January 12, 2003

Mark 1:4-11

John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

As he preached he said, "The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will change your life. I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism -- a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit -- will change you from the inside out."

At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God's Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."

<The Message>


1. What a strange place for John to surface. There is no more reason for him to be there than for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem or to grow up in Nazareth or to now be traveling where John was.

Oh, we can call it all, "God-planned." But, pay attention to your own life's journey. Doesn't it raise the possibility that you are right where you need to be to surface issues of life-change? You do not need to see this as grand confluence but simply as fortuitous circumstance.

Bloom and preach where you are.

2. This is my last Sunday of preaching at St. Luke's where I have been for six and one-half years. I am struggling a month ahead with that last sermon. And yet it may simply be that it is one more opportunity, just like last Sunday, to be faithful to the message of the moment through a mixture of affirmation and challenge.

It may only be our desire for adding significance to events that we invest beginnings and ending with extra-ordinary effects that will change everything in the blink of an eye.

At best the challenge for life-change I have brought was caught by some and rejected by others. Some were confirmed in these rough waters of change and found themselves marked by GOD's love. Some turned away from what they deemed unseemly spectacle having their pride and not needing more.

I'll be interested to see how this plays out. How would you play it?

3. John came with camel's hair and I came with a messy office. Hopefully we have both set the scene well for the "real star" that is coming after us.

Hopefully that is what you are about, as well. Setting the stage for better living for the world, for GOD's presence to come on earth as it is in heaven. This stage-setting is as significant as anything we do. In fact the star of the show wouldn't get the critical acclaim they do without some stage-setters. Paint a backdrop and they will get it. Place the props properly and the scene will come alive. Be as proud to be an excellent stage-setter as the star is for a good review.