The following is a reflection on John 1:6-8, 19-28, the Gospel Lesson appointed for December 11th, 2011, the Third Sunday of Advent, Year B according to the New Revised Common Lectionary. On this site there is also
• a reflection on the Hebrew Bible Lesson for the same day, and
• a version of the Prayers of the People for Advent 3B.
There was a man sent from God…
That phrase hasn’t sat well with me for a while now: “sent by God.” There’s just something…foreign about it.
I use the term “call” all the time—probably every sermon! We’re called by God to be a certain kind of people. I was called by God to ordained ministry. The parish I serve is called to a certain outreach ministry. I was called to serve St. Mark’s as rector. Et cetera, et cetera.
I wouldn’t dream though of saying that I was sent by God to St. Mark’s. That just seems wrong.
There’s just a difference between called and sent.
Being called means that God has come to us, where we are, and commissioned us to do something for the Kingdom. Being sent… well, that means we were with God, or aligned with God in some special way, and commissioned to go somewhere else.
There’s a difference. A big difference.
And I have a very hard time shaking the emotional/ spiritual baggage of claiming that God has sent me anywhere. It just feels so…elitist. So highfalutin.
And yet…God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord.
Paul speaks of being sent by God over and over again. Jesus called the seventy together and sent them out. And, before ascending into Heaven Jesus sent us, his followers, to every corner of the earth to announce the Good News.
God sends. Jesus sends.
And it’s folk like us who get sent.
The thing I notice about the sending of John though, which brings me great comfort, is that it had absolutely nothing to do with John. It is so crystal clear that while John was sent to testify to the light, he was in no uncertain terms most-definitely NOT the light.
He was sent by God. He was not placed on a pedestal by God.
I find this so helpful because it means that being sent by God isn’t elitist or highfalutin. It’s a privilege, for sure, but it’s not about us.
It’s about God.
In the ancient world ambassadors sent by one person to another, not only spoke for the person who sent them, but were to be treated as the person who did the sending. That system wasn’t set up to honor the messenger over and over again (who was oftentimes a slave), but to hammer home the honor due the sender.
God sent a man named John to prepare the way for his son. To be the voice to cry out in the wilderness. To baptize with water.
He was sent by God in the same way God sent Moses to Pharaoh, the same way God sent the prophets to bring his word of justice, the way that God sent the apostles.
And the way God sends you and me to every corner of this grand world with Good News.
Good News of great joy for all people.