Eleventh Sunday after Trinity - Choral Evensong

  • Preacher

    Canon Missioner - Revd Canon Jay Colwill

This time last weekend, here in the U.K. we weren’t thinking or talking about politics, people were thinking and talking about cricket

On Monday morning, on every front page, there was a cricket with his arms aloft after having scored 135 runs. His name is Ben Stokes and it’s becoming quite well known. Less well known was the cricketer who stayed in for 73 balls and scored just one run. His name is jack Leech- the 11th man. However, Stokes could not have won this Ashes Test against Australia had not Jack Leech doggedly played his part. Jack scored one run! One run in 73 balls. But Jack Leech had to decrease, so that Ben Stokes could increase.

Back in chapter 1, John the Baptist is introduced as the man sent from God to bear witness to the light. Living up to that description, at every opportunity that he appears in the story of Jesus, John directs our attention away from himself and towards the Christ.

Because we know the story, we aren’t surprised by what John says about Jesus. But not so for John’s disciples. It would be easy for us to judge John’s disciples a little too harshly, but if you understand what it meant to be a disciple of a rabbi at that time, then their pride in their rabbi is not so surprising. When you were invited to become a student by a well-respected rabbi, you gave your life over to him. You spent an inordinate amount of time by his side. You served him while you watched him, learning how to live from how he lived, what to think by how he thought, what to believe by seeing him live his faith in action. Given the cost of following after your rabbi, it isn’t farfetched to see how that devotion could easily slide into pride and fierce protection—for not only your teacher but for what had become your identity and way of life. And let’s face it, the more prestigious your rabbi, the more prestigious you become as well…

And here is John the Baptist saying that he must become less. Is it really surprising that his disciples might be in two minds?

Yet in John’s mind, there is absolutely no comparison between him and Jesus.

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. At best, John refers to

himself as the friend of bridegroom- in our terms, the best man. Whether bridesmaid or best man, your job is to make things run smoothly, so that people can rejoice in the bridesmaid and bride. Your job is not to be the centre of attention, but be in the background.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus refers directly to himself as the bridegroom, uses a parable to teach about being the bridegroom, and the New Testament letters depicts the church (the people of God) as the bride. Though he may not have understood it completely when he began to baptize and call people to a lifestyle of preparing to meet God through acts of repentance and holiness, John got it when he encountered the living God in Jesus. He understood that he was helping the bride be as beautiful as she could be to meet her groom, all the while knowing that the bridegroom was going to love his bride no matter how she looked. Now for his disciples to follow suit…

I believe that our calling as Christians is to plan a role similar to John the Baptist. We are called, by our life and our words to enable people to draw near to God, through Christ Jesus. My life and your life are meant to reflect Jesus so that people can see Him, know Him and be transformed by Him. Yes, we are still meant to be us- express our lives, through our God-given personality and interests. However, we are meant to reflect Jesus, so that he becomes the focus of people’s attention. Of course we cannot always do this directly, by making the conversation about Jesus and how God has helped me. But we can do it by consciously do it, by thinking how our words and actions could reflect Jesus’ words and actions. To play the supporting role in making Christ known to our friends and neighbours. John the Baptist said: He must increase, but I must decrease.” How must you decrease that Jesus Christ may increase in your heart and mind and in the hearts and minds of your friends and family?

Let us pray.