This past Sunday, Bishop Sam preached on the nativity of St. John. His sermon was inspiring; more than once, he referenced the prophetic voice of the people of our beloved church. Celebrating our patron saint is an integral part of our identity. However, as Bishop Sam pointed out, while we tend to think of the wild prophet speaking truth to power and calling for repentance, it is also important to remember John’s birth narrative. It is an especially poignant story when we feel our society is in chaos and we are grasping for hope. John’s story is one of courage and call. John doesn’t back down from his message that we need to turn back to God and that he is preparing the way for the Lord who will bring salvation. He preaches this message even when it is dangerous, and the authorities of his time denounce him and eventually arrest and kill him. John is a bold prophet in a hazardous time; however, before he wore camel hair and ate wild honey, he was the blessed gift of a child to a mother who thought it was impossible, to a father who wrestles with God. John was hope, embodied in John’s new life, that God has heard our prayers and has answered.
The other day we went to the North East Community Garden to tend together, as the people of St. John’s and the community, so that from the soil and labor of our hands, we might feed the hungry. It was hard work, yet I watched children get on their knees and pull weeds for an hour, knowing that this food wouldn’t be theirs. This was food for other people, people who need this food to live. It is easy today to look around and see only selfish behavior. We watch people disregard the rights of the vulnerable to make themselves feel justified. However, John’s birth reminds us that hope is not lost. The new life around us will change the world. Perhaps those dirty little hands in the garden will become a prophet that proclaims hope and salvation. Our patron saint beckons us to turn our lives and not forget the hope surrounding God’s people.