“Look, here is the Lamb of God,” said John the Baptist, pointing Jesus out to everyone within earshot. John’s destiny was to be the Forerunner, he who comes ahead of the Messiah, making his paths straight. His was the job of cosmically warming up the crowd. Pointing out that lives needed to change, that a new understanding needed to be sought, and that light was about to come into the world, he was the voice crying in the wilderness, the wake up call, the herald. His role was to guide people to Jesus, to get people ready to receive what Jesus would reveal to them, and then to step aside.
How did John recognize Jesus for who he was? The Gospel of John relates that he had been told that a certain incident would occur. The one upon whom he saw the Spirit descend like a dove and remain would be the Son of God. John’s whole reason for going out to the Jordan to baptize people was so he could be present to experience this incident when it happened. At that point, when he had recognized the Son of God and been his herald, his job would be over.
How do we recognize Christ alive in the world today? I would say the same thing as John. Where the Spirit descends and lingers, I look for the incarnate God.
It happened when the street people having lunch at the local shelter scraped together their coins to buy coloring books for two kids staying there. When the community responded to aid the victims of this summer’s fires, it happened then as well. At a Seder in which the Christian, Islamic and Jewish communities all participated, the Spirit descended and remained.
I saw Christ at work in the joyful understanding that crossed the faces of people at a conference when they suddenly understood difficult words like “sin” in a new, life-giving way. When a gathering around the bedside of a deeply spiritual woman included an impromptu prayer, Christ was there as well. And God incarnate was present the last time I sat with folks in a small chapel and engaged in centering prayer.
In this fast-paced world of ours we can pass over these little incidents with a nod and a smile. They are, of course, lovely, and we are grateful they occur, but we have to get the kids dressed and off to school, get ready for the important meeting with clients and find a replacement for our mother’s home health care worker, who has suddenly quit.
And so we still need John, the relentless Voice in the wilderness, calling us to repent. We need the perspective of the Forerunner to remind us that our jockeying is foolish, our fears groundless and our priorities upside down. The moments in which we see the Lamb of God are the most important moments of our lives. They trump all others.
So, in these early days of Lent, maybe we can cast around for ways to listen to John’s summons. And perhaps we can also be John to one another. We can go out to the wilderness, to the edge of safety and certitude. We can find the repentance in ourselves and in our friends and recognize with rejoicing our turned-around hearts. We wait and search, looking for those places where the Spirit descends and remains. And then, when we find them, we can point them out loudly to everyone around.
“Look, here is the Lamb of God.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries With others she manages a website for the Diocese of Colorado highlighting congregations' creative ministries: Fresh Expressions Colorado