Sermon for Epiphany 2 2020

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In light of the New Revised Standard Version‘s translation of ίδού not as “behold” (as in “behold, the lamb of God”) but “here is”, a friend of mine shared a blog post in which ίδού or its Hebrew equivalent הן are given equally pedestrian translations. Some of my favorites are “Listen, pal, I make a covenant with you,” “Look, buddy, the virgin shall be with child,” and “the Lord said to Satan, ‘listen, guy, all that [Job] has is in your power.’” Another friend responded to this blog by pointing out, quite correctly, that these overly casual translations at least retain the imperative mood of the Greek and Hebrew originals, unlike the NRSV‘s “here is.”

Perhaps I am too easily amused, but I find this almost as hilarious as the fact that there still exist screen-shots from the early days of Google Translator, when if you entered the phrase “Κύριε έλέησον” it would render it in English not as “Lord, have mercy” but as “Sir, take it easy.” Nobody mention this to those who support liturgical revision; I’d not be surprised if some might take this as a possibility for the next prayerbook.

Now when I mentioned to Annie the other day that I was going to be opening my sermon complaining about the NRSV, she gave me a look as if to say “no? Really?” I realize this is a pattern for me, but I don’t think I’m just being pedantic. In this instance, I think it’s important that John the Baptist is speaking in the imperative mood, because he is making more than a statement of fact (“here is the lamb of God”) but is calling on his audience and, indeed, on us to pay attention- “Behold!”

I say this as a preacher who occasionally (okay… regularly) errs on the side of teaching rather than preaching in my sermons, for saying here is this or that exegetical issue or theological argument rather then behold!, look!, Jesus! I think both are necessary, but sometimes we all need the latter. Sometimes instead of “here is” we need “look, buddy.”

John the Baptist gives us an example not only of what the prophet or the preacher should be about, though, but what each of us is called to do. Perhaps not all of us are trained and educated to carefully exegete scripture, keeping context and original languages and two thousand years of biblical studies in mind. Perhaps not all of us can present a reasoned, logically consistent theological argument. But we can all of us Christians point away from ourselves and to the Savior, just as John the Baptist did, and say “behold, the lamb of God.”

We find ourselves this week between the feasts of the Confession of Saint Peter and the Conversion of Saint Paul, in what has become designated the week of prayer for Christian unity. I am thus reminded of a line from that old hymn which is one of our own presiding bishop’s favorites: “If you cannot preach like Peter, if you cannot pray like Paul, you can tell the love of Jesus and say ‘he died for all.’”

Inherent in this act is getting out of the way and letting that gracious proclamation bear whatever fruit it will. John did not stop his two disciples and say “let’s consider the implications of what I just said.” He let them go, because he knew his mission was always to point away from himself and toward the one coming after him. This enabled on of those disciples, Andrew, to proclaim the same good word, the same “behold” to his brother Peter, who was to become the leader of the Apostles. John the Baptists did not say “Look, Andrew, don’t get ahead of yourself. Come back to Jordan River Seminary for three years before you go off proclaiming the Messiah has come.” He let him go, because he knew this was a message all should hear and all should likewise proclaim.

None of us is unqualified for this task and none of us is exempt from it either. May God give us the conviction to bear witness just as John the Baptist and Andrew and Peter and all those saints who have gone before us in faith and made the good confession that Jesus is Lord of all.

+In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.