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.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said.
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
John 1:6-8, 19-28
Witnessing to the light is our call to being in the world. The reading from this morning reminds us of that.
I’ve got to confess that so much of my time is spent worrying. Hour-by-hour-by-day-by-day questions fly around my brain: “What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” “Is this the right place to work?” “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” “Am I just spinning my wheels?”
This morning’s message shines a light on all of that for me: being witness to the light.
And what does that look like? What does it mean?
When I’m paying attention there are moments throughout the day, most everyday where situations would shift if there were just a little light. My co-workers would testify about the stress lately in the office (and my hunch is that this is true in most every office, most every environment where folks are spending a lot of time together).
We’ve been without an E.D. for three months and it’s been a long and stressful year where I work. [Maybe the folks in Bethany centuries ago could match me story-for-story…] I’ve found myself playing verbal tapes everyday of garbled garbage. Complaining. Being critical. Taking the verbal low-road and inviting folks to get on my bus and travel with me into this emotional wasteland.
In this season? With this work? For this one precious day?
The gospel writer’s text today paints a picture of John, the Baptist’s work as witness. He was one voice crying out in the wilderness, speaking truth to it. Living his life, shouting into the void of pain and despair ~ prepare, pay attention, don’t miss it. One is coming who will teach us to love one another. One is coming who will turn darkness into light, who will bring healing to this broken place.
I’ve never felt that I’m much of an evangelical Christian. I don’t know if I’ve knowingly ever shared my testimony...or have I? We’ve been given our speaking points for witnessing: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…” “blessed are the peacemakers…” “love one another.”
John’s message for us this day is about witnessing to the light. No more, no less. Is it possible for old habits to be set aside, for this day (…and maybe the next) so that we might better prepare the way? Is it possible for us to speak this new, life-giving truth in the wilderness?
Breath Prayer: “One” “is coming”
Holy One, prepare my heart to greet you. Guide me so that I might better follow. Bring light into the dark places of my spirit and transform me so that my words speak to faith and hope and love. Create in me a brighter spirit so that what doesn’t bring life falls away, and instead my days are spent witnessing to what is the best in life. Amen.
believes in beginnings and beginning again, in holding on and letting go, in God's presence as close as our next breath. Lesley works as a hospice Bereavement Coordinator in Atlanta. She is an ordained minister in the UCC and has just completed her second book, "Grief and the Psalms: Companioning the Moon in 29 Days" (to be released early in 2015).