“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps 19:14)
A while back I was reading an article about a family on a ski-trip in Maine. The family had been skiing all day and were starting to drive back to their hotel. The father typed in the address of their lodging and off they went trusting their adventure to the handy guidance system in the car.
He probably did what a lot of us do. He chose the “quickest route” option. Doing what it was told, the GPS was ready to send this guy down a logging road because it was the most direct route between the slopes and the hotel.
I wish it wasn’t the father, but it was. They all saw the signs that warned the logging road was closed for the winter, but the father disregarded the signs and figured that it didn’t look all that bad.
You already know what happened. Deep into the Maine woods they got stuck.
The father had a choice to make while driving. What was he going to follow? The GPS that promised the quickest way back, or was he going to follow the directions on the sign that warned the road was closed?
He had probably already committed himself to the GPS by the time he saw the sign about the road closure. He’d have to backtrack who knows how far to get to an alternate route. He chose the “quickest route” option on the GPS, and backtracking would be just the opposite. So he chose to keep the course that he had already invested in rather than make a change.
All right. Now let’s go to this morning’s Gospel. This is a different baptism story than the one we heard last Sunday, and if you want to talk more about that, think about coming to Bible study tomorrow evening. But for now, let’s just stick to the way John tells it.
We’re again out with John the Baptist in the wilderness around the Jordan River. One day John sees Jesus and praises Him as the “Lamb of God” and the “Son of God.”
The next day the same thing happens again. Hearing this for the second time, two of John’s disciples make the difficult choice to change course and follow Jesus.
I don’t know how closely you were paying attention to the Gospel reading, but there were two of John’s followers who decided to change course and follow Jesus. One is Andrew and the other is left unnamed.
John the Evangelist does this on purpose. He didn’t forget the name. He intentionally leaves the other disciple unnamed because we here are that other unnamed disciple. This happens throughout his Gospel. John isn’t sharing with us a history of somebody else’s story. He’s telling us our story of choice. Will we choose to follow the timeless Jesus or will we stick to the course told to us?
There are many warning signs posted that the way of the world is a dangerous drive. All we need to do is pay attention. Sometimes the violence, greed and lack of compassion get so bad I have to take a break from the news. It’s too depressing and bleak.
Every Communion Sunday, on the other hand, we share in a prayer of thanksgiving when we say together: “For the vision of the day when sharing by all will mean scarcity for none.” That is pure gospel, pure good news. This is why it is shared around the Communion Table. Even if we’re only slightly familiar with the New Testament, this prayer sounds like Jesus.
Today is the Sunday within the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Every year at this time Christians and their churches are asked to pray for unity. Unity is not the same as uniformity. We don’t all have to be the same, but we all need to respect each other as one in Christ.
Remember when I mentioned that John’s Gospel-story of Jesus’ baptism is not the same as the one we shared last week from Matthew. There have been differences in our faith ever since there was our faith, but those differences didn’t separate us. One Gospel follows another in the New Testament. They see Jesus differently, but they stand together. That’s what Christian unity is all about.
The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer is drawn from the last chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Paul is being transported by sea to Rome to there stand trial for his faith. During the voyage, he is shipwrecked in a storm and the survivors wash up on the shores of the island of Malta.
The people there show these strangers “unusual kindness,” and that New Testament passage has been chosen as the overall theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity because in our world today, all of the different Christian churches of the World Council of Churches agree, kindness is unusual.
There is a mean-spiritedness that abounds. Separation and division are the ways of the world. Kindness is unusual. Jesus, though, is another route. Following Jesus is asking us to show “unusual kindness.” It’s our choice which road to follow: the world’s or Jesus.
Just like that unnamed disciple, who is us really, we have a choice to make. Do we continue to follow the course told to us or do we choose to take another route and turn around and follow Jesus?
Remember what Amy read for us from First Corinthians: “[We] are called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”
We’re all called to be saints, and it’s all about the choices we make every day on what road to follow. May we, like that unnamed disciple, choose to follow Jesus, and a big part of this is to embrace “unusual kindness.” In His name we pray. Amen.
"Back from the Brink"
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