December 9, 2018 • Life for Leaders
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
My mother and I were riding together in the car the other day, just beginning a rare but fun shopping trip. Just before I turned into the mall, the display on my dashboard alerted me to an incoming call.
There’s no need to go into the details of what transpired in the very few minutes of that phone conversation but, suffice it to say, my shopping trip with my mom will have to wait for another day. That phone call threw me into an emotional tailspin in which I tried to remain calm, despite the fight or flight impulse that coursed through my veins. Despair gripped my heart as unanswerable questions circled on a loop through my mind.
Worst of all, there was nothing I could do. As they say, it is what it is.
Have you been there, too? I’m sure you have. And if you haven’t (and this is not a wish for you), you probably will be at some point.
This feeling of chaos, hopelessness, and utter despair was the mood du jour for the people of God at the time of the events that unfolded in today’s scripture. The first verse and the beginning of the second verse remind us that the rulers of the day were heavy-handed, tough-minded, and corrupt. It was into this cultural moment that John predicted the arrival of the Messiah, one who would usher in peace at just the right time.
The evening after that phone call, before there was any type of resolution or any glimmer of hope on the horizon, I made my way to a small room in our house where the lights were low, the mood was quiet, and peace filled the air in an almost tangible way. There, without any guarantee of how things might turn out, I was reminded that there is peace, always. Shalom is always present and available to me—and to you—even in the midst of hopelessness and despair.
Something to Do:
Go to a quiet place in your room or your workplace. Breathe deeply and remember the gift of peace.
Something to Think About:
What does peace mean to you? Can you have peace, even in the midst of chaos?
O Yahweh, may we who seek you find you.
May your Shalom envelop and pervade us,
ooze out of our pores and flow from all our words and deeds.
May we become instruments of divinely-inspired love and wholeness,
making no space for improper confrontation and all insults and hatred.
May individuals, families, congregations, communities, clans, tribes, and nations be whole,
and justice plentiful in all its forms.
May this occur for the common benefit of all and your glory.
And, by grace, may I play my part faithfully in this sacred endeavor. Amen.
– A prayer by Kenneth Randolph Taylor for the Feast of Saint Gregory of Nyssa, March 9, 2010.