Lamb of God
Lamb of God
“The door to happiness opens outward.” – Soren Kierkegaard
It is Awards Season in Hollywood. All of your favourite television shows and movies, actors and actresses have been nominated for a variety of categories. Every industry has its version of an awards show, but no one does it up like Hollywood does. Not only is there an award for being the best actor, but you could win that award at the Golden Globes, Emmies, Foreign Press and the Oscars. Amidst all the hustle and bustle are the red carpets where the elite of Hollywood show up and have their picture taken. It really is quiet the show.
However, it provides a startling contrast to Jesus who, but for John pointing him out, no one would even notice. And I believe that is true today. If Jesus were to slide into one of the back pews on any given Sunday, we probably wouldn’t even recognize that he was anyone special.
It’s a startling contrast and it speaks volumes to where societies priorities are placed.
Prof. Sherri Brown notes that John is the first human character to speak in John’s gospel. He takes control of the narrative and teaches the ‘how’ of the good news.
As a side note we should also note that within the Gospel of John, the individual we know as John the Baptist is never referred to as such. He is simply referred to as John and his role in this gospel is to be a ‘witness’. You will note that it is the sub-headings, placed by the translators and editors of the Bible, which refer to John as the Baptist within this gospel (reference).
We are also in the season of Epiphany and Epiphany does not allow us to be bystanders. Following Jesus is an active posture, action is part of the very nature of being a Christian. There are a variety of issues that require us to witness to the love of Jesus. Karoline Lewis states that “abundant life is at stake.”
In her message to preachers this week she continues, “A sermon on this Second Sunday after Epiphany should communicate this need, this urgency, and this necessity. If we don’t, we capitulate to the assumption that God’s revelation doesn’t matter or worse, that we are incapable of seeing it.” (Working Preacher)
What is the need? What is the urgency?
It is a question of identity and belonging. Who do we say that we are as people who gather Sunday after Sunday? Does calling ourselves Followers of Christ, Christians, have any meaning or value? Is it just something that we do, do we just show up because we always have or do we assume that active posture? Do we take action? To whom do we belong? As Christians we do not belong to ourselves, but to God?
The urgency? Look at the world. We entered the new year and the spectre of a new war was upon us. Vast disparity exists between the rich and the poor. The climate of the planet is changing and we debate what and how that means. The city of Barcelona declared the following earlier this week. In their declaration the city states:
“The current economic model is based on endless growth, consumption and a permanent race for profit. This economic system threatens the ecological balance of our planet and has multiplied inequalities.” (reference)
The season of Epiphany illuminates Jesus Christ in our lives and some 2000 years after he came I feel a sense of urgency to do the work of the kingdom of God. Here we are in John’s gospel and the only one who recognizes Jesus is his cousin John. The only one who knows the change that is required is his cousin. Jesus is otherwise unrecognizable. To the world outside those doors, Jesus is unknown. The world is suffering, it could use a good dose of the Good News. It could use the work of the kingdom in its midst.
But that will take work and that work is hinted at by John when he calls Jesus the Lamb of God. Jesus Lamb of God. Only mentioned in John 1 in the whole Bible. The image ‘Lamb of God’ foreshadows Jesus death. Lambs were used for sacrifice; the Lamb of God would end up being the ultimate sacrifice. I’m not saying we need to make the ultimate sacrifice to do the work of the kingdom. That’s been done for us, that isn’t the call of the Christian. Our task is to illuminate that sacrifice and continue the work. But some sacrifice is needed.
The sacrifice of our time and resources. Perhaps the sacrifice of our traditions, of looking for a new way of being church within our communities. It’s hard and it’s frustrating at times. We see echoes of that frustration in the second Servant Song in Isaiah.
Prof. Juliana Claassens writes, “This text offers some important perspectives for many individuals and communities who may be experiencing hardship today. It is so easy in contexts of trauma to become overly obsessed with one’s own struggle for survival. Such an inward-looking mentality that may be coupled with a circling-the-wagons approach focuses just on me, my family, my people at the cost of the other. An extreme manifestation may even resort to scapegoating the other in order to solidify social boundaries.”
She continues, “The Servant of God probably also could, and should, be understood as referring both to a faithful individual who is called to bring about healing and liberation for those in need…” (reference).
The Christian ethic of service to your community is evident in what has traditionally been called the Servant Songs from Isaiah. Last week we had the first of these read and today we heard the second. The text and contextually located with the people of Israel who have been displaced or forced into exile when Babylon captured Jerusalem. Within our text from Isaiah today we witness signs of lament and frustration.
Who do we need to be in light of what is revealed to us in Jesus Christ? John’s gospel makes it very clear that we are to point to the truth that we find in Jesus. The one who is the way, the truth and the life. We stand in the season of Epiphany, where the glory and identity of Jesus are first revealed to us in a public way. Are we willing to be public about who Jesus is and why we follow him?
Are we willing to divert our attention from the allure of the red carpet and search for the face of Jesus? Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.