Keep in Weird
Beloved in Christ,
In the ongoing drama that unfolds across the church year, John the Baptist takes center stage in these middle weeks of Advent. In his odd and minor supporting role, I imagine that for most of us, John the Baptist does not hold a central place in our understanding of Jesus or experience of faith. But for the gospel writers, he is critically important. So here are three ways I think John the Baptist can illuminate our understanding of the way of Jesus.
1) He reminds us our work is always about pointing to Jesus. There is no question that John was a significant figure. He called out the corruption and apathy of the religious and political establishment, and the poor, forgotten masses desperate for hope flocked to hear his message and join his movement for reform. But John did not use his prophetic voice to impress and dazzle with how enlightened he was. He insisted, over and over, that his role was to point the way to Jesus. To follow Jesus is to embrace the healing truth that your life is not about you. Our life is about using who we are and what we have to point to Jesus. Our faith communities don't exist for their own sake; we don't exist to survive. We exist to point the world toward Jesus' perfect way of love.
2) He reminds us that surrender to Jesus is the true path to freedom. John could have embraced the role of rock star. He could have started a huge movement that was totally centered around himself. Instead, he knew that "he himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light" (John 1:8). Everything in the world around us tells us that the individual self is sovereign, and that fulfillment in life is about successfully imposing my will in order to achieve my preferences and attain what I want. John reminds us that in God's economy, true freedom is found in surrendering our will to God's, and true fulfillment is found in giving ourselves away for the sake of Jesus.
3) He reminds us to keep it weird. Pointing to Jesus, and surrendering to God's will instead of insisting on our own, cuts against every message we receive from the wider Western culture. The gospel of Jesus is irrational, it is revolutionary, it challenges all of the ways our sinful souls are wired to think and act. John is a wild figure, ranting in the desert, wearing strange clothing, and keeping a questionable diet. The gospel we proclaim and live together should always have something of John's wild weirdness.
So in these late days of Advent, dear ones, keep pointing to Jesus, keep surrendering your will to God's, and keep it weird.
Grace and peace,
The Right Reverend Craig Loya