Sermon – January 4th 2014
2nd Sunday of Christmas
By Roland Legge
Hebrew Scripture: Jeremiah 31:7-14
Gospel: John 1 (1-9) 10-18
Who was John the Baptist? Scholars believe that John the Baptist had his own movement for liberation. John was calling on people to turn their lives around well before Jesus came on to the scene. Many of us believe that Jesus was originally a follower of John. But as time moved on Jesus got a name for himself. The scripture we read today is the result of the early followers of Jesus choosing to keep John the Baptist in the story although in a lesser light. In the end John’s movement eventually joined the Jesus movement. But this took many year and in the mean time the two groups struggled for acceptance.
In our Scripture reading today, from the Gospel according to John, the author shows us that John the Baptist’ ministry was to be one of witness to Jesus. Jesus needed John to point to him as the son of God, the Messiah that many Jews had been waiting a long time for. Why did Jesus need a witness? Because Jesus was so busy healing and proclaiming the Good News that few people understood who he really was. John was needed to proclaim to the world that Jesus was no ordinary man! He was indeed the son of God.
While for some Jesus was not big deal because they saw Jesus as some crazy zealot who was trying to free the Hebrews from the Romans. They didn’t think that Jesus would amount to much.
But then were those who felt threatened by anyone challenging the status quo whether that was the religious officials or the Roman Empire. It didn’t take long before a group of people, Romans and Jewish officials sought out Jesus to arrest him and kill him. They were particularly concerned by the many peasants getting excited that God had something better planned for them. The smell of rebellion was in the air.
In this atmosphere Jesus was calling on his followers to be witnesses for the Good News that Jesus and his disciples were proclaiming. To be a witness to Jesus was also to be a disciple, choosing to live out this vision through words and actions.
We all need to discover how we are being called to witness for Jesus. It won’t be easy! Every day thousands of people proclaim their witness for materialism and capitalism on all our media devices. So we need to find ways to get people’s attention. We need to walk our talk so people will take us seriously.
How do you witness to the power of Jesus in our world? Sometimes it comes from the most unlikely of people, often a child. I quote from a book by Thomas Long:
Diane Komp, a pediatric oncologist, tells the story of the time, early in her practice of medicine, when she was treating a little girl named Anna for leukemia. This was back in the days when the recovery rate was woefully low, and though Anna had gone in and out of remission many times, by the age of seven she was facing the end. At Anna’s side at the last were her parents, a hospital chaplain who favored psychology over theology, and Komp herself, who at the time would have described herself as a “pragmatic post-Christian agnostic.” Komp writes, “Before she died [Anna] mustered the final energy to sit up in her hospital bed and say: ‘The angels – they’re so beautiful! Mommy, can you see them? Do you hear their singing? I’ve never heard such beautiful singing!’ Then she lay back on her pillow and died.” Anna’s parents reacted “as if they had been given the most precious gift in the world.” The hospital chaplain quickly left the room, leaving the agnostic Komp alone with the grieving Christian family. “Together we contemplated a spiritual mystery that transcended our understanding and experience. For weeks to follow, the thought that stuck in my head was ‘Have I found a reliable witness?’” – Thomas G. Long, Testimony, Talking Ourselves into Being Christian
I think of two of my elementary school teachers, Mrs. Gardner and Mrs. Reid who taught me at Edith Cavell Elementary School in Vancouver. They witnessed to the power of God by the way they taught each of their students. As a child I could feel the love they had for me and their confidence in my abilities. I also could feel that they had the same love for each of their students.
I think of Russ Hudson, one of the teachers and researchers at the Enneagram Institute. He is a witness for the type of world that Jesus desires us to experience where every person will be recognized and honored for the gifts and love they bring. He points to the way where people of all and no religions of the world can get along with each other. He points to the truth that God has given us everything we need to live fully in our world. He shows us how we can begin to access the holy within each of us. It is a matter of uncovering what we already have.
I try to witness to the holiness of each person in our world. I believe that we are all made in the image of God. We all have that of God in each of us. It is even there in some of the most terrible people in the world. I believe that we all have amazing stories to tell about our lives. Every story I hear are most amazing stories of love, hope, determination and struggle. So whenever you share your story with me I feel very blessed. You all act as witnesses to the holy calling that each of us have been given. Your stories fill me with hope because I have no doubt that God continues to be active in our world working through each of us.
Preaching the Word by William H. Willimon
The more we intentionally choose to witness to the type of world that Jesus desires us to live in, the more faithful our witnessing we will be. The best way to do this is by living as though this is already true. So we love each other for who we are. We speak up for those who can’t. We share everything we have. We care for planet earth because we have been blessed with its providence. We learn to resolve disputes nonviolently. We can have heaven right here on earth. This is the Good News!