Beloved St. John’s community,
Today is the feast day of our patron saint, St. John the Baptist. We celebrated his birth this past Sunday at church. We were so joyful to be together again. We baptized a beautiful baby boy, Simon Jones; welcomed a new member, Alex Musial; and celebrated the ordination of our own Kate Maxwell the priesthood… There are and were many things to celebrate.
And when John the Baptizer was doing his work among the people of Israel, and knew himself to be the forerunner of the one who was to come, he sometimes had moments of doubt. He had been so sure, it seemed, that God had appointed him to prepare the way of the Lord, as the ancient prophecies had foretold. But sometimes the “one who was to come,” his cousin Jesus, did not do things in the way he had expected. So much so, that in the daily office lectionary reading for St. John’s feast day, John sends some disciples to ask Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” And Jesus responds: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.’
Sometimes, following the Way of Jesus isn’t as we expected it would be. Why did you begin coming to church? Do you sometimes look at Christian faith, or the Way of Jesus, or membership at St. John’s, and think, is this really what I signed up for? As we recover from the pandemic and begin to decide what about our previous lives we want to resume and what we do not, do any of you find yourselves thinking: I sure have enjoyed my Sunday morning bathrobe, coffee, and Star Tribune. Do I really want to go back to church?
Jesus’ answer, then and now, is about what the loving, liberating, life-giving Way he empowers and teaches actually accomplishes in the world. It’s about healing, opening our eyes and ears, empowering those who are stuck to move again, raising that which is dead to a life that we never thought possible, and proclaiming good news to those in poverty. This is what always happens around the person of Jesus, and around the Spirit of Jesus whose risen life animates the Church—Christ’s body in the world. Because Jesus shows us what two core doctrines of faith are about: Trinity—that God is relational and that we are made for and inseparable from all others; and Incarnation—that the love of God is meant to be expressed in real bodies, real actions, in real time, here on earth, as it is in heaven. That God’s own being is manifest in physical reality.
If you take nothing else from what followers of Jesus actually believe, it’s that we are made for loving relationship with God and one another, and that we are meant to express that love in tangible, practical, even divine ways. We can’t accomplish this on our own; we need the healing and empowering of Christ to live Jesus’ Way.
Jesus’ Way leads us to do loving service, to advocate for the poor in the political arena, to forgive one another, and to create welcoming, safe communities in which all belong equally. Jesus’ Way leads us to some things that are unexpected and even uncomfortable at times. John the Baptizer spoke truth to power, and it cost him his life. We are called to look at the world as it is today, and risk loving one another into healing and transformation.
This is what church is about: nourishing, renewing, healing, and connecting us to the presence of God and to one another, so that we can live courageous, risk-taking, beautifully loving lives in our families and neighborhoods and world. I am so deeply moved to be able to meet together again with all of you in our beautiful building, to rest and be refreshed by the power of God.
May it be so.
In Christ’s love,