Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday of Epiphany 1: The humble rebel

Opening Sentence
I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. Isaiah 49:6b

Commemoration: William Laud
Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like your servant William Laud, we may live in your fear, die in your favor, and rest in your peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 5, 6

Lessons: Genesis 3, Hebrews 2:1-10, John 1:19-28

Many words have been used to describe John the Baptist. "Humble" is not one that is often mentioned, but it is most fitting when you consider how he steadfastly maintained his focus on his mission, not allowing the accolades of the masses or the inquiries of the religious elites to push him toward making extravagant claims about himself.

"Are you the Messiah?" No.

"Are you Elijah?" No. (Jesus could say this about John, but John would not make such a claim for himself.)

"Are you the prophet?" No.

"Who are you, then?"

John was content to be “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

Prophetic leaders are, first and foremost, empowered by the Spirit of God to speak the truth boldly and rebuke vice even, and especially, to the religious and secular power brokers who, more often than not, have ascended to their positions through means other than divine appointment. To the Herods and Caiaphases of his day, John the Baptist was seen as a threat not because of his fiery preaching or immense popularity. Rather, he was a threat precisely because he was being faithful to his calling. He was a prophet sent from God to prepare God's people for the coming of their true King and High Priest, that is, the One who would embody everything the religious and secular establishment was not.

Prophetic leaders throughout the centuries have been perceived as threats by the establishment for the same reason. Faithfulness to one's call inevitably leads to suffering at the hands of those who jealously guard their positions of power, not because they are servants of God but because they are servants of their own selfish interests. Prophetic leaders put the interests of the kingdom of God before their own interests. Hence, they are willing to suffer whatever slings and arrows are thrown their way. For his faithfulness, John the Baptist lost his life at the hands of a faithless, selfish, and ultimately irrelevant earthly king. Those who follow his example must be willing, likewise, to lose their livelihood at the hands of even lesser characters.


When Morning Guilds the Skies