Maybe today I should tell you a little of my past.
Well, as you know, after receiving a Nobel Prize in physics, I flew up to the International Space Station before founding a billion -dollar business empire which allowed me to sail round the world single-handed.
Of course, all of that is utter rubbish. Yet we seem to be in an era when famous people can make up the most amazing nonsense about themselves. They claim to be whatever they fancy with no qualms. They are happy not with one truth but alternative truths.
Yet the question is – why are they doing this in the first place? And it seems to come down to the fact, they know we are all still looking for ‘the one’; the one who is to come, the true saviour and the ultimate hero. And, thus, we are too easily a victim of our own scatter-gun approach to looking for a messiah.
Nevertheless, the antidote to those who would seek to delude us is in our hands. It is the same one as given by Luke. It is in the response we hear there from Christ. And it is don’t believe words – believe actions.
Let us then believe not in human champions with distinctly feet of clay but the One of good actions. The One who encourages, inspires and insists on helping the blind see, the lame walk and goodness preached to the poor. Let us put our faith this day in Christ alone.
So, why is Jesus not accepted universally as the beacon of right and saviour to righteousness. Why indeed do people prefer the idol of the Twitter feed or Facebook page over the One who is God with us and God acting for us?
Well, Jesus gives something of the answer in the second part of today’s combined reading. For here, he contrasts the two approaches to people between himself and John.
Now, firstly, we must accept that Jesus and John were ministering to two different groups.
John was called to be a guiding prophet to Joe and Josephine Soap of our everyday experience. He came to call ordinary people out of their rut and routine. Put bluntly, he was called to prod each of us here to go out into the wilderness.
Since it was only there he saw the possibility of renewal, refreshment and return to a better way of living. For he was saying come on out of your bubble and leave fallow life’s less productive fields.
Because, let’s face it, we can all feel that what was once powering our lives has gone a tad flat. Maybe our faith has become a bit threadbare with recent experiences. Maybe our spiritual life has fallen into disrepair due to our toils, burdens and distractions. Maybe our good intentions for ourselves have come to little more. And so, we may be in danger of saying what we should not and not doing what we should. Moreover, we may even be on the cliff edge of not being the person we want to be.
Yet despite its veracity, God’s call through John is unpopular because it is not just uncomfortable it is decidedly unsettling. Better for most people today to ignore it.
However, Jesus had a different approach to a different ministry. For he was called not to the man and woman in the street but to those who were in genuinely dark places. Those whose lives were blighted by an overpowering badness. Those indeed who were outsiders often for very good reasons.
For Christ knew that, for those so afflicted and afflicting, there are few avenues to back it back their community’s fellowship. So, Jesus did not hold back, he did not just call out from the safety of a better place. Instead he went into the blackness and the stinking places. He went to meet those who were so far down they could not find their way up. He went to eat with the really ‘bad hombres’ – as current parlance has it.
Yet, despite the resounding virtue of Christ’s mission, few in any age feel able to follow in his footsteps. For this call is not just unsettling but nearly impossible even for the most committed.
No wonder then that while John was criticised from keeping himself holy from the mundanity of compromise, Jesus was condemned for getting ‘down and dirty’. No wonder, Christ called his critics ‘children’ and a perverse generation. No wonder every succeeding generation have continued to be perverse by rejecting the call to going into the wilderness and rescue from darkness.
However, John and Jesus two approaches also give us a way to conquer our natural human instincts. They help us to return to being the people we want to be. They guide us to the path of revitalising ourselves and retrieving people from bad places.
Because, in the week ahead, we will hear John’s call to go out to the desert if only for a few moments. By that I mean the wilderness of solitude without telly, phone or other distraction. For it is there we will reconnect with our hero and saviour. It is there we will rediscover a companionship that will reaffirm us and support us and inspire us. It will be there our faith will blossom once more in our aridity. It is there we will become ready to be prophets to our generation.
Then refreshed and refuelled, we can prepare to heed Jesus’ call to venture forth. To help others from their blackness and back to life and light and truth. To help ourselves be lifted out of our own bad places back to life and light and truth. To help everyone to hear, see and know the truth and to hear, see and know the wisdom. For the unalloyed truth and wisdom is that we are all God’s children if adorned with false glories and alternative riches.
Come on then, let’s believe in the one and only, let us believe in the one who is to come. Let us indeed take his call – and take it now!