Thursday, August 14, 2008

John the Baptist Speaks To Me

Dear friends and readers of Doorman-Priest:

My blog name is Grandmère Mimi, and I post at Wounded Bird. How likely is it that I, a layperson in the Episcopal Church in the southern US, would be asked to do a guest post for Doorman-Priest, a religion teacher and seminary student for the Lutheran ministry from Leeds in the UK? Not very likely but for the miracle of the internet. And take a look at my fellow guest posters.

Erika, who is originally from Germany, but is now living in the UK
Wayne, a Baptist from Georgia in the US
Alcibiades, an Anglican from Sydney, Australia
Reverend Boy, an Episcopalian from New York City
Fran, a Roman Catholic from New York State
Bob (RFSJ), an Episcopal priest from New Jersey
Boaz, another Anglican from Sydney, Australia
Dr. Bob

What a motley crew. A rogues gallery? I think not, with the exception of moi. The rest of the folks are lovely people. I don't know Dr. Bob, but I'm sure he's lovely, too. DP asked me to substitute once before, and I was anxious for days before I was due to write. Once again, I am anxious. Each time Doorman-Priest or one of my fellow guest posters write, the task appears ever more daunting, because they all write well, and I fear that I won't measure up. How dare I try to follow in their footsteps? But a promise made is a promise to be kept, right?

What we have in common seems to be that we all profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, seeking to walk in the way that he laid out for us in the Gospels. And we like to talk through the intertubes. We don't always agree on exactly what being a present day disciple of Jesus means, but we look upon one another as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

The painting above is "John the Baptist" by Caravaggio from the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. I'll take any opportunity to post that painting, because I think it's so beautiful, but it leads very nicely into the subject of my post.

In the first chapter of John's Gospel, we find these words:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. John 1 6-8

If I claim to be a disciple of Christ, then I am called to be a witness, to testify to the light, to reflect the light of Christ to those around me, as John the Baptist did. I tend to think of the great saints as examples in following Jesus, and while they inspire me, they tend to discourage me a little, too, because I know that I'm never going to suffer martyrdom or do mighty works for the faith like the great saints. It's much more likely that Jesus is calling me to obey his commandments to love God and love my neighbor in my daily life, interacting with the folks who are closest to me and others who come my way, to reflect a little of the light of Christ to them. Even that task is daunting, for I'm aware that, much too often, I fall short. Lord, have mercy. Lord, give me the grace to reflect your light to a greater degree.

Then in the third chapter of John we read:

Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:25-30

What wonderful words! As a follower of Jesus, I speak the words after the example of John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease". The words are a great hook, but I need something to hang on that wonderful hook, and I'm struggling to find my way in what seems like a dark and empty desert. What could those words mean in my everyday life? Could it mean letting the ego die, like the grain of wheat? Could it mean letting go of my wants, my petty frustrations when things don't go my way; my quick, snarky, and not-so-kind responses to those nearest and dearest to me; my judgmental attitude toward folks who don't do what I think they should do or don't go the way I think they should go? Lord, have mercy! All of that must decrease if the light of Jesus is to show forth. All of that is to decrease, else there is no room for Jesus. And that's only the part of it that has to do with those close to me.

What about the wider world out there? I confess to fatigue and a sense of being overwhelmed by the injustice, evil, and cruelty that we humans inflict on one another. What can I DO aside from just FEELING bad about all of that? Surely, that's part of the Jesus to Mimi increase-decrease ratio. I can do the small things that need doing in my family and my community. I can write letters and make phone calls and give money to worthy causes. What else? It's not enough, but what else?

One way I try is on my little blog, my little blog that seems to be taking over my life in a manner that I never dreamed would happen. My voice is small, not heard by many people, but I do what I can with it to shine the light of Christ on a small space in the world, to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves, to expose the dark deeds of the powerful, to point out injustice and cruelty. Is that enough? Indeed not!

My writing here is a starting point as I await God's direction as to where to go from here. I've found words in John's Gospel that resonate for me. What I've written is more about asking the questions, rather than having the answers for what to do with those words. Perhaps, some of you who read this will comment and enlighten me.

Before I finish, I'd like to express my gratitude to Doorman-Priest for honoring me by his trust in permitting me to post on his wonderful blog. My admiration and respect for DP is enormous. I'll leave it at that and not embarrass him with a paean of praise, listing all that I admire about him, because he would not want me to do that.

May God bless you, DP, in your ministry in Estonia. May God bless you and your family in your travels. May God bless all of you who read these words. Thank you for visiting.