Are you the one?

Narrative Lectionary  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  13:57
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Why would John the Baptist question if Jesus is the Messiah? He knew this from an early age. Maybe John's expectation that Jesus would free him from prison causes him to miss the miracles that are happening. We do that in the church. Our expectations of what Jesus is supposed to do, causes us to miss the miracles that are being performed. For those miracles we give thanks to God.

Notes & Transcripts

Why would John ask this?

I’ve always thought this was an odd question. John should have known that Jesus is the Messiah.
Luke 1:44 NRSV
For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.
Do you think that Elizabeth wouldn’t have told her own son about his cousin being the Messiah?
Matthew 3:14 NRSV
John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
It certainly doesn’t look like he’s forgotten 30 years later.
So why then ask if Jesus is the Messiah? Of course he is, John’s known that for 30 years.

John’s arrest

We hear of John’s arrest in Luke 3:19-20.
Luke 3:19–20 NRSV
But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
Only after the arrest does Jesus begin his ministry:
Temptation in the wilderness
Healing the Man with the Unclean Spirit
Healings at Simon’s house
Cleansing a Leper
Healing a Paralytic
Healing a Man with a Withered Hand
Healing the Centurion’s slave
Raising the Widow’s Son
This all takes a lot of time, and there’s John, sitting in prison. Imagine for a moment that you’re the one in prison and your cousin is the Messiah, the one who is supposed to …
Luke 4:18 NRSV
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,
Release to the captives. Imagine John’s disappointment — frustration — anger. His cousin literally can raise people from the dead and there he sits in prison — you could almost hear John saying, “Hello cousin, a little help over here please?” Or maybe John’s question is more like, “Well are you going to do something or not?”
To John’s anger Jesus responds:
Luke 7:22 NRSV
And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.
As if that isn’t enough, he seals it off with:
Luke 7:23 NRSV
And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”
Really Jesus — no offense — yes John has taken offense and rightly so because it seems like Jesus isn’t answering his prayers.

Can you identify with John?

I think I can. There are plenty of times that I’ve prayed for something to happen, and it seems like Jesus is too busy, not listening, not concerned. It is almost like any family dynamic — part of the family thinking another part of the family isn’t doing what should be done. It is kind of a family fight.
These provocative exchanges might provoke analogous questions for us: When do we miss the miraculous happening right before our eyes because our expectations limit our imaginations? What should we do when, despite our ardent efforts, the status quo isn’t changing. — Michal Beth Dinkler Assistant Professor of New Testament Yale Divinity School
John isn’t seeing the miracles that are happening — partially because he’s in prison and partially because he’s expecting one thing and Jesus is off doing another.

Despite our ardent efforts, the status quo isn’t changing

That kind of sounds like the church, right? We’re working hard. Being faithful to God’s mission in the world, and yet we’re not full each Sunday, attendance is stable — not increasing, finances are stable. It’s like we’re living as the status quo.
That I find frustrating. In some ways it’s like the church is John in this story — stuck in prison.
I wonder if the metaphor works for more than just being frustrated.
I wonder if we aren’t stuck in a prison ourselves — one of our own making.
Churches — like any institution — can spend so much time and energy on dealing with the complexities of the organization that what really consumes time is inward details.
We do a lot of mission work — just look at the Annual Reports — the list is incredible. However our Council has been more concerned about the nuts and bolts — the administration — the finances — the property than it has been about where Holy Cross is going.
Our average weekly attendance hasn’t changed much over the last few years. Our total income has only changed by a few hundred dollars.
And it’s not that we’ve been stagnant. We have had “ardent” efforts, and it appears on the surface that not much has changed.
But maybe we need to look again. For those of you who were here before I got here — 10 years ago — how many new faces have joined us in those years. Unfortunately we’ve also lost some members in that time. For those of you who have come more recently — your presence is what has helped keep us alive.
Think about the programs that have started or grown in the last 10 years:
The Chilly Half
The Community Garden
The Senior’s Lunch
The Prayer Shawls
The Caring Team
Think about it:
The hungry have been fed
The sick and mourning have been visited and comforted
The lonely have been given company
In short: the good news has been brought to many.
While the stats may say we’ve had the status quo — the reality is many miracles have happened and continue to happen.
Today we give thanks for all that we’ve done in 2016 and look at plans for 2017. This is not a day to sit in prison and hope someone comes to open the doors. This is a day to look around — see God at work, and figure out how we’re going to help that work be accomplished. That is our call — to be messengers who go before God and tell people that Good News is about to come. For that we give thanks.
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