By Chuck Alley

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 1:1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Meditation

John looked like an Old Testament prophet, spoke like an OT prophet, lived like an OT prophet (probably even smelled like an OT prophet). So was John an OT prophet? St. Mark certainly presents him as such, but John adds even more to his profile. With John we have a new chapter in the on-going story. While the OT prophets convict and cajole, predict and prescript, appoint and anoint, none is recorded as routinely baptizing for the forgiveness of sin. The latter was so much a part of John’s ministry that he has not been remembered as “Elijah II” but as John the Baptist, for so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Yet there was a second element to his message: the announcement of the coming of the Messiah. Both the focus on forgiveness of sin and the announcement of the Messiah define John as the transitional figure between God’s promise and its fulfillment.

We too live in a transitional time. Scripture refers to this period variously as the “Last Days” or the “End Times.” While John’s role was to prepare for the coming of the Messiah (the Christ), our call is to prepare for the return of the Messiah as king and for the consummation of his eternal kingdom. As believers we are tasked with announcing and demonstrating the message and purpose of God in this world. In so doing we are to point beyond ourselves, beyond our ministries, and beyond our churches to the one who is returning. Our lives are to be defined by the proclamation of God’s truth through word and deed in the midst of this spiritual wilderness.

Chuck Alley is a retired Episcopal priest and an adjunct associate professor of anatomy on the medical faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. He and his wife, Scottie, have three children and nine grandchildren.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Diocese of Pune (North India) and the Rt. Rev. Sharad Yuvraj Gaikwad
Diocese of Cork, Cloyne & Ross (Ireland) and the Rt. Rev. William Paul Colton
Diocese of East Tennessee and the Rt. Rev. Brian Cole