Epiphany 2 (A)
A sermon preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First & Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
Second Sunday after the Epiphany – January 16, 2005
Text: John 1:29-42
Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
John, John, John…you’re starting to look like a one-trick pony. All those days out in the desert sun must have fried your brain, my friend. All those platefuls of bugs must have gone to your head, because now all you seem to think about is lamb.
John, John, John…you’re starting to sound like a broken record. Lamb of God this. Lamb of God that. Always with this Lamb of God shtick. Look! Here he is. There is is. Baaaaa – the Lamb. Isn’t it getting a little old, John? Don’t you think you better find a new tack for your ministry? Aren’t you afraid of becoming stale in a big hurry when all you can seem to talk about is God’s perfect Lamb for the offering?
John, John, John…don’t you know that people like variety? When they want to know what’s happening in the world, they read something that they call “news.” When they want to be entertained, they let books that they call “novel” do it for them. People want new things, novel things, John, and all your giving them is the same line over and over – “Look! God’s Lamb! It’s Jesus – he’ll take away the world’s sins.” Why don’t you come up with a few new ideas to refresh your ministry so it doesn’t bore people to death and put you out of a job?
Poor John. He was a fine preacher, a successful one. He must have known all these things. He must have been aware of how he sounded. He must have thought about becoming boring old news the more he kept on saying the same thing. And yet he plowed ahead anyhow.
John’s got the same problem as we have. The world says people want new, bigger, better, and yet we’ve got a message that is the same for all time and all people and all places! Jesus is God’s perfect Lamb, the one who takes all of our sins onto his own head, the one who died and lives so that we’ll live, too. Whether in church, or Sunday school, or to our kids at bedtime, or with a coworker, or to a friend, or on the street, or in the cafeteria – wherever we Christians go, we’re just like John, saying over and over that Jesus is Lord like a scratched-up vinyl record.
Why was John stuck in this groove? Why are we? Should we be worried, or is it sometimes OK to sound like a broken record?
There are three reasons why John (and we) can’t stop talking about Jesus, and all three of them say that it’s not always so bad to be repeating yourself.
First off, it was John’s mission to talk about Jesus, over and over again, for as long as he had breath to form words. No, it was more than just his mission – it was the very reason John the Baptist had been born. It was the fulfillment of his life’s destiny. Pointing to Jesus and shouting for all he’s worth that this is God’s Son the Savior was the single purpose for which God had put John on this earth. Although he might play around with the words and the presentation a little bit, John could never, ever give up the heart of his message without giving up the heart of who he himself was meant to be. If that meant sounding like a broken record, so be it.
Our mission is the same as John’s. We were born for the same reason – to know Jesus, to love him, and to point him out to everyone we can, so that they might also know and love him. Of all the meanings that our lives can have, there is no higher one than that. We Christians constantly talk about Jesus and how he saves the world because it’s what we were born to do. Although the precise words change, our message never does – Jesus loves you. Jesus died for you. Jesus lives for you. That’s the good news you and I were born to tell.
But it’s also true that John takes great pleasure in being the messenger of this news. When he was little he skipped for joy in the womb when Jesus was near him. John must have skipped for joy, too, every time he was able to tell another soul about this wonderful Lord he knew. What could have felt better than spreading a bit of good news? Why, when women have babies, they tell all their neighbors and the whole street rejoices with them. When a man receives a windfall, he goes out to the tavern and buys a round for all his friends so that they can know his happy news and celebrate with him. John’s good news was better than the best windfall, better even than a wrinkled newborn child – John shared that news for the sheer joy of sharing it.
At our best, we also find great pleasure in sharing our good news about Jesus. It makes us happy to know it ourselves, and we’re happy when we pass that news on to someone else. It’s too bad if that person doesn’t share our joy…we’d sure like them to. But whether they do or don’t, our news is so good that we need to share it with everyone we see. It gives us so much joy to know who Jesus is and what he’s done that we need to tell the world. We and John are cut from the same cloth here.
Finally, it must be pointed out that John’s repetitive, same-old same-old message worked. In our Gospel reading today alone, he hammers away at it not once, but twice. It’s enough to make us start to wonder about him, but look at the results: Two of John’s disciples who hear his words notice Jesus, and go off with him. These two fellows, Andrew and Simon, came to Jesus because they heard their teacher John’s broken-record preaching. He couldn’t get Jesus out of his head and his mind, and he passed his singlemindedness on to them. Staying on task, staying on message, staying the course – works.
We as a church are often tempted to innovate, to try new things. We’re told that this or that will help us be better Christians. And it’s true that we might try a few ideas out in good faith. But if those ideas eat at the heart of our message, they’re going to hurt, not help. The truth is that it is the good news of Jesus Christ that draws people to him, and not any of the other stuff that churches get bogged down in. The things we do can help us share that message or they can hurt us in our effort, but in the end it’s only the message itself that will capture people’s hearts for our Lord.
John, John, John…you’re so singleminded in your message. Help us to learn from you, so that we, too, can always and only point toward Jesus our Lord, the Lamb who takes away our sins. Amen.