I am among those called to lead people in confessing sin and announcing God's forgiveness in the Sunday liturgy, an essential action never altogether free from the threat of routinized going-through-the-motions. This action is anything but routine, however, when it occurs in the setting I described in my lectionary column for the Century on this week's Gospel lesson.
I am often at a loss for words when people ask me what I think. To me, thinking—making clear and linear progress through my mental swamp—is drudgery that I perform only when it is necessary. But if someone says, “Tell me a story,” I am in my element.
John the Baptist has been our constant companion on the journey through
Advent and into Epiphany. First, it was his task to make ready the way
of the Lord. Next, it was his privilege to baptize Jesus in the river
Jordan. Now, it is his purpose to bear witness to Jesus’ identity,
“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Gothic cathedral. A gay couple approaches holding hands. “Step aside, please,” say the muscle-bound guards. They speak similar words to an African-American girl, a Hispanic man, a young man in a wheelchair. Then, just as we realize that the two large men are “church bouncers,” the scene fades to black and the tag line reads: “Jesus didn’t turn people away. Neither do we.”