We expect Jesus to emerge from John’s shadow in a public way, to take
on the establishment and lead the charge for God’s reign. Instead, when
John is arrested Jesus withdraws (Matt. 4:12). He slips away to the
margins, to the territory of Zebulun and Napthali, off the radar of
What an anomaly: while many Americans were gearing up for Christmas and singing the angels’ song of peace on earth, good will to all, the nation was considering the government practice of torture—or more precisely, how and why videotapes of the government’s harsh interrogation practices had been destroyed.
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!”
Some of my favorite words from the United Methodist Church’s liturgy
for Holy Baptism are the first ones spoken: “Brothers and sisters in
Christ: Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s
holy church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation
and given new birth through water and the Spirit.
For a preacher, the challenge of Epiphany is that it comes every year.
The story unfolds as it always does: King Herod, the wise men from the
East, gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. By now, the pageant is
overplayed. The star of wonder has lost its awe. How, in this
over-handled text, can anything new break through?
An Alcoholics Anonymous group that has been meeting in a Baptist church in Keithville, Louisiana, for more than five years was told that it can no longer meet there. The church is forcing the group out for fear that if it lets nonchurch groups use the building, it could be forced to let it be used for the marriage of gays or lesbians. The pastor said the church was acting on the advice of an article in the Louisiana Baptist Church Message. A spokesperson for People Acting for Change and Equality said the church’s action is misguided. “Even if we have legalized gay marriage throughout the country, no church will be forced to marry gay people if they don’t want to,” she said (KSLA News, September 25).