THE BIRTH OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST (White)
Sunday, June 24th, 2018
Readings ISAIAH 40:1–11; PSALM 85:7–13; ACTS 13:14B–26; LUKE 1:57–80
Collect Almighty God, you called John the Baptist to give witness to the coming of your Son and to prepare his way. Give your people the wisdom to see your purpose, and the openness to hear your will, that we too may witness to Christ’s coming and so prepare his way; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
Alt 1 God our strength and our hope, grant us the courage of John the Baptist, constantly to speak the truth, boldly to rebuke evil, and patiently to suffer for the truth’s sake; in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) alt.
Alt 2 God of unexpected birth and desert waters: silence our cynicism and give us a new voice, so that with John the Baptist we may proclaim your overwhelming grace; through Jesus Christ, the One who is to come. Amen. Prayers for an Inclusive Church (2009) alt.
Prayer over the Gifts
God of our salvation, accept all we offer you this day, and free us to worship you without fear, in holiness and righteousness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer After Communion
We thank you, Lord, for your word and your table which give us the knowledge of salvation. Your compassion has broken on us like the dawn; guide now our feet into the way of peace. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.
A READING FROM THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
[THE FIRST LESSON IS WRITTEN IN THE 40TH CHAPTER OF THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH, BEGINNING AT THE 1ST VERSE.]
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.
HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH.
[HERE ENDETH THE FIRST LESSSON.]
THANKS BE TO GOD. ISAIAH 40:1–11
REFRAIN Show us your mercy.
Show us your mercy, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him.
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. R
Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. R
The Lord will indeed grant prosperity, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet. R
A READING FROM THE BOOK OF ACTS
[THE SECOND LESSON IS WRITTEN IN THE 13TH CHAPTER OF THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES, BEGINNING AT THE 14TH VERSE.]
On the sabbath day Paul and his company went into the synagogue and sat down.
After the reading of the law and the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, “Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.”
So Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: “You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. For about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. After he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance for about four hundred fifty years. After that he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. Then they asked for a king; and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.’
Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.
And as John was finishing his work, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.’
My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent.”
HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT IS SAYING TO THE CHURCH.
[HERE ENDETH THE SECOND LESSSON.]
THANKS BE TO GOD. ACTS 13:14B–26
THE LORD BE WITH YOU. AND ALSO WITH YOU.
THE HOLY GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO SAINT LUKE.
GLORY TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.
[THE LORD BE WITH YOU. AND WITH THY SPIRIT.
THE HOLY GOSPEL IS WRITTEN IN THE 1ST CHAPTER OF THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO SAINT LUKE, BEGINNING AT THE 57TH VERSE. GLORY BE TO THEE, O LORD.]
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty saviour for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.
THIS IS THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.
PRAISE TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST. [PRAISE BE TO THEE, O CHRIST] LUKE 1:57–80
The Birth of Saint John the Baptist
24 June Holy Day
The birth of Saint John the Baptist is told in the Gospel according to Luke, where it serves as a bridge between the Old Testament and the time of Christ.
The initial focus of Luke’s account is Zechariah the priest and his wife Elizabeth; and the evangelist draws on phrases and motifs from the Old Testament in order to associate them with Abraham and Sarah. Like those ancient figures, the parents of John the Baptist were righteous but childless. Moreover, Elizabeth herself (like Sarah) was well past menopause, so that according to nature she was no longer able to conceive a child. But just as God intervened to make Abraham and Sarah have a child and become the forebears of the chosen people, so an angel announced to righteous Zechariah that he and his wife were to have a son who would be the forerunner of the Chosen One, the Christ. So it came to pass that Elizabeth conceived and gave birth to a son, whom she named John. Then his father Zechariah prophesied, saying,
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
Zechariah also saw that his son’s mission would prepare the way for the fulfilment of God’s oath,
the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.
Thus, according to Luke, the birth of John the Baptist gathered up and embodied the whole truth of the Old Testament and made it ready for its own perfection in Christ Jesus, the One whose way John was born to prepare.
