One of the fun things about belonging to a liturgical church is that one can try to figure out why the particular readings each day and Sunday were placed together. Sometimes it’s easy, other times, it’s really hard to figure.
I puzzled about today’s readings:Isa 49: 3, 5-6 1Cor 1: 1-3 Jn 1:29-34
The first reading is commonly called the Second Song of the Servant. The reading from Paul letters is simply an introduction and greeting, and the gospel reading from John refers to the Baptist’s recognition that Jesus is indeed to “one who is to come.”
The story of the Baptist is well-known, and frankly it is in some contradiction to the other accounts, especially as to the circumstances of Jesus’ baptism and John’s recognition of Him as the Chosen One. But exegesis is not the point here. As always, we believe that the Scriptures are alive and speak to us in every generation. Therefore, we contemplate what these passages mean to us today.
The key is in the Gospel. John is very clear that his purpose is to proclaim the coming of the Chosen One. He is to prepare people for that time. And John spends his adult life doing just that, and he relates that this command from God was true, for indeed he met the Chosen One, and as God said, the Spirit came down upon him. We may trust John.
In Isaiah, the Servant is Israel, the ideal spokesperson. Israel will be the “light to the nations” so that “salvation can reach the ends of the earth.” In other words, Israel is called to preach, and teach all nations, everyone about this God, this one and only One God.
Paul speaks as a preacher, called by God to be apostle to the world, but as he realizes, most especially to the Gentiles. Yet Paul points out in this short introduction to the Corinthians, that these “new” holy people in God, are to “take their place among all the saints” for Jesus is “their Lord no less than ours.”
What does all this mean? I see it as a message to us all, that we, the people of God are a priesthood, called to be witness to the Truth. As John was witness, as Israel was called to be witness, as Paul was, and as he calls the Corinthians to be. Witness to the message of Jesus.
And exactly how do we do this? Ah, the rub.
Some of course spend years in seminary, and college classroom learning the intricacies of scripture. They learn Hebrew and Koine Greek, they study under theologians and biblical experts who have spent a lifetime studying the texts from various means and ways.
Thus, we can teach by teaching the historical truths of Scriptures, we can explain how the Bible was put together, when each writing was written, by whom, (if known), for what purpose. We can put things in context, and give deeper meaning to the literal words.
Others study for the purpose of leading congregations and attending to the spiritual needs of the people of God. Surely they attempt to explain scripture, but the primary focus is perhaps to “bring it home” –what it means for us today, in our ordinary mundane and often painful lives.
Others are simply gifted, and without much formal education in the niceties of exegetics or pastoral care, seem to have a flair for it. They perhaps read widely on their own, but they intuitively seem to “get” the message of love and compassion, of care and support, and can translate everything through that lens.
Some perhaps think that scriptures are simple of reading and understanding and perhaps do more harm than good with their unknowing but self-serving analysis.
But we need not all “preach” by words. We do not all need pulpits or soap boxes. Most of us can witness in an arguably better and easier way.
Easier? Well perhaps not easier. Perhaps it’s the hardest way of all.
It is by living our lives in ways that make people sit up and take notice.
“What makes Mary or Joan or Eddy so happy? What makes them so serene? What makes them so helpful and calm in every trouble? The first to volunteer, the first to be at bedside, the first to lend a sympathetic ear.”
People seek out such people and gravitate to their world. They seek to learn the secrets to their life. They see that such people suffer setbacks and heartache fully as much as everyone else, yet they rise ever up, peaceful and ready to move on.
This is hard work, make no mistake. For the internal work required to be Christ like is no small thing. Few are highly successful, many are quite successful. Yet, I think that such people stand as the greatest “witness” to God’s love and grace than a bushel full of preachers ever can.
We are called to embody our God. We are called to witness.
This is what I found in scripture today. How about you?