it wouldn’t need to be that way, but it is. The less certain what God is like, and even the more loving and gracious my understanding of God became, the less tangible or the less clear God has become.
I want to recapture that, and that as members of St. Bede’s we would together share in the faith and belief of the majestic God revealed to us in the face of Jesus Christ.
John pointed the people to Jesus: What are we pointing people to?