I was thinking about John the Baptist the other day, in many ways John as the last of the ‘Old Testament Prophets’ calling people to repentance and righteously living with his message of “Repent for the Kingdom of God (or Heaven depending on your translation!) is close at hand”.
A voice of challenge.
A call from religious nominal-ism into baptism symbolising death to an old way of life and resurrection to living life God’s way.
A call ignored by the religious establishment but a call heeded by the broken and the sinful.
John is a campaigner, especially at this time with the presidential election happening we hear the voice of the critic saying “it shouldn’t be like this”.
Many of you have seen the film with Robert Redford called “the Candidate” who wins an election and the last line of the film is “what do we do now?”
I have read Tony Blair’s autobiography (twice!) and the thing that struck me is how he writes about being the most successful Labour leader of the opposition to being Prime Minister. The call was still to see what was wrong, but now the call is backed by the authority of the monarch who asked him to form a government, now he has the authority to do something about bringing the changes that were needed.
A time of major transition for the disciples, Pentecost drove them from making suggestions from the sidelines to playing on the pitch on their own two feet.
A major time of transition for the Labour MPs as none of them had ever been in government (apart from an elderly Gerard Kauffman) and yet they had real power and authority that they had to learn how to use wisely. It was different being in Government from opposition, here is the opportunity to put it into practice, here there were consequences.
In the West Wing President Santos invites a feminist lobbyist to join the team, saying “it is easy to throw stones than to build the house”, the challenge is that of being given the authority not just to see what is wrong, but to build what is right.
The institution has made most of us feel disenfranchised and unable to change anything, often we feel like John the Baptists shouting in what often feel like the wilderness about the coming of God’s Kingdom, yet we actually are people who live after Pentecost, people ho have received power and authority from the King to be agents of change and transformation.
My friend Geoff Waters talks of the Lollipop person, wandering out in front of cars with nothing but a sign and a hi viz jacket, and yet the authority they have stops the traffic.
We often are so used to being ignored, belittled, attacked, overlooked, patronised that we forget God has given us authority to change the world and advance his Kingdom, and we end up feeling like we are shut out of the party, when God is inviting us in.