Saturday, September 13, 2014

John the Baptist lost his head long before he lost his head

John the Baptist had job security. Growing up he undoubtedly learned who he was as his father's son and what the future held for him. He would be a priest like his dad with clearly assigned tasks and times when those tasks would be performed. And he would embrace this destiny because it was instituted, ordained and supervised by the one true God. John didn't ask to be born into this family business but he could've felt the fortune other kids couldn't by being so.

Why, then, do we read about him being in the wilderness? How did his family feel about this clear rejection of their expectations? And how could he so blatantly turn against what the Torah so clearly instructed him to be and do? What possible "message" could be more important and valuable than that which was documented in the Scriptures of their day?

I like to think that I feel John. I feel the ministerial expectations of family and friends. I feel the angst of challenging the environment in which I was raised and the dogma I was fed to digest a message that appears to be out of sync with the religious culture of my day. And yet I feel, like John, I suppose, that what I am experiencing and what I am becoming is driven by the same Yahweh of my father too.

Certainly his son's direction was not easily understood and accepted by Zacharias, let alone the faith community.

But instead of getting credentialed and bringing who God is evolving him to be and the message that drives his being into the religious culture, Jon goes to the wilderness. Instead of seeking change from the inside out, John is "called" to a setting that will only allow, at best, change from the outside. And that's where insiders would go to get this annointed message from an unlikely messenger.

Once John accepted his calling, how did he proceed? Did he advertise? Did he go tent to tent on his bicycle inviting others to come hear him preach on Sunday morning? Did he start a blog and create a Facebook page for people to "like"?

We don't know. What we read is that people went to him. We assume people of all classes mad ages. We read that the established religious representatives quizzed him about his role. Perhaps they knew he was supposed to be working on this "inside" and they felt obligated to get him back on the conventional wagon. After all, God as they had come to believe wouldn't operate so unconventionally.

I find myself having rejected the conventional position on the inside of a church, preaching messages that might smack of anti-establishment themes in hopes of changing the religious culture of our time. Me and my "message" have moved to the wilderness waiting for God to validate what is happening in me. If it has merit, somehow insiders will find me and listen. If not, I'll be satisfied with locusts and wild honey when I could've had the spoils of temple sacrifices.

I hope it's worth losing my head over.

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