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As one prepares for sermons this Sunday, one wonders how the lectionary will speak into the preoccupations of a community. Not only the Queensland floods (15 lives lost), but the many more lives lost in flooding this week in Brazil, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and South Africa will be not far from our minds. The service will unfold with appropriate lament, communion and intercessions followed by the expectation that the Spirit will speak through Scripture to enlighten and equip us for the week ahead.

The text repeats last week’s account of Jesus’ baptism, but from the perspective of the Fourth Gospel, John 1:29-42. Here the baptismal event climaxes the entry into human experience of the Word that was in the beginning and that is now flesh and walks amongst us, presenting us a picture of a Creator who is not remote and removed from human life and tragedy but intimately involved in a way that is tangible. The structure of the Fourth gospel is many layered, linked and holistic. It is no accident that the call of the first three of Jesus’ disciples is linked to the revelation of the Word made flesh and focused on the magnetic qualities of Jesus’ summons. The Word from the beginning is about to break into the lives of individuals, awaken and transform them.

It involves

  • progression – two of the disciples have already been involved in John’s ministry of preparation.
  • recognition – the development of sufficient insight to respond to John’s identification of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • initiative – the two disciples’ approach Jesus and request his time and attention, asking “Where are you staying?” Jesus response is “Come and see.”
  • invitation – One of the two, Andrew, is sufficiently impressed to collect his brother Simon and bring him to Jesus.
  • the beginning of transformation to true self – Jesus, recognising Simon’s true self, names him Cephas (Peter) which means “rock.”
The stories that have been emerging from this week’s disaster zones carry hints of the stuff that inspires this kind of discipleship. The humility that the power of nature evokes in us mitigates the hubris of human superiority and control. We look elsewhere for the centre of what it really means to be human, and some of us discover for the first time that the often downplayed but transcendent qualities of love and compassion and self-sacrifice are beyond ourselves. There are stories of inspired initiative, selfless hospitality, powerful invitation to community bonding, and the discovery of true selves that eclipse what we thought we were.
As our lectionary takes us on through the early chapters of Matthew over the next few weeks, the so-called “Sermon on the Mount”, we will discover these are the very things that Jesus seeks to awaken within our discipleship.
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