Saturday, January 1, 2011


When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.  Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
As John's disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see?  A reed swayed by the wind?  If not, what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in fine clothes?  No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings' palaces.  Then what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is the one about whom it is written:  'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'"  (Matthew 11:2-10)
I preached my first sermon this past September.  It wasn't supposed to be a sermon, but it was.  I was asked to be on a panel at the School of the Spirit residency on "Being Other in Community."  My topic was "Standing in the Gaps: the other as a prophetic role." 

I spent a lot of time before the residency trying to prepare what I was going to say, but I could not.  I wrote at least three outlines and one entire paper, but I knew they weren't right.  In the hours before I was to speak, it became clear that I was supposed to preach.  I had my passage, God's call on Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-10), and in the end, I just had that in front of me and spoke from the text.  It was terrifying.  But I found, as I spoke, that it was not really that different from giving vocal ministry in worship.

The topic itself was scary for me.  Over the past several months, various people have suggested that one of my gifts may be the gift of prophecy.  That is not a gift I would have ever chosen.  Prophets are weird, and they say hard things.  They are on the edges of their communities.  But as I was struggling with this and praying about it, I came across I Corinthians 14:1, which says:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.
One of the examples that I talked about in my sermon was John the Baptist, who lived out in the desert, wearing strange clothes and eating locusts and honey.  I think that people went out to see him because he was a freak, and they wanted to see a show.  As many have said before me, prophets stand in the gaps between the community and God.  And I said that I think spending that much time in the presence of God makes you a little weird!

A few weeks before Christmas, I read the passage in Matthew describing how John asked whether Jesus was the one they had been waiting for (I think it is a common passage to read during Advent).  I found it comforting because it shows that even John doubted.  I was comforted by his humanity, and how although sometimes he knew exactly what God wanted him to say, at other times he did not.

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