Children’s Focus: Can anyone tell me who St. John the Baptist was?
- well today the church celebrates his birthday
- later on in the summer we celebrate other events in the life of John, but today, it’s his birth.
- He was said to be a cousin of Jesus – any of you related? How?
- Mary, the BVM, was a cousin of Elizabeth, who was John’s mother.
- They were pregnant at about the same time
- Every once in awhile we hear in the news about a woman who gives birth to a child when she is into her 60s, usually, this is the result of some marvel of modern medicine
- Now Elizabeth, John’s mother, of course lived 2000 odd years ago and could not possible benefit from our medical procedures and medicines
- she had gone all her life without having had a child, in those days, women who could not bare children were not thought of very well.
- She was well past the change of life – ask your parents
- an Angel appeared to Elizabeth’s father Zechariah, while he was about his business in the temple – a devout Jew
Let us pray.
Holy God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
Imagine with me, if you will, an hour glass.
- Does everyone know the basic shape?
- Two glass funnels with the narrow pointy ends touching, sealed off with one end partly filled with sand.
- Imagine, if you need to, the opening credits of The Days of Our Lives. I know, I know, hardly a very theological way to start off, but I need everyone to have a picture in their mind of a big, old and stately hourglass that was not Marilyn Monroe or Betty Davis’s figure – this sermon could go horribly awry I tried to use that image.
- So, a big sand filled hourglass, please.
- the narrow point in the middle, you’ll recall, is about as wide as a grain of that sand.
- To keep with the image – the grains of sand are people – like the Letter to the Hebrew’s tells us, the descendants of Abraham were “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”
- so the people of Israel pass through the grand events of the Old Testament not unscathed, but at least still around and increasing in number – the events of John’s life, ministry and martyrdom were, the Christian tradition has held for a very long time, a pinch point in history.
- In recent years, if you have been listening to the news, the Government of Canada has spent some considerable sums of money and certainly a lot of effort to commemorate the bi-centennial of the War of 1812.
- Like John’s life and ministry, this event has had a mixed legacy – no one seems to be able to agree, or get others to agree, who won the War. John’s legacy is similarly mixed, some will disagree about his effect on history.
- Jesus and His eventual followers seem to have been a follower of John’s, at least for a time.
- John was responsible for the event, the baptism in the River Jordan, that revealed to the People of Israel that Jesus was “of God” and that John stepped back once Jesus was revealed.
- does everyone know what I mean by that?
- God interacting with human kind since creation
- Paul recounts some of the highlights of the Old Testament for us in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles
- The prospering of the people of Israel in Egypt
- the delivery out of Egypt
- the survival of the people through the 40 years of the Exodus
- the granting of the land of Canaan to be their inheritance
- the divinely granted administration of Israel in the Judges and the monarchy, culminating in the
- and he tells us about the beginnings of the New Testament story – the foretelling and delivering of John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah
Now to us.
- I think you are the pinch point an hourglass, too.
- All the generations that came before you on both sides of your family meet in you.
- Every person who encountered your ancestors and shaped their lives has met in you.
- All that comes after you – all those you influence, all those you raise, those you rear – is pressed in by you
- You and your faith are the product generations of other people
- Everyone you meet will have been changed in some way.
- Like that beautiful image of a pebble dropped in a pond, or the terrifying one of a butterfly flapping its wings.
- The cascading ripples across the water or the building storms across the world.
- You are a beloved child God and a fully incorporated member of the Body of Christ – can those who encounter you, those for whom you are the face of Christ in their life tell that?
- The good news – you are already the cause of so much good in the world by your very presence in the world (think pebbles and butterfly wings)
- There is no great big programme to do, just be in Christ
- Be, in Christ, intentionally, but just be – and let others see that
- If they ask, tell
- That is evangelism at its most authentic, and you are already doing it.
- Go forth from this place to love and serve the Lord.
Let us pray.
God of unexpected birth and desert waters: silence our cynicism and give us a new voice, so that with John the Baptist we may proclaim your overwhelming grace; through Jesus Christ, the One who is to come.