By Sarah Cornwell
A Reading from the Gospel of John 17:12-19
12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
When I was in high school, it was fashionable to wear a shirt with the word “Rebel” emblazoned across its front. The problem was, of course, that as soon as one put on a ubiquitous shirt made by a popular brand, the label “rebel” ceased to apply.
It’s especially cool today to be an outsider. We are unique — don’t you know — with courageous ideas that run afoul of a dying world desperate to retain its power. The world is on the side of the evil one; the outsiders are on the side of the angels. It seems pretty clear that we are the super awesome rebels Jesus is praying for in today’s gospel reading.
Or is it so clear?
Even we outsiders are fallen man — but not The Man, heaven forbid — and as such, we are prone to one of man’s greatest weaknesses: pride. To prepare the way for the coming of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist said, “I must decrease so he may increase.” If we have pride in being hated, that makes the mission about us. To be hated by the right people — ignorant saps who are so of the world! — is not to score a point for the kingdom, but for ourselves, in our own in-group, our own in-world, so to speak.
If we’re looking for real rebel models of speaking truth to power, it’s hard to find a better example than John the Baptist. Who are we serving with our outsider status and our truth-telling? In our own lives, are we seeking to decrease our own importance? Do our words and actions point away from us towards Jesus, or do they point back to ourselves? If the answer is the latter, well then, we might as well clad ourselves in rebel t-shirts from Gap.
Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman, ballet teacher, and an associate of the Eastern Province of the Community of St. Mary. She and her husband have six children and they live in the Hudson Valley north of New York City.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Olympia
The Diocese of Bida (Church of Nigeria)