2nd Sunday after Epiphany 2011
From Lectionary Readings:
I Corithians 1:1-9
You have to wonder why initially, John the Baptist didn’t know who Jesus was. After all, John was Jesus’ cousin. And while he may have lived too far away from Jesus to interact with him from day to day, don’t you think, even from possibly limited interactions, that Jesus would’ve struck him as extraordinary while they were growing up? Extraordinary in wisdom and holiness, even though Jesus was the so-called son of his uncle Joseph, a carpenter, and aunt Mary? Really godly people to be sure, but ordinary people John was familiar with?
But surely stories of Jesus’ antics at the temple got around the family circles. Remember the time after the Passover when Jesus was 12, how he stayed behind in the temple talking theology and life with the Teachers of the Law while his family headed home? His parents didn’t even know he was gone. It’s only when the caravan stopped after traveling for a day that they realized he wasn’t there; they couldn’t find him among relatives and friends. They worried. Then it took them three days to find him in Jerusalem. When they got there, they discovered that everyone was amazed at him—at the answers he gave and at how he conducted himself. God in Christ was revealing himself to the most important religious people of his day. 12 year old God, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus—standing there talking to them. They were face to face with God, who was revealing himself. And neither the religious leaders (hear that, leaders) nor his parents knew God when they saw him. And neither did John the Baptist. That is until John witnessed the Spirit descending on Jesus in the form of a dove after John baptized him. God revealed himself to John. And to think that John held 30 year old God, the God-man, Jesus his cousin, in his arms and baptized him.
God is always, always, always revealing himself to us. However, often, he comes in unexpected ways. Take this little example. Suppose you saw a crowd of Mid-towners out refurbishing a house down one of these streets. Suppose a crowd gathered to watch and someone asked: “Where’s the preacher?” And then another answers, “Right there, there’s one of the preachers, they have a couple of them.” And the one asking continues, “Where, I don’t see anyone that looks like a preacher.” The other says, “Right there, that short lady with the dark hair, that little spit fire over there, she’s a resident director at that school down there on 72. She’s one of the preachers.” Now what on earth? Do I look like a preacher, even a sometimes one? I’d venture to guess that I don’t. But God does reveal himself in mysterious ways and mysteriously scatters his gifts abroad to ordinary people just like you and me. God is always, always, always, revealing himself. He is faithful in revealing himself and in being good to us. We often stand face to face, eye to eye with God and can’t see him.
God so loved us, that he revealed himself before we ever existed. God is faithfully acting in and around us and through us all the time. Revealing himself to us in these moments. I think of something Richard Foster says, that I think we can apply to this idea of God revealing himself in the ordinary. Perhaps we can call them God’s everyday incarnational revealings. Foster says:
The most basic place of our sacramental living is in our marriages and homes and families. Here we live together with well-reasoned love for everyone around us. Here we experience ‘the sacrament of the present moment,’ to use the phrase of Jean Pierre de Caussade. We miss the point of this way of life if we are off conducting prayer meetings and other churchly enterprises when the duty of the present moment is to be at home, playing with our children or caring for other domestic responsibilities. C.S. Lewis wisely observed, ‘The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day: what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.
This is our life where we are right now. And this is where God reveals himself. Yes, he reveals himself cosmically and he will shake up the earth and return in full view of all humankind. We can’t even imagine what will happen and how it will be. Yes, God does stunning miraculous works now, all over the world, healing and rescuing people. God is all powerful. Daily, he faithfully reveals himself in quiet and stunning ways. Have you seen him? I have this more than sneaking suspicion that you and I may be face to face with God, even now.
Well after God revealed himself to John the Baptist, John had to point him out to others. One day, John the Baptist was hanging out with some of his disciples. He saw Jesus walk by. Apparently, which most of us know by now, Jesus didn’t have any outstanding Messiah markings. He wasn’t the ruler of the army or some skilled swordsman, or wheeler and dealer. Just a carpenter. Those standing around John the Baptist had no idea who Jesus was until John said, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” John the Baptist was saying, “Look, there he is, the one we’ve long expected, one greater than me.” His two disciples took off after Jesus to find out what John was talking about. They soon found out for themselves.
Last week, I was sitting here during the meal, and Sarah came over and sat by me. She wanted to catch up. Soon Patty, and Linda, and Becky came over and sat with Iliana and me. I was somewhat tired. But I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. I know these ladies and the others in our church, love me and my family. They care for me…for us. As I sat there, being cared for in conversation and by their attentiveness…suddenly there descended this divine contentedness in knowing that they have made a space for me. They hospitably noticed me. And in them noticing me, paying careful attention to me, I understood yet again, that God took note of me. Surprise. Surprise. There goes God revealing himself to me again. Showing his faithfulness and tender care for me and my family. Through them. They didn’t know it. But I did. And I saw and experienced God face to face. Eye to eye.
Last night, I was all ready to get a good night’s sleep. But Iliana woke up sick. She had been sick with a bad cold all week; I thought we were over it. But she wakes up, and calls to us. So, I go over to her room and she says that her ear and stomach hurt. I end up thinking this is really something, so I take her out of bed and sit with her in the papasan chair. I rubbed her back. I gave her Tylenol. She asks me if she’ll have to go to the hospital and get a shot. I say, “ I don’t know. Maybe. But shots just hurt for a second and then they insert medicine into your bloodstream to make you better.” Then I thought, “Heck, I’ll even throw in a soothing sugar-free popsicle if that’ll make her feel better.” So I did. She didn’t finish it. Then I knew something was wrong. And she cried a lot. As I was thinking about how to soothe her, I thought, “I’ll bring her into our bed. I’ll ask Shawn to sleep on the couch so he can get rest and I’ll keep her with me in case she throws up.”
Needless to say, she was thrilled at the prospect of sleeping in our bed because she never does. So I brought her over. She ended up throwing up twice. Don’t worry, we made it to the bathroom both times. I really thought that I was in for it, that I’d be up for several more hours. I also thought about this homily that I had to deliver. But it wasn’t that bad. I had only been up from 2:30-:5:30 a.m. It was around five when I was thinking that’d be a real long haul. But while we slept side by side in bed, Iliana gently stroked my arms. Kissed my hands. Asked Jesus to be with her, to help her feel better, and be brave in case she needed a shot. She asked me to pray too. And I thought, there you go again God, revealing your goodness, and gentleness, and love, and beauty through my little child, my little girl.
In our passages today, God is telling us, telling the Israelites back in that day, that he’d reveal himself. He’d show up. They’d see that he is faithful, that he is all that he claims to be. He doesn’t let us down. He says, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel. . . .” In Psalm 40, David says that while I was in the pit, as I waited patiently on God, “he stooped to me and heard my cry.” God lifted David out of the pit and put a new song in his mouth. Our God, our great and beautiful God, who’s greatness no one can fathom, over and over again hears us, and stoops down to us.
That’s why David says in verses four and five, “Happy are those who trust in the LORD! They do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods. Great things are they that you have done, O LORD my God! How great your wonders and your plans for us! There is none who can be compared with you.”
Maybe we don’t see God, though he is right in front of us. Well of course, we should then turn to Scripture. And perhaps to others. Sometimes, we need others to point him out to us. That is what I am doing today. Others, including you, do it for me all the time. So, like John the Baptist, I am saying, “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold God, who is faithful to you.” May he satisfy you as you see his faithfulness to you.
Think about how God has been faithful to you and will be faithful to you. There’s no question that he is stooping down to lift you up, there is no question that he will continue to. Behold your God. Amen.