Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stepping Aside

A late post intended for yesterday (03/08/11)

John the Baptist amazes me. Here’s a man who attracts a huge following—people who come out from cities and countryside to hear him preach. He’s at the center of an exciting new spiritual movement, and, when someone comes and asks who he is and what role he has in the future of the movement, he simply says, “It’s not about me. I’m just here getting ready for someone else—someone far more important.” That’s remarkable.

In some ways, that’s what we’re asked to do—to be a part of an exciting spiritual movement (called “faith”) but to let someone else take the lead (that’s “Jesus”). And that sounds simple enough. Even people with control needs as high as mine can manage every once in a while to get out of the way and let someone else be in charge, but there’s something more difficult about our faith. God is asking us to share both John the Baptist’s selfless zeal and his blind trust.

In today’s gospel lesson (John 1:19-28), the Baptized is approached by some religious elites who have come to see by what authority he is commanding such a significant spiritual presence. John’s answer is telling: “I baptize with water; but among you stands one who you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” In other words, John was devoting all of his time and energy to preparing the way for someone unknown. How do we possibly focus all our lives on getting ready to step aside for one we haven’t seen?

As Christians, we await the coming of a king we have never laid eye on—at least not in recent generations. I’m asked to prepare my heart and help prepare the world for God’s kingdom even though I have never seen Jesus and, to be honest, even though I have very little understanding of what that kingdom will look like. John the Baptist is calling me to his other-worldly focus, and that’s tough.

We believe in a God we cannot see. We hope in a redemption we cannot imagine. We devote ourselves to following a Christ we cannot know…yet. And how? By getting out of the way. It starts when we admit, as John the Baptist once did, that we are not the center of the show. When we begin by admitting to ourselves that there must be something bigger going on than what we can bring to the table, we make room for the unseen and the unknown. Our inability invites God’s kingdom, and our recognition of our limitations instills enthusiasm.

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