Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Sunday, January 15, 2023

YEAR A 2023 epiphany 2

Epiphany 2, 2023    
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-12
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In today’s gospel, John the Baptist says this about Jesus: “I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  Not revealed personally to John, but rather to the community.  John does not come screaming about how Jesus has been made known to John, trying to claim the spotlight because he “knows a guy.”  No, instead John points to Jesus and says, “Hey you guys!  There he is!”  For everyone.  It’s not about John the Baptist; it’s about Jesus.  And by “it,” I mean . . . well, everything.

Because as John points to Jesus, he declares something amazing. “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  That’s right: the world.  Not just the people who could hear John talking; not just the people who could sit here and read John’s words 2,000 years later.  Not the churchy people, or the good people . . . nope: the world.

And it’s even better in the original Greek, because John says, “Behold the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the Cosmos.”  Now some people can’t help adding a little extra “s” on the end of the word “sin,” including in our own Prayer Book, in Rite One.  But it’s not there.  The word is sin: singular, all-inclusive, nothing left out.  We want it to be “sins,” because then it’s about us, and all our misbehaviors, great or small.  We want it to be the actions we do, to ourselves and to others.  But that’s not what the text says.  The Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the cosmos.  All of it.

And now you’re thinking, well that can’t be.  We live in a broken world, where people die too young, and our politics divide us, and where our personal squabbles make us reluctant to even come to church.  There’s plenty of sin to go around, you might be thinking.  Well, fair enough.  So let’s set that thought aside for a minute and see what else John says.

“This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me’.”  After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.  What does THAT mean?  It’s like a riddle:  What kind of man comes after me, but ranks ahead of me, because he was before me?  Give up?  The answer is, the Lamb of God.  Get it?  No, me neither.  But we can look at the start of John’s Gospel for a clue.  (And—for the record—the Gospel writer John is a different John from John the Baptist.)

At the very opening of the Gospel of John we read:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. Jesus is there when it all starts.  All of it.  And then John continues . . .

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

Jesus, the Word of God, the Light of God, the Lamb of God, coming into the world, and John the Baptist recognizes Him and points to him: Behold, the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the Cosmos.  Shows up after John, ranks ahead of John, because he was in the beginning, before John.  Heavy stuff, I know.  And I swear to you, John the Gospel writer is just a little mystical . . . not crazy or—you know—on something.  

Back to our Gospel text.  The first half, John points at Jesus and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the Cosmos.”  We don’t know who’s there or who is listening, or what happens after that.  But the next day, we get round two.  Here’s John the Baptist, standing with two of his own disciples, and he says, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”  And his two disciples turn, see Jesus, and follow him.  John’s disciples, see him pointing out Jesus, and they leave him to follow Jesus.  That seems strange, especially because John doesn’t seem to mind.

John’s disciples go up to Jesus, ask a couple interesting questions, and end up following him.  But they also go and tell someone else.  And that someone is Simon, whom Jesus renames Peter, whom we might rightly call the first Pope.  And Peter . . . well, Peter certainly spread the word far and wide, gathering communities around the good news.

The Lamb of God is taking away the sin of the world.  It’s not about you or me.  It’s about everybody.  The community.  The world.  The cosmos.  You may be the one to announce it, but when you do, you’re making an announcement on behalf of everyone.  Proclaiming: Look!  There is the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the cosmos.

And that gets us back to that question I left hanging a few minutes ago.  Based on our day-to-day experience, the Lamb of God has not eradicated sin from our broken world.  People are still dying in horrific ways, and oftentimes the people causing those deaths are people who call themselves “Christians.”  If the Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world, then he definitely missed quite a bit.  Just look at your own life and you know that this is true.  There is plenty of sin and brokenness to go around.  

BUT, this statement from John does not say that Jesus has, or will take away the sin of the world.  What John the Baptist says is, “Behold, the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world.”  There is no timeline.  There is no statement that he will do this, or that he has done this.  The verb is present: “taking.”

John the Baptist is pointing at Jesus and saying, “That Lamb, right there, is taking away the sin of the world . . . right here, right now.”  When did he start?  When will he finish?  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. . . . What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

From the beginning of time, from before there even was time, the Lamb of God has been taking away the sin of the world.  Bringing life out of death.  Turning pain into healing.  Calling solitary individuals into loving community.  From the first fatal argument between Cain and Abel, to the senseless death happening somewhere at this very moment, and every dark and confused moment in between, where sin seems to be having the last word, the Lamb of God is there, taking away the sin of the world.  From the beginning to the end.

When our time of worship today has ended, we will move together into the parish hall for a light lunch and begin the 187th Annual Meeting of this parish.  For 187 years this community gathered around the Lamb of God.  All of us right now, and all the ones who have come before, and all the ones who will come after us.  All of us like John the Baptist pointing at this same Lamb, and saying behold!  There he is!  Taking away the sin.  For all of us.  For this community.  For everyone.  For all time!

And, as this gathered community comes to this Altar this morning, the words we hear are, “The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven.”  But those words are really just another way of saying this:  Behold, the Lamb of God, taking away the sin of the world.  Right now, and from the beginning, and till the end.  For everyone.  For me.  For you.  For everyone.  Forever.


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