The Rev. Linda Taupier – December 15, 2019
We easily remember Doubting Thomas, right. Today we heard doubting John the Baptist. We tend to forget what Thomas went on to do following the resurrection as he turned out to be quite remarkable. John is best known for his dietary habits and clothing and the outrageous ways he speaks to the crowds, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Last week he called them a ‘brood of vipers’. He’s confident in what he says. He’s decisive. John was the one that we heard last week announcing, “I am not worthy to carry his sandals”.
It’s now 3 years later, John is in prison which was most likely wearing on him. He’s about to be beheaded but that’s not what we are concentrating on today. Still where does this doubt come from? John should not be doubting, right! If anyone is in the ‘know’ about Jesus, we believe it’s John. Where is John’s decisiveness? John said that he had come to baptize with water, and that the one following him would baptize with “fire from heaven.” So where was the fire? He hadn’t seen anything resembling fire. This was not the Messiah John expected. I’m not sure who said this, and I am quoting: ‘What John expected in a Messiah was a rottweiler, growling and attacking the sinners of the world. But what he got was a golden retriever puppy, changing hearts with warmth and affection’. No wonder John has started asking the question: “Is this the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
And, if John is doubting where does that leave us? Perhaps Jesus hasn’t turned out to be the person that John expected. Or us. We get sick or something happens in our lives that catches us unprepared and we wonder who is Jesus? Why would my savior let this happen to me?
Sometimes it can be difficult to ask our questions. Might it mean we are unsure of our faith; will others treat me differently if I question? Should we wait for another? When we ask our questions either silently to God or aloud to others it’s a way for us to be in relationship with God. Whenever we are learning we ask questions and learning about our Messiah is a lifelong journey. We don’t learn it in Sunday school or confirmation classes and then know it all. Christianity doesn’t work that way.
In this season of Advent can we imagine taking time away from the bustling about we get caught up in and take the time to re-read the stories of Jesus’ deeds and hear his words. Listen to the quiet of your heart and remember the reason we will begin to celebrate on December 25th. (remember, no matter that on Dec 26th we will see Valentine’s Day decorations, we know that Christmas actually has 12 days.)
Is this Jesus THE ONE we are waiting for? Both the Isaiah reading, and the gospel invites us, as the church, to respond to our Baptismal Covenant and be deeply involved in ministry. Jesus response “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” He sends them on their way back to John as they must decide for themselves. Jesus doesn’t force himself on anyone, even John.
How does his answer sit with you? Does it bring peace to your heart? Does it make you anxious as you listen to news reports about the climate changes, violence, terrorism and intolerance? Can we remember as Christians that we must envision a new world order and lend our hearts and hands in creating the world God intends?
Jesus came to bring love; to be with us in love in all we say and do. He didn’t come to be with the rich and powerful. He came to bring hope and peace to those in need. He spent his time with the outcast heap of humanity. He spent his time with the least and the lost. He concerned himself with the powerless. He brought the Kingdom of God to them, assuring them of their place in that kingdom.
If we are to respond to the Messiah, we need to be with the same people Jesus spent his time with. Jesus visits those in prison through us. Through us Jesus meets with people living by the river and under bridges and prays with them and feeds them. Through us Jesus spends time in our social service agencies caring for those who aren’t able to care for themselves. Through us Jesus is in our classrooms with our children taking special care of those who need the most and are sometimes the most difficult. Through us Jesus stands outside Smith and Wesson as the young people ask for gun safety. Through us Jesus stands on the steps of city hall asking that immigrants be allowed to come to Springfield. Jesus calls us to care for this fragile earth, our island home. Jesus is here, with us as we celebrate with joy the Eucharist. We are then to take that joy out into the world. We can’t keep that joy; we must give it away. Only when we serve in his name will we know the answer to John’s question: Are you the One?