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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Today’s Scripture 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)

The Jewish leaders are flummoxed. Who is this man who’s baptizing people? When they send a delegation to check John out, they cannot understand his answer. Their only frame of reference is focused on what they already know, the prophecies they’ve studied. Is he Elijah? The prophet? John resorts to quoting Isaiah, a prophecy they may connect with. His role in this story has been long foretold. But their vision is too small, too focused on the here and now.

John the Baptist, on the other hand, is clear about who he is and about who he is not. He is also very aware of his place in history—the final prophet to point the way to Christ himself. He is essentially the last step on the way to something much, much bigger. The way God relates to his people is about to fundamentally change forever.

Too often my tendency is to make my vision of Christ too small, too focused on the here and now. If I truly believe that God is Lord over all, how do I live that out? How do I point the way to something bigger, something transformative? Pastor Vicky, in her Reign of Christ Sunday sermon, spoke of the difference between charity and justice. Do I believe, for example, that God provides me with enough so that I can provide a meal for those who need it or work to change the inequities in our food system to create access to a constant, healthy food supply for all?

In this Advent season, I will renew my dedication to not only caring for the vulnerable but also to working for transformation in this world. Through my words, through my actions, I will continue to try to make straight the path for others to find their way to Christ.

Lord, help me to see that your vision is so much larger than mine. In this Advent season, help me find ways to live out your transformational vision for our world. In your holy name. Amen.

Written by Lisa Stracks, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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