John the Baptizer is a prime example of the words Flannery O’Connor when she said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you ODD!” He came in from the wilderness, wearing camel hair and eating locusts and wild honey, preaching hell fire every time proclaiming a baptism for repentance,
Publicly calling down Herod Antipas for marrying his niece who happened to be married to his brother got him in jail. They were close those Herods. Cooling his heels in jail – he begins, first to wonder and then to ponder and then to fret. Then he sends disciples to Jesus asking the question, really on behalf of everyone of us who have ever encountered Jesus.
Tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor good news brought to them.
Brian McClaren in his book, Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices, tells the story of being the moderator a question and answer period at lecture. In response to a question the Speaker said that he had asked the manger of a book store what were the bestselling book categories. He reported that the bestselling books were about how to get rich. The second best category was religion/spirituality. Then the man asked Brian, “Why do you suppose that books on Buddhism sell better than books on Christianity. Not knowing what to say Brian asked the speaker what he thought and the man said, “It‘s because Buddhism is a way of life and Christianity is a set of beliefs.” That’s it. That’s the issue.
Listen carefully = this is the very reason for Renewal Works. This is the reason for Saint John’s Reads. Let me see if I can describe the dilemma as I see it.
The enlightenment so elevated the thinking function until we are barely able to consider any other way of dealing with reality. We have come to think that thinking is all there is. For whatever happens we work to find the right way to think about it. We do studies, statistics, trends and demographics. We come up with the word formula and the words are the thing. And that is not true.
Let me use an example from American culture.
- I believe that George Washington lived from 1732-1799.
- I believe that George was a good man.
- I believe that cut down the cherry tree and refused to lie about it.
- I believe that George was the “Father of his country.”
- If I am in Virginia, I might go to Mt. Vernon and see where he lived and is buried.
- Or I might go to the Washington Monument in Washington D C .
- I can carry a few copies of his picture around in my wallet.
- I may take George’s name in vain and say “By George” in conversation but then such talk is cheap.
These are a set of beliefs but they have nothing to do with how I live my life on Tuesday or any other day. Even if:
- We accept the data.
- We affirm the word formula.
- We can say the word formula the right way so everyone will know we believe.
- And it is not enough!
Richard Rohr – not Orthodoxy, right belief, we have more of that than we know what to do with so now we fight about the word formulas to the confusion, consternation and then cold feet of our people as they quietly find the exits because affirming facts and data of belief will not stop the slow leak in their souls.Richard goes on to say that what we need is Orthopraxy – Right Practice. The enlightenment produced extraordinary intellect and technology while discounting and forgetting the practices that formed our ancestors in the faith.
How many of you have noticed that by reading the Bible most every day something shifted in you? The stories came to mind. You begin to see your own story in the Bible story. It’s not practicing our faith, it’s “faithing” our practice that must happen.
Jesus didn’t say, “Go and tell John that he needs to believe that I am the Lord, the Christ, begotten of my Father before all worlds. God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with my Father. He didn’t say, “now repeat it back to me so I know you go the words just right. Now, all together so we all know what to believe.He didn’t say, “Repeat after me.” He didn’t say, affirm this word formula.
What he said was, “Go 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,
- and the poor good news brought to them.
Notice that the verbs. Things are happening to those in need. John must have been reassured. What Jesus did what people were hoping for. What Jesus was doing puts, “Paid” to the baptism in the Jordon: The Kingdom of God is come near you! What we know is that people experienced something out there by and in the Jordan.
Remember the Jordan:
- It is the boundary between the wilderness and the Promised Land.
- In the Jordon they were washed, baptized into hope
That was happening by the Jordon. Even the priests came out. Even people like me who think they have seen it all. They also came to experience the Baptism of hope. “Are you the one or should we wait for another?”
This is the one for whom we have waited. Let us stir ourselves from sleep, rise up and follow him. AMEN.