Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bethany Bullet - January 10, 2012

In the Gospel reading assigned for the Festival of the Baptism of our Lord, Mark’s description of the audience must not be overlooked or underestimated. “All the Judean countryside and all of Jerusalem was going out to see and hear – John.” -Mark 1:5

Sometimes, time tricks us.

Perhaps, this is never truer than in ‘church-year’ time. For the past two or three weeks shepherds and Magi have been all the rage. For the past three plus weeks the Baby has been our primary focus. But in real time (the time of Mark chapter 1), it has been two or three decades since they Magi and shepherds were on the scene. In lectionary time it’s only been a few weeks since we’ve been in the fields, but in real time it has been a lifetime (at least the lifetime of a Lamb). While the Baby was the star of the event these past few weeks, in real time it has been a few decades since He was a babe. By the time of Mark 1 Jesus is a man, but not yet a well known man. Here and now (Mark 1) the baby’s cousin, John the Baptist, is the headliner.

In the past (Luke 2) one Herod feared what the child might become, in the present (Mark 1) a new Herod fears what John the Baptist is. In days gone by, the teachers of the law gathered to ponder the question as to the place the Babe was to be born; in the current days of our text they gather to ponder who the man named John is.

If ever any servant was greater (at least more popular) than his Master it was the baptizer. The longer he worked the water, the greater the crowds that gathered and the more his fame grew. Had it been a few months or had it been a few years that we don’t know; but this we do, John was a household name before the general public had even heard whispers of Jesus of Nazareth.

I don’t know about you, but that would have gone to my head!

In the musical Wicked there is a scene in which the “good” witch Glinda, who does prove to be good, admits that her love for her friends is equaled if not surpassed by her love for the attention and adulation of the crowd. “Who could resist it?” she asks. “You know who, and she has.” says her fiancée Fiyero in reference to Elphaba the “wicked” witch. Of course this is just a fictional musical. However, in the real rhythm of history there was one who could resist the attention, adulation, and continue to serve in humiliation as well as offer the confession, “I am not worthy to untie the sandals of the one who is to come.” No small feat! John had everyone’s ear. It wasn’t only his action in the Jordan that dazzled the crowd, but his dialogue on the banks too. “Who warned you? The Ax is at root of trees. You Brood of Vipers! Repent, for kingdom of heaven is at hand. Behold the Lamb of God.”

The people came to see and hear HIM. John was the reason they were there. Yet, John insisted that another was the only One to whom we ought to lend our ears. John served humbly and believed his life was simply meant to glorify Jesus. Interestingly enough through Baptism we’ve had the same purpose put upon us.

Yes, Baptism comes with a promise. The Spirit’s entrance and guilt’s exit, we become God’s and heaven becomes ours, though living we die in the waters, and though dead we are raised to newness of life – yes indeed Baptism comes with promises supreme! It also comes with purposes sincere:

V to resist making life about ourselves,

V to resist to seek our own, and

V to live humbly to bring glory to our God.

As Luther wrote in his hymn, To the Jordan Came Christ our Lord:

“There stood the Son of God in love, His grace to us extending;

The Holy Spirit like a dove upon the scene descending;

The Triune God assuring us, with promises compelling,

That in our baptism he will thus among us make His dwelling.”

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer


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