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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Today’s Reading | John 1:19–28

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said,

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’”

as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. (NRSV)

At the time this Gospel was being written, there were persons who held to the teachings and baptism of John the Baptist instead of Jesus, so the Gospel writer wanted to make it clear who John was not. He was not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. He was not the Son of God, nor the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. John was in a secondary position, a witness to the One who was far greater. He was not worthy to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandal.

John was clear about who he was. His identity was articulated by the prophet Isaiah: “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness.” He was God’s messenger sent to prepare the way for the Lord.

It is important for us to be clear about who we are and who we are not. In the words of a prayer attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero,

It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. . . . We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

Loving God, grant that I may live as your worker, nothing more and nothing less. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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