Psalm 40 :1- 11; Isaiah 49 : 1 – 7; 1 Corinthians 1 : 1 – 9; John 1 : 29 – 42
by Local Preacher, Adam Biddlestone (Zion).
Here is a clear thread in our readings this week about individual call, Isaiah echoes words from the more familiar Psalm 139 about the Lord calling us into the plan he has for our lives, ‘before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he spoke my name.’
The Psalmist speaks of the desire to do God’s will, respond to his call and to live life, recognizing the new purpose and direction that responding to God’s call offers, like having a new song to sing. He is realistic about the enormity of the task, ‘were I to speak and tell of all your deeds, they would be too many to declare.’ (verse 5)
Throughout my time in the Circuit, one of the questions I consistently get asked, is ‘are you a Minister or are you ordained?’ So, I tend to offer a clear answer by explaining my role and specifically which part of that role puts me in contact with the people asking me ‘who are you?’ John the Baptist had a similar experience. In the verses that lead into our Gospel reading, there is a conversation about John’s identity, about his exact calling and purpose (John 1 : 19 – 28). Priests sent by the Jewish leaders want to challenge John’s right to offer Baptism, a right linked to identity. Following his confession, ‘I am not the Messiah!’ they question John further to discover who he really is, discovering he is neither Elijah nor the Prophet.
‘Why then do you baptize?’ they ask him. This makes way for John to be clear with them, stressing again that he has come to prepare the way for the one who will come after him, whose identity they do not yet know.
In the reading this week, John then takes the opportunity to point Jesus out to them, ‘Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!’ It is the Lamb of God who makes John’s words and actions necessary, the one he came to prepare a way for and baptize with water, so that the Holy Spirit may be prompted to descend in the form of a dove and God’s voice declare, ‘this is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ John’s Gospel doesn’t include the Baptism story but it is recounted as part of John distinguishing between himself and the Messiah and making his calling and purpose clear, so explaining his presence among them. John testifies Jesus is God’s chosen one because of what he has been called to do and in living up to that calling his testimony becomes clear.
The following day John testifies again in a similar way, prompting his own disciples to follow Jesus and commit to the life of discipleship.
At this time of year, we, like Methodists of every generation, renew our Covenant, ‘I am no longer my own but yours ’ and commit to ‘willingly offer all I have and am to serve you, as and where you choose.’ The words can be very easy to say because we read them from a page or screen, hopefully each year they prompt us afresh to think about the focus of our calling as individuals and the gathered body of Christ. Which areas of mission, witness and service, within and beyond the church, are we called to focus on this year?