Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be in the presence of John the Baptist? Dressed in camel hair, eating insects and wild honey, clomping around and shouting loudly—I am not sure he is the kind of person that I would gravitate too. Yet people were following him away from town and out into the wilderness. They seemed hungry to hear what this strange person had to say. They even thought that he might be the Messiah. He had to keep telling them that it was not him. That one greater than him was coming after him. He was just preparing the way.
All of us have had people who came before us. Who guided and prepared the way, who made the path easier for us. Our parents, our teachers, our pastors, people who were pioneers in their fields. I am particularly grateful to the first women to serve as pastors in the ELCA and its predecessor bodies. 52 years ago, in 1970, the first woman was ordained in the Lutheran Church. I can only imagine the hurdles and obstacles that she and her early colleagues faced. Now half of seminary graduates are women and it is not at all unusual. We owe a debt of gratitude to these early pioneering women.
Jesus too had someone who prepared the way for him. Many Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming Messiah. Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, talked of the one who was to come after him. John prepared people through preaching and baptizing. John himself baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.
And Jesus’ coming prepared the way for us. Jesus parting words to the disciples are to go therefore and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In our own baptisms, we are named and claimed as children of God. Something we don’t earn but that is gifted to us. It is God’s grace.
Let us pray…
Through the waters of the flood you delivered Noah and his family. Through the sea you led your people Israel from slavery into freedom. At the river your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit. By water and your Word you claim us as daughters and sons, making us heirs of your promise and servants of all. We praise you for the gift of water that sustains life, and above all we praise you for the gift of new life in Jesus Christ. Shower us with your Spirit, and renew our lives with your forgiveness, grace, and love. Amen.