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Archive for June 24th, 2020

Men Saint Icons: St. John the Baptist Icon | Monastery Icons

COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty God, through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, You once proclaimed salvation. Now grant that we may know this salvation and serve You in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

READINGS: Isaiah 40:1-5 Psalm 85:(1-6) 7-13 Acts 13:13-26 St. Luke 1:57-80

Bio:  St. John the Baptizer, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, was born into a priestly family.  His birth was miraculously announced to his father by an angel of the Lord (Luke 1: 5-23), and on the occasion of his birth, his aged father proclaimed a hymn of praise (Luke 1:67-79). This hymn is entitled the Benedictus and serves as the traditional Gospel Canticle in the Church’s Service of Morning Prayer. Events of John’s life and his teaching are known from accounts in all four of the Gospels. In the wilderness of Judea, near the Jordan River, John began to preach a call to repentance and a baptismal washing, and he told the crowds, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). John denounced the immoral life of the Herodian rulers, with the result that Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, had him arrested and imprisoned in the huge fortress of Machaerus near the Dead Sea. There Herod had him beheaded (Mark 6:17-29). John is remembered and honored as the one who with his preaching pointed to “the Lamb of God” and “prepared the way” for the coming of the Messiah. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Grünewald, Isenheim Altarpiece – Smarthistory

Reflection:

Above is an image of the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald (circa 1515).  The Lord’s vocation to John is amply shown in the detail of John the Baptist:

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” St. John 1: 29

The long bony finger says it all: John 1: 29 is John’s sermon visualized pointing us to Jesus Christ and in particular upon the Cross.  There is our salvation, not in my heart and mind but in Jesus Christ so that the Holy Spirit bears witness to us all of so great a salvation, we must not neglect the preaching (Hebrews 2:3).  The Baptizer’s sermon recorded in John 1: 29 is only one sentence!  Reading carefully the entire text,  John 1: 29-34, and not that the Evangelist reports no other people listening to John in this paragraph.  We are the hearers of the Word and  doers of the Word (Luke 8:21). In fact, the whole world (in Greek, “world” is cosmos), is under the Cross, objectively, existentially and really (John 3:16).  We are all sinners.  John the Baptizer points not to himself, not to man nor woman, not to the Lord’s blessed Mother, not to our spirituality(s) but ever and only to Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him, we are His baptized saints, with John, Paul, Mary and the whole company of heaven.  The Lord’s finger pointing at us is His just Law and judgment of our wrong.  The finger pointing to Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the Gospel Who alone made us right through faith alone as He for all the world did atone. John points to Christ so that we born from above in Him.

Christ is our steadfastness in these times of immorality and unrest, even near  those who bear the name of brother (see 1 Corinthians 5:11). As I write lawlessness, rioting, pillaging and wanton destruction of public property is occurring. John lived in a lawless time as his king lustfully married his brother’s wife while his brother was alive. John preached the immorality of the ruler’s marriage: See Mark 6:16-18. (1) The saints are encouraged to hold the course steady.   John preached for the sanctity of marriage. Herod Antipas had John beheaded. 

We can “lose our heads” without decapitation:  our prudence, our “cool”, even engage in mob violence and the like.  John the Baptist held the course. He knew who was guiding him, though John had trials and tribulations. John was steadfast in his preaching, especially regarding marriage and crucial and central: he was steadfast in preaching, Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Your sin included, all of it. Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard, in his commentary on  Matthew 11:7well wrote:

 “…John’s (the Baptist) steadfastness is held up as an example to be followed by all faithful teachers—indeed also by all true Christians. John was not a reed. He did not allow himself to be deterred from the pathway of truth and from his calling by the world’s cunning and temptation.  So also Christians are not to be fickle and erratic like a reed.  Rather, they are to be grounded like pillars and columns in the house of God.   1 Tim. 3: 15, Rev. 3: 12—Johann Gerhard

I keep coming back to this hymn as my personal prayer for myself as one of the baptized and as a pastor and preacher:

1 Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word; 
curb those who by deceit or sword 
would wrest the kingdom from your Son 
and bring to naught all he has done. 

2 Lord Jesus Christ, your pow’r make known, 
for you are Lord of lords alone; 
defend your holy church, that we 
may sing your praise triumphantly. 

3 O Comforter of priceless worth, 
send peace and unity on earth; 
support us in our final strife,
and lead us out of death to life. 

(1) Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Granddaughter of Herod the Great. Her present husband, Herod Antipas, was a son of Herod the Great. She had been previously married to Philip, another son of Herod the Great (Philip was also the half brother of Herod Antipas). In other words, both of Herodias’s husbands were also her uncles (From the Lutheran Study Bible footnote)

Saint John the Baptist - Byzantine Icon - OramaWorld.Com

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