January 15, 2017
This time between Epiphany and Lent (which begins March 1st with Ash Wednesday) is not really a season, but a part of Ordinary Time in the church calendar. And yet there are themes that keep cropping up in the readings when it comes to this idea of revealing what has been hidden in darkness.
Vocation, discipleship, community belonging—that is, when I consider my baptism, and my new identity as a follower or disciple of Christ, how does that change my understanding of self and my role or way in the world? Fundamentally, my "I" becomes a "we"—a deep sense that to be human is to be inextricably and joyfully linked to others and to the whole of creation. Every action is shaped by this deep sense.
There's something more. Our "we" opens us to a sense of how much more is out there, of how much we have yet to discover and understand. Watch this recent TED talk for one biological researcher's take on this idea:
Christian hope is rooted here. Different from optimism or a positive outlook, hope is a deep sense of possibility even in the midst of an accurate accounting of where we are and what's happening. Hope has a steady and unflinching eye toward suffering and injustice. And yet it understands death is never the last word. Something new is always around the corner, in fact, already in existence, waiting for us. So what does hope look like in these texts in this time?
Isaiah 49:1-7 † Psalm 40:1-11 † 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 † John 1:29-42
What good news is there for us? What does it call us to do—that is, our vocation?
Lamb of God
When John identifies Jesus, he calls him "the Lamb of God," Many have interpreted this historically as a sacrifice for sin; but lambs weren't used for sin sacrifices in the temple. They were used for the Passover sacrifice, which remembers the liberation and deliverance of the people by God. Think Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. Think liberation from slavery. Think economic justice for people living through one temblor after another on land that has been undermined by fracking. Think meaningful work for unemployed miners. But think even bigger—psychologically, spiritually, holistically. Think hope:
One commentary says it this way: "Jesus liberates the world from slavery to sin by bringing the world into new and fresh contact with the presence of God, so that human alienation from God can end" (John, Westminster Bible Commentary). How this liberation and deliverance from alienation happen is the story of the Gospels and the heart of the gospel message.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, 20th century
"Faith walks simply, childlike, between the darkness of human life and the hope of what is to come."
Madeleine L'Engle, 20th century
"We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, 20th century
"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die."
Annie Dillard, 21st century
"I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you."
Stephen King, 20th century
"If God gives you something you can do, why in God's name wouldn't you do it?"
Brennan Manning, 21st century
"Everybody has a vocation to some form of life-work. However, behind that call (and deeper than any call), everybody has a vocation to be a person to be fully and deeply human in Christ Jesus."
"God doesn't call the qualified; God qualifies the called."