Don’t shoot the messenger!
This is the Bewildered Disciple’s first blog post, and I’m already making a metaphorical appeal to not blame me for bad news. What bad news?
Shouldn’t this first post be a hopeful introduction story, oozing with excitement for this blogs success and future? The truth is, that is what I’d like to be writing about, but then I would be turning a blind eye to the stories of uncertainty, fear, and despair that are unsettling our world.
My first reaction is to shout, “THIS IS BAD!” I wonder if I am alone questioning the decisions of or nations leaders, worried about the future of God’s creation, and disheartened by the hard heartedness of humanity.
President Trump ordered a drone strike killing an Iranian general which has many people wondering if the first blows of WWIII have been struck.
Australian wildfires are forcing people from their homes, and threatening untold numbers of livestock and wildlife.
The United Methodist Church will be voting to divide the denomination because they cannot find a way to remain together and fully accept members and clergy who identify as LGBTQ+.
We are living in a global wilderness where war, natural disasters, and bigotries appear to reign supreme. We need is someone to bring us good news!
Enter John the Baptist.
1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John the Baptist not only lived in the physical wilderness, but he preached a message of hope to a people feeling the pressures of their world’s broken societal wildernesses.
It was bad!
Roman legions had conquered and occupied God’s “Promised Land”. Corruption, greed, and violence were prevalent everywhere. Unless you were wealthy or connected to the right people the chips were stacked up against you. Sound familiar?
Tales of uncertainty, fear, and despair unsettled their world.
Despite that, John marched out of the desert shouting, “prepare for the Holy One”. In the midst of the uncertainty and fear he talked over the the chaos pointing to something greater. He ignored the politics and dogma. Instead he spoke to a greater message for opening the way that repentance and forgiveness might occur in the world.
It’s a mega-super, important message, but in this blog post let us not overlook the importance of the messenger.
“And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him.”
Why? What is it about John the Baptist that draws the people out?
William Barclay says John, “lived his message. Not only his words, but also his whole life was a protest.”John’s food selection, clothing, and living in the wilderness specifically drew attention to the prophets of old and stood out diametrically opposite the public speakers and preachers of his day. The people noticed that that he walked the walk while he talked the talk.
John was also humble. He preached repentance, he preached forgiveness, and he preached about the one coming that was more powerful. John never claimed to be more than he was, never tried to be more than he was, and never promised more than he could offer.
Where is the John the Baptist of 2020? It seems like all the voices trying to point the way to Jesus, or towards any sort of hopeful message, are actually part of the chaotic din and confusion. The arguments between Christian denominations and between the various faiths rival the heated rhetoric of the divisive US political parties and global enemies. Anyone who tries to speak otherwise is shouted down, bullied, and discredited.
In this age of digital propaganda and social medial misinformation (obviously if it’s on the internet it has to be true, that’s why I’m writing a blog) it’s hard to know whose message actually points towards something that resembles anything shaped like the truth.
So maybe it’s up to us to cry out, “make the path straight!” Perhaps we have an obligation to be John the Baptist for a broken and messy world that desperately needs to hear a message of hope right now.
We start by acknowledging we are not God and that we cannot do the things God can do. We also acknowledge that we’ve been a part of the problem, caught up in the tangled mess that is this broken wilderness trying to make sense of it all…and failing. We acknowledge forgiveness is what we need, and what we need to give. We acknowledge the Spirit will do more than us, but we will be a chorus crying out make a straight path so the Spirit might do its work.
Wars come — and we will cry out make straight a path for peace!
Fires burn — and we cry out make straight a path for conservation!
Schisms occur — and we cry out make straight a path for unity!
Even though one voice may not be heard in the wilderness, my hope is people of many faith’s, people from many cultures, and people with different ideas will come together and rise above the divisions and chaos to strive towards something better; something whole and good.
Based on how the year 2020 is starting, the world is going to need us. Are you up for the challenge? God willing we all will be!
Thanks for reading,
Rev. Andrew Black, the Bewildered Disciple
January 8th, 2020
I want to hear from you, join the conversation in the comments.
 Daily Devotions with William Barclay: 365 Meditations on the Heart of the New Testament. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008., p.3)