Summer 2015 Pastor’s Pen
Dear Holy Trinity family,
“The Man Has a Point.” That’s the title of a bulletin cover blurb I found tucked away with notes about John the Baptist. We celebrate John’s birthday on June 24, 6 months before Christmas.
Do you remember how Mary, the pregnant mother of our Lord, visited her elderly-yet-great-with-child cousin Elizabeth? St. Luke tells us that Elizabeth cried out:
“…as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy!” (Luke 1:44)
That child would be called John, at the direction of an angel who visited his priestly father Zechariah as he performed his temple duties. We call him John the Baptist, or even better, John the Baptizer. (John the Baptist sounds like a denominational label, as if he’s a member of Pastor Joe’s First Baptist Church down the block!)
Elizabeth & Zechariah’s son John grew up to be a bit of an odd duck. He wore a robe of camel’s hair – not in fashion! and can you even imagine how itchy?? – and ate a diet of grasshoppers and honey. Like the Nazirites we read about in Hebrew Scripture, he drank no wine and got no haircuts, signs of his total devotion to God.
John’s job was to point – away from himself and toward our Lord Jesus, the promised Messiah. John is called the last of the prophets – it is he who announced God’s keeping of the divine promise, repeated over and over in the Hebrew Scriptures, to send a Savior. John had a following all his own – a group of friends who believed and valued what he said and stuck close by him. St. John the Evangelist says that one day John the Baptizer:
…saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! …” The next day John was again standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” (John 1:29, 35-36)
One of those disciples was Andrew. When he inquired where Jesus was staying, Jesus said, “Come and see.” (John 1:39) Andrew then ran to tell his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41) After a thousand years of waiting, the promise was being kept! Was John sad to see Andrew shift allegiance to Jesus and leave John’s little band? Humanly speaking, maybe he felt a twinge. But this is what he said, and this is why we celebrate his birth as the hours of daylight begin to wane:
“…I [am] not the Messiah but simply the one sent ahead of him to get things ready… The bridegroom’s friend, his ‘best man’ – that’s me – in place at his side where he can hear every word, is genuinely happy… That’s why my cup is running over. This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” (John 3:28-30, The Message)
The precise translation of that last verse is:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Ah, and there’s the point of remembering that, “The man has a point.”John’s words hold true for us today as well as for him two thousand years ago:
Jesus must increase, but we must decrease.
As we pray about optimal staffing at Holy Trinity, as we discern what direction the Lord would have us go, as we figure out what priorities He would have us set, both for internal ministry and outward-bound mission, may Jesus increase and may we decrease.
John the Baptizer, beloved son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, fiery conclusion to a long line of prophets, recognized and pointed to the Lamb of God. John realized that it is Jesus who takes away the sin of the world, a revelation immortalized in music and song: “Ecce Agnus Dei, qui tollit peccata mundi.”
This is the Good News we have to share – have as in “the Good News we must share” and as in “the Good News we possess to share.” May we faithfully do so, in all seasons.
In the name of Christ, the Lamb of God,
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham