EP: Psalm 80; Malachi 4:1-6; Matthew 11:2-19
While I was growing up, my older brother would often remind me that he prepared the way for me. He is two years older then I am and so would do things before me, try things out that children often do, get into trouble for various things. When I would do similar things a short while later, my parents were already familiar with the resulting havoc and I would either not be punished or be punished to a lesser extent then he had been for doing the same thing. He trail-blazed for me.
Likewise, I trail-blazed for my younger brother, who was born five years after me. In my estimation, he got away with murder with his antics...I'm sure my feelings mimicked my older brother's feelings toward me. In someways in life, we all are trail-blazers for those who come after us. Perhaps there are times when that blazing trail we are setting can have affects on us that are not all that pleasant, but looking back on them we can see the good that we do: the tilled earth being easier to sow for those who inevitably follow after us.
Today we remember and celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, the trail-blazer of trail-blazers. I have read a number of commentaries where John the Baptist is thought of as a melancholy trail-blazer. I don't think those are completely accurate portraits. I think John knew, while he was still being carried in Elizabeth's womb, what his role in life was going to be, what his role in history was going to be: that he would make it just a little bit easier for the holy one. The holy one who was to begin his journey by walking along the path John the Baptist began, and then blaze ahead. I am sure John was confident and proud of his cousin, Jesus, son of Mary. Perhaps a bit melancholy, but those feelings, although human, were probably over-taken by a sense that I helped, in a small way, for the one to come after me.
In church life, this is one of the things we are called to do, in our being stewards of the gifts given to us: caring for those things left to us that blazed the trail before, but to also bring the church along the path God has set us on. We are not to sit stagnant pining for times past, but to continue blazing the trail so that those who come after will have it a little bit easier whilst they continue the journey and trail-blaze: always moving closer and closer to effectuating the kingdom promised.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.