From Pastor Kenny's Desk
December 16, 2018
In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip his brother tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene. In those days, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the Word of God came to John, ben-Zechariah, in the desert. John went through the entire region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as is written in the words of Isaiah, the prophet:
“A herald’s voice in the desert, crying, ‘Make ready the way of our God; clear a straight path. Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled. The twisted paths will be made straight, and the rough road smooth ̶ and all humankind will see the salvation of God.’”
~ Luke 3:1-6
I just love Luke’s audacity! There is definitely an audacious component and tone that’s easy to miss in this sacred text. But if you listen closely and read between the lines just a little, you’ll hear a promise that at first is easy to overlook but ultimately is as transformative as it is outrageous.
Luke is the gospel writer who identifies most self-consciously as a first century historian. For this reason, Luke writes a very formal introduction to his gospel story … and is the only gospel writer to do so. This also explains Luke’s concern with naming various political leaders on the scene. As a historian, it is important to anchor the events he describes in the larger political and historical scene of the world.
And that’s where his audacity comes in. Because, quite frankly, most other historians would probably think Luke is crazy. Consider this: John the Baptizer is an itinerant preacher doing his ministry out in the wilderness … a place nobody goes … at least not by
choice. And so the event Luke describes would hardly count as an event at all to other historians.
So what’s John the Baptizer doing among Luke’s absolute list of who’s who in ancient Palestine? Well, according to Luke, John … a nobody by all other historical accounts … just happens to be the one to whom the Word of the God came. That’s right, John. Not the Emperor, or governor, or various rulers, or the high priests of the day, but John.
In other words, God chose a nobody to prepare the way for the Holy Child to come among us. And that happens to be a particular theme to notice throughout Luke’s story: that God regularly chooses people whom the world sees as insignificant through whom to do marvelous things. John the Baptist, Mary the illiterate unwed mother and teenager, the no account shepherds at the very bottom of the economic ladder who serve as the audience for the heavenly choir. Again and again Luke reminds us … God chooses people who are easily ignored to participate in God’s world-changing, world-transforming, world-saving activity.
Which gets me thinking. My hunch is there are many people at MCC Richmond, our community, and our world who feel that they don’t hold any particularly important position that would warrant being included in anyone’s who’s who list and yet whom God may be eager to use to do wonderful, outlandish, audacious, unimaginable, life-giving things.
Can we imagine … just for a minute … the possibility that we don’t have to be celebrities or rulers or among the rich and powerful or even have it all together to be used by God? Can we imagine and claim the possibility that God is eager to use our talents, abilities and gifts to change the world … and all of us have God-given gifts, abilities and talents simply because of who we are as children of God because that’s who God is in our lives … can we believe God uses these abilities if even in what seems like very small ways that are, of course, not small at all to those who receive such gifts? Can we trust that in sharing a smile, or can of food, a kind and friendly greeting, listening to someone who is hurting, or encouraging and assisting an immigrant, someone feeling lost and alone, or perhaps seeking asylum or someone simply missing a loved one from their homeland, or sharing a cup of coffee and engaging in conversation with a friend, family member and colleague that God could use these simple ordinary expressions as a means of sharing God’s gifts of love, hope, healing and peace? Can we trust and open our hearts, eyes and minds to seeing … and claiming … God’s presence at work in our relationships, careers, family and public life and more to make this world more trustworthy and good? Can we do our best to believe God even cares for us as individuals, believing and claiming that God cares about our happiness, passions and concerns, and desires to use us … just the way we are … to share God’s love with others and make a positive difference in our world?
If so, then I think we are each called to be audacious historians in the pattern of Luke. That is, we are each called by the Holy One to remind one another that God is at work in and through our lives for the sake of ALL people and the world God loves so much.
Part of our job as members and friends of MCC Richmond is to remind and help each other see God’s presence and transforming and grace at work in one another and in our work, activities, passions, our relationships and more. Remembering that each of us has the potential to be a local John the Baptizer a genuine and authentic nobody to whom the Word of the God came and through whom God prepared the way for the coming Holy Child so that others might see and receive God’s gifts of love, hope, healing, peace and so much more.
Thank you for being such an audacious historian … sharing the good news not only that God in Jesus comes to us, but that God also uses us to care for this world beginning with each and every one of us. My hunch is for many of us this is where the rubber meets the road … as we believe and claim that God reveals God’s beautiful and simple gifts of transforming love, hope, peace, redemption and so much more to us individually first while helping us, empowering us and choosing us to live in harmony with God and self … and as we do we become inspired to Share God’s love with ALL people with hope and peace claiming the audaciousness of God! Amen and amen!