Because, And, For

James Cornwell

A Reading from the Gospel of John 3:22-36 

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized, 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. 34 He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.


Today’s gospel reading centers on St. John the Baptist and his ongoing ministry, and moreover, the reason for that ministry:

John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized. For John had not yet been put in prison.

How remarkable this passage is when we note the conjunctions: “because,” “and,” and “for.” The passage is saying that the Baptist was engaging in his God-given ministry “because there was much water,” “and people came,” “for [he] had not yet been put in prison.”

How many of us approach our own God-given ministries with this mindset? When someone asks us why we work to share God’s mercies with the world, who would answer, “Because there is a lot of mercy to share”? Or even, “Because people keep coming to receive it”? Or, perhaps most provocatively, “Because I have not yet been put in prison”? Instead, our culture tends to call us mainly to introspection, to create a story in which we are the protagonist, and view this ministry as first and foremost an outgrowth of personal narrative, rather than a duty called forth from us and provided for by God.

Once God has given you a calling, the reasons for fulfilling it are actually simple. Do you have the resources to share God’s mercy? Are there, or will there be, people to receive it? Are you not yet thrown into prison? If the answer to all three questions is “yes,” then the question “Why?” is answered for you. Go forth and reap, for the fields are white for harvest!

James Cornwell lives and teaches in the Hudson Valley with his wife Sarah and their seven children.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Juba – The Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan
Christ Church Cathedral, Nashville, Tenn.


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