Thursday, December 10, 2009

Calling all John's . . .

Luke tells us that John the Baptist was fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah as a “voice crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’.” But which prophecy is being fulfilled?

Certainly, John’s act of calling to Israel to repentance is consistent with the prophesy. After all, John’s ministry is to call the world’s attention to the Messiah, and he certainly does that. In the few verses about him in the Bible, John consistently reminds his listeners and us readers that the one Whom he announces is far more significant than himself. But have you ever considered that you are called to this kind of ministry every day? And so, in a sense, your witness to Christ is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy. Heady stuff? Consider . . .

Physically, the journey from Jericho to Jerusalem is demanding. It’s not like climbing the Himalayas, but it is uphill. And the sun can be scorching if one walks at the wrong time of day. Add to that the wildlife, the rocky terrain, and brigands, and we can get a sense of why the prophet was concerned with leveling mountains and smoothing the roads. But if we think about it, sometimes the Church makes salvation like that for those around us.

Sometimes we clergy speak a little too theological. We sometimes use words like propitiation, atonement, unmerited grace and the like when talking about God. It might be an accurate and descriptive truth to a Bible study group, but is it for the unchurched? Similarly, as I am experiencing at the truck stop, sometimes we use different languages in different situations, even though we would all claim to be speaking English. In the few short weeks of that new ministry, I have learned that it will take a lot of work for me to become a “bud.” I am, in their eyes, apparently still a “sir.” Such difficult terrains are experienced by those who try to fill in as youth ministers when they, themselves, lack the call. I could go on and on with such examples.

But God has called you into ministry. God has allowed you to be formed by your experiences. And He will take your language, your experiences, your life and use it and you to reach others, if you will but let Him. Can you reach others with whom you share no experiences or common lives? To be sure, all things are possible with God. But who better to reach those from broken families than those of us who come from families with issues and subscriptions of our own? Who better to reach athletes than those who played sports themselves. Who better to reach artists than those with an eye for beauty? Who better to reach those dependent upon chemical substances than those who have been freed from such burdens by our Lord.

Brothers and sisters, in a very real sense, you and I are called to be those voices crying out in the wilderness. You and I are called to go forth in the world proclaiming salvation to all with whom we come into contact. You and I, like John, are called to place the world’s focus on the One who can save. You and I are called to share with those in our lives the paths He has smoothed for us, the valleys He has filled in for us, the mountains that He has leveled for us that we might be drawn to Him and promised life eternal. And faithfully, He turns those wildernesses into gardens and sadnesses into joy!

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