Minister's Blog

Reflections from habitat uniting church's minister, Rev Joan Wright Howie.

Chistmas is a call for revolution

Sunday, December 17, 2017
John the Baptist came in the days before Jesus proclaiming that he was a witness to a new light that was coming into the world. John 6-8. God sent a man named John to be a witness vouching for the light, so that by his testimony everyone could recognize it. He wasn’t the light. His job was to point to the light.

When the authorities sent interrogators to ask him, “Who are you?”, he owned up to it. He didn’t shirk it off, but he stated plainly: “I’m not the Revolutionary you’re looking for.”

They asked him, “What then? Are you codename Elijah?” He said, “I’m not.” “

Are you codename Truth-teller?” “No,” he said.

So they asked him, “Who are you then? We need answers for those who sent us. What do you have to say for yourself?”

He said, “I’m the voice Isaiah was talking about, shouting in the desert, ‘Make a straight highway for God.'”

The interrogators were concerned that he was recruiting so they asked him, “Why are you bathing people, since you’re not the Revolutionary, nor Elijah, nor the Truth-teller?”

John said, “I just get people wet. There is someone among you – you don’t know who – who will come after me, and compared to him I’m unworthy even to untie his shoes.”

This all took place in Bethany, a leper town, a place nobody went to unless they were sick or dying or otherwise unclean. It’s the home of Simon the Leper. It’s the place from which Lazarus’s family sent word that he was about to die.

Today it would be like John going to Manus Island and tending to the men stranded there. Or fronting up to one of the local rooming houses where homeless men get to rest a while. It would be like being in a refuge for battered women or setting up a safe injecting room for addicts.

This is where the fourth gospel begins, with John the Baptist bathing the unclean dying people of Bethany. Offering them a bath & a little sanitation. Just going about his business when the authorities turn up and interrogate him.

And so it is we get to hear John’s words as he echoes the prophet Isaiah and prepares the way for his readers providing clues to the identity of Jesus. John offers clues that the interrogators are incapable of understanding. The people who claim to be in charge, just don’t get it and the people you’d least expect to understand are drawn in with profound insight and clarity to the heart of what is real.

The very first story we hear as readers of this gospel describes a moment that marks the beginning of a revolution.
The very revolution the authorities hope to avoid. Yet, by turning up in Bethany and asking questions the story of lepers being baptized is told and the revolution begins.


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