Abbey 2014 Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – A
Isaiah 49:3, 5-6
I Corinthians 1:1-3
The color of the season may be green. It may be Ordinary Time but the Word we have heard won’t let us let go of the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle we have just celebrated. That cycle still lingers. There is still a taste of it in our mouths and hearts. As in Advent, John the Baptist is still with us. He is not so much a voice calling us to prepare and repent for something is happening and someone is coming. Today we see and hear another part of John the Baptist. Today he is a witness. Today he gives evidence of what he has seen. When he gives evidence he makes it clear who Jesus is. John understands the purpose of his life: it is to speak on behalf of someone else. In the Gospel of John, It is the John the Baptist who is the first witness to who Jesus is and what Jesus will do.
The Word today harkens back to the Christmas-Epiphany season we finished last Sunday. Christmas and Epiphany are a season in which we celebrate God’s love in becoming one of us, a member of our human family. It is a season in which we are reminded again of the way in which God has made his plan known. His plan was to embrace our humanity as a member of his people Israel. But his plan also includes the world. The Son he sends is a light for all peoples. God’s place is broad and inclusive. It has as many faces as there are people on the earth. There is nothing minimalist here. God tells the servant in Isaiah, it is not enough for you to restore Israel; you are a light for all. My salvation must go to the ends of the earth. As much as Christmas begins with a Child, a son born for us, it expands quickly to a universal vision. The child the magi adore is God’s servant become light and salvation for the nations.
At the river Jordan last Sunday, we heard the witness of the God the Father. We heard his voice from heaven tell us that Jesus is his beloved son. He also told us to listen to him because what he says will come from the Father. Jesus himself will only speak what the Father has told him to say. All this to impress upon us the authority that Jesus carries. For anyone who longs for God’s presence and his Word in the world, the Christmas season makes it quite clear that God’s presence and his Word of truth is here in Jesus from Nazareth. Once this is accepted the challenge is to listen to him.
John the Baptist’s witness is important. It shows us someone who accepts and identifies this Jesus from Galilee. John has seen him and heard him. He now comes to the realization that his life must be centered on this Jesus, God’s son and God’s Lamb. In this way John the Baptist gives us a hint at what we are all about as followers of Jesus. On a personal level, we are not the light and we are not God’s gift to the world. Instead we are to bear witness that it is Jesus who is the Light and he is God’s gift to the world. John says he came baptizing with water so that one day we might recognize the one who will baptize with the Spirit. In a real way John is saying that our lives in Christ are a hint to others of the great things that are yet to come. Our lives are to be attractive to those around us. Crowds are drawn to John at the river. Perhaps we become so attractive that others like to be with us, that they see something of God’s working in our lives. But in the end we are a sign of Jesus who comes first. Our lives are to be led in such a way that others will see that the Spirit is poured out upon the earth. There is a wonderful sense in which John the Baptist is able to live for another. He is able to step aside so that God’s presence may be seen by others. John’s life becomes transparent, it doesn’t stop with him. Those who are attracted to him are invited to follow his hand and finger as he points out the person who truly is from God. John is a witness. He risks taking Jesus’ side as it were. He risks everything to identify him, to point him out and speak about him. The same challenge is placed on us too: we are asked to renew our commitment to Jesus: God’s Son and God’s Lamb. We are asked to acknowledge that it is he who saves from the restrictions and violence of this world.
Last Sunday the Father bore witness to his son from above. The heavens opened and the Father’s voice was heard as he pointed out his son for us. This Sunday we are called to witness from the earth. What are we called to witness to? That Jesus and his word are the fulfillment of humanity’s hope to see God face to face and to hear his word, not in dream but in reality. We are called to witness that in Jesus God gives us the Passover Lamb whose blood will about bring the restoration of communion and love between God and the world and all who live in the world; we give witness that God has empowered Jesus with the Spirit, with the fullness of life. And we give witness that Jesus in his turn will baptize with this Spirit. He will pour out God’s love, refreshment, forgiveness and peace upon those who come to him. We give witness that the Spirit of holiness is not confined to God, but is truly God’s great gift to the world. In this Jesus, he removes all barriers through the blood of the Lamb. And he opens up for all the call to be holy as he is holy and as his son is holy, because his son has been faithful to the end. To be a witness to Jesus is to be specific: Through this man from Nazareth, God deals with the world in a definite way. It is also to be universal: the Spirit remaining on Jesus and the Spirit breathes has no boundaries; it can make its home in every person, to the ends of the earth. Saying it Servant terms from Isaiah: It is too little for the Christ to simply restore my people. I will make you a light to the nations.
As people who have been baptized in water and the Spirit, we must be careful to be a witness for the whole truth. We must take care that we truly bear witness to what God has done in Christ, his anointed. And what we see him continuing to do through his Spirit who is at work in the richness of God’s gifts found throughout his world. The world that God bore witness to on the first day when he pointed and said: “Behold, it is good, very good indeed.”