Sermon Preparation -
December 12, 1999
John 1:6-8, 19-28
God sent a man named John,
who came to tell about the light
and to lead all people to have faith.
Johns wasn't that light.
He came only to tell about the light.
. . .
The leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and temple helpers to ask John who he was. He told them plainly, "I am not the Messiah." Then when they asked him if he were Elijah, he said, "No, I am not!" and when they asked if he were the Prophet, he also say "No!"
Finally, they said, "Who are you then? We have to give an answer to the ones who sent us. Tell us who you are!"
John answered in the words of the prophet Isaiah, "I am only someone shouting in the desert, 'Get the road ready for the Lord!'"
Some Pharisees had also been sent to John. They asked him, "Why are you baptizing people, if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?"
John told them, "I use water to baptize people. But here with you is someone you don't know. Even though I came first, I am not good enough to untie his sandals." John said this as he was baptizing east of the Jordan river in Bethany. [CEV]
1. How intriguing to find one's identity in what one is not. All around us our culture tells us, in one way and another, to be all you can be. John seems to turn that around and to be all that the one coming later will find helpful -- to be a clearer of space for a larger light to shine more brightly. Is your identity caught up with who you are in whose you are?
2. Ah, yes, the old question of authority. "Who do you think you are!?" Again John does not claim more than he is. This is John's power. He knows who he is not. Does that approach seem strange to you or natural?
3. John did his baptizing east of the Jordan. This puts him beyond the governmental and religious authorities. Being on the other side of the river, not beholden to any usual social power, church or state, also gives John power and authority that no institution appreciates. What part of your life comes from outside the usual expectations of family and society? It is here that new ground can be broken. It is here that you bring a good gift to change the world, to call it to repent, to get the road ready for the Lord. Rejoice in that part of you which is an outsider for it is crucial to your identity and to your calling to fulfill your purpose in creation.
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