Readings: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9: John 1: 29-42
So did you notice the different namings happening in this passage from John`s gospel? - Lamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi and Messiah- titles being associated with Jesus but then ending with Simon being named as Cephas/Peter. They all had specific meaning in their day but what about now? Well this week one phrase in particular stood out for me - that of the first naming made by John the Baptist `Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! ` because I started thinking `What on earth is meant by Lamb of God?` followed by `What would we see as the sin of the world?`. Maybe Power? Greed? Arrogance? Self-centredness? But why use a singular word? Surely there are many sins we should be considering?`
And then I realised that the sins I had thought of actually end up corrupting a person into thinking that they are superior, more deserving of money or praise, and then treating others as inferior or undeserving. And what does that say about me - probably too old to think about the sins of morality!!
But then again - is not a sense of superiority the very opposite of what Jesus was on about? He was convinced that we are all God`s beloved, worthy of loving kindness and being treated with respect as brothers and sisters in God`s domain especially when struggling to survive in difficult circumstances. So I would suggest that it is indeed righteous superiority which is `the sin of the world`. You may have the luck or the gifts to make money, to be a famous person, to live in a peaceful country. But surely, rather than focussing on your own benefits, the Jesus story encourages us to think about ways of serving and including others by using our talents for enhancing human community such as by ensuring care or creating enjoyment? We have had a couple of examples this past week in Twiggy Forrest and Nick Kyrios galvanising fundraising support for those devastated by the bushfires.
But what about that title `Lamb of God`? For a start it`s a metaphor in line with Psalm 23 which depicts God as a shepherd caring for his flock. The lamb is the vulnerable one among them - the very opposite of righteous superiority. But for Jewish people it also carries the image of the paschal lamb slain in sacrifice for their escape from Egypt and by the time John`s gospel was written, this was creeping into Christian thinking about Jesus. So what relevance if any does that have for us today? And yet . . . and yet . . .
When I heard the news about the President of the United States obliterating the Iranian General on Iraqi soil, I held my breath wondering if WW3 was about to break out for it was obvious Iran would retaliate. I suspect US military leaders would have been desperately trying to curtail their President from any further action when the Iranian missiles fired back. But then came news of the Ukrainian passenger plane crash which has shocked both sides with its implications. Sadly it took 176 innocent lives to jerk righteous superiority back into rethink mode.
And I suspect the tragedy which has unfolded in Australia over the past few months is also having the same effect around the world with regard to the implications of climate change. A 16-year-old girl may be ridiculed and ignored but the horrendous bushfire reality which has been headline news on the world`s TV screens cannot. The only good outcome is if this becomes the catalyst for government leaders and the righteous conservative media to shift their thinking into realising that we do indeed need to intentionally focus on pollution and sustainable energy now. In that regards Prince William`s initiative is a timely one.
The tragic death of vulnerable ones does indeed challenge attitudes but please do not get me wrong. I do NOT believe in a God who intentionally sacrifices people to readjust the world`s thinking. Neither do I believe that Jesus chose to die because God had willed it. Jesus did however consciously choose to live his life sharing his understanding of a divine love, present for all. And he was killed for that because it challenged powerful forces which were treating people inhumanely. Yet the reality is it is this divine loving energy within which we are embedded (and is embedded within us) which enables us to be more fully human, especially when we are struggling or serving and supporting others. And we have seen many heroic examples of this in these past few weeks too. Which is why I thought reading the words of Miriam Therese Winter`s `I am the One` song were relevant for today.
I am the seed that longs to bloom - The river yearning for the sea
The heartfelt hope of every womb - I am the faith you place in me
I am the silence and the sound - The gentle rain that breaks the stone
I am the dream of love unbound - I am the way that calls you home
I am the one who sits with sorrow - I am the one who feels your pain
I am the hope of your tomorrow - When all is lost, I will remain
I am the one who will remain.