|Pen and Ink Reflections||
John the Baptist is an angel. This is explicit in the biblical text, where Mark writes of them, quoting Isaiah, “behold I send my messenger ahead of you” – and the word used for messenger (as everywhere in the Greek text) is angelos - angel! John the Baptist probably does not fit the picture we have of an angel – no wings, no obvious glowing light, no message of peace. But he’s an angel. He’s pretty unmissable – wild, eccentric to say the least, and certainly not welcome at the average family tea table. As Jo has written in her brief Biblical commentaries in Insights for this season, “If he was a toddler someone might suggest his emotions were disregulated by his diet and he needed to calm down and get a good night’s sleep! Yet, his prophetic voice is one we cannot ignore. He reminds us that there is always a place for righteous anger and that sometimes the new and better requires actions of clearing and letting go that can be painful and disturbing to some. His voice acts as corrective to tendencies in some Christian circles to associate the gospel with niceness or respectability. John was not respectable. But his message was essential.” His was the message of a disturbing angel calling us to change.
queering the mantle
The stories of the great biblical prophets are certainly extraordinary, not least those of Elijah and Elisha. As Penny said last week, in some ways such biblical narratives are really top cartoon action stuff. That is certainly true of our story from the Hebrew Scriptures today. This contains powerful features which have had enduring value in faith communities, and elements which have been overlooked. There has also always been a good deal of tidying up, and ignoring, of some aspects of the narratives. For one thing we can assuredly say about the prophets is that they are not comfortable figures. We see this too in the story of Jesus which we will come to later. After all, as we have just sung, in John Bell’s words, Jesus is a ‘provocative preacher’, an ‘itinerant teacher‘, and an ‘outsider’s friend’. Be clear about that if you want to follow Jesus – all things may be up for grabs and turned upside down. To put it another way, your life and world may be profoundly queered...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Josephine Inkpin, a married Anglican clergy couple serving with the Uniting Church in Sydney