Why Does God Call John the Baptist and Other Nobodies?
For the four Sundays of Advent, Bondings 2.0 will feature reflections on the day’s Scripture readings by New Ways Ministry’s Associate Director, Matthew Myers. The liturgical readings for the Second Sunday of Advent are Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 126:1-6; Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6. You can read the texts by clicking here.
“Creator Confounds Critics by Calling Quirky Commoner.” Perhaps that would be a good tabloid headline for today’s Gospel reading. Let me explain why.
A depiction of John the Baptist
When I first read the passage from Luke, at first I really struggled to understand why the Gospel writer would list several prominent civil and religious leaders by name — Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, Lysanias, Annas, and Caiaphas — before introducing John the Baptist. How does their mention contribute to the story, if at all? I grappled with this question until I had the idea to re-write the Gospel using people from today:
“In the seventh year of the presidency of Barack Obama,
when John Kerry was Secretary of State,
and Andrew Cuomo was governor of New York,
and Chris Christie the governor of New Jersey,
during the papacy of Francis,
the word of God came to Jane Doe in an Iowa cornfield.”
BAM! I get it now. God could have spoken to all kinds of powerful and influential people in my reimagined narrative — the President and Pope included! — but instead chose to talk with a nobody. Of all the high and mighty people who have wealth, power, and fame — the very things we often associate with “importance” in this world — God chose to talk with a nobody, a common person like you or me who enjoys none of those things. And so it was that God spoke with John the Baptist, a nobody.
I admire John the Baptist. He was a nobody who felt he had a mission from God to preach the forgiveness of sins. And so he did it. John traveled “throughout the whole region of the Jordan” and baptized everyone who asked for it. He had great initiative, and that’s why I like him.
Over the years, I have met a lot of wonderful people who felt that God was pulling at their hearts to do something for LGBT justice in our church. And like John the Baptist, they took action! They may have felt called to preach a message of love and acceptance through social media, to reach out to their local bishop, to start an LGBT ministry at their parish, or any number of other outstanding and inspirational things. They felt called, and they did something!
I admire these people with all my heart because they didn’t wait for someone else to take action–even if they felt like nobodies. Even if they were “nobodies.” They didn’t wait for their bishop or their pastor to do it. They just did what they felt God was moving them to do. What is more simple or more beautiful than that?
So, during this Advent season, I invite you to do something good. Do anything. God is speaking to you — along with the rest of us “nobodies” — to do the work of building God’s reign on earth. Just start now. Just do it.