The Rev'd Robert Warren
John 1:6-8, 19-28
I take a certain amount of joy from the fact that I am at the older end of the age range here at Christ Church, Clermont-Ferrand. It hasn't always been so in previous congregations although, in fairness, I was younger then. I suppose it was inevitable that I would become an aging clergyman in some congregation. You are mostly young enough that the Bob Dylan Song "It ain't me babe", or the more popular version by Sonny and Cher, might not have been at the top of your hit list while you were growing up in the eighties and nineties.
Last week's Gospel reading from Mark and this week's version of the same events surrounding Jesus' baptism by John show two different sides of the same coin. We acknowledge, via Mark's account of the story, some continuation or progression of ministry beyond John to Jesus - a passing of the baton from one to the other. John is paving the way for the mighty acts of God which arrive in the person of God's anointed son Jesus. Many of John's disciples become, we presume, disciples of Jesus and the arrest and subsequent execution of John by Herod Antipas is often understood as a sort of "trigger event" for the public ministry of Jesus.
Lest there be any confusion, however, John's Gospel records words from John which should clear this up: When asked point blank what sort of messianic pretensions he would reserve to himself John says that he holds on to absolutely none. He is neither second-in-command nor is he 60% of a Messiah. He is merely holding open the door. He is a servant of God at this juncture of history - nothing but a herald.
"It ain't me, babe", is what he says, more or less.
Jesus grows in the world. John must step back. John's own later words are these: "He must increase but I must decrease". As one of John the Baptist's mottos it instructs us not only about what happened "back in the day" but also what we are about our ministry as heralds, evangelists and citizens of God's Kingdom. It's not about us. The final tally will not be based on our ability to build up our substance or to take comfort from the presence of like minded people around us or to have reinforced our boundaries. We will be asked the degree to which we have allowed ourselves to be conduits of grace to others - to those beyond our natural horizons.
It ain't us. It ain't me, babe.