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The Hand-Off

The Hand-Off

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 – Week of 1 Epiphany, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 119:1-24 (morning) // 12, 13, 14 (evening)

Genesis 4:1-16

Hebrews 2:11-18

John 1:(29-34)35-42

If projections are correct, the Olympic Torch is currently making its way from Bryansk to Kursk—two place names that I had never heard of before! The torch’s travels have so far included a stop at the North Pole and in outer space. Many residents of Russian towns and villages will have a chance to see this well-traveled flame pass by.

Today’s gospel reading also highlights the very special ministry of handing off an ignited spirit. This reading starts with John the Baptist holding the torch, but he quickly and graciously hands it off to Jesus. In this version of the calling of Jesus’ first two disciples, John plays the crucial role of ushering Andrew and an unnamed disciple into the next stage of their journey.

According to the narrative, John and two of his disciples are just standing around, like they’re waiting at a bus stop. Then, Jesus walks by, and John says to his disciples, “Look, here is the lamb of God!” The gospel tells us that the two disciples took these words as a cue, “and they followed Jesus.”

How suddenly they changed their allegiance from being disciples of John to becoming disciples of Jesus. Since John was standing still, the disciples probably had the sense that he had taken them as far as he would take them. And, of course, it was John himself who pointed them in the direction of God’s chosen, anointed, beloved Son.

The coming day may include opportunities for us to imitate John and to practice the ministry of handing someone off, of passing the torch. This ministry isn’t always satisfying, since we don’t get to see the outcome of someone else’s journey, and we don’t get to take much credit for where someone else ends up.

A big part of my own ministry is directing a year-long Episcopal Service Corps program for young adults, and sometimes I wish that I could tell more impressive stories about how the program connected people with their dream jobs, their life partners, or their spiritual homes. Instead, I must be content knowing that I walked with them a while, and stood waiting with them awhile, and then watched them move on.

Whether we hold the light of someone else’s light for one year or one minute, John the Baptist can inspire us to practice a humble ministry of saying “Look!” and letting someone else pick up where we leave off.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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