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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, July 2, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Matthew 11:7–15

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen! (NRSV)

I am a longtime fan of John the Baptist. Yes, that quirky character who appears every year in Advent, the weeks before Christmas, pointing toward the one who is to come, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. In today’s scripture we read Jesus’ own reflections about this imprisoned, Elijah-like prophet.

One summer afternoon, though, I became more than a seasonal fan of this biblical figure. I was seated in a small, stuffy classroom at McCormick Seminary with numbers of other pastors, listening to Jack Stotts (seminary president, professor, and interim preaching pastor years ago at Fourth Church). Jack startled us by proposing that the most authentic model for the church was in fact John the Baptist!

Instead of the somewhat presumptuous claim that “we are the body of Christ,” Jack evocatively painted a different picture. Like John the Baptist, we are to point to Jesus in our words and our actions. We are to join together in our life, ministry, and mission to become preparers of the way.

That summer afternoon has never left my mind as I struggled and still struggle to live into what it means to be church together. What might it look like for each of us in our shared discipleship to point toward Jesus, becoming preparers of the way for our living Lord?

Thank you, ever-startling God, for surprising us on our earthly journeys. I pray that I might remain open to new images and understandings. Help us together become preparers of the way for Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Amen.

Written by Jeffrey Doane, Parish Associate for Older Adults

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