Sermon for December 17, 2017: “John The Pointer”

Reading: John 1:6-8, 19-28
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23
He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,'” as the prophet Isaiah said. 24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

Sermon for December 17, 2017: “John The Pointer”

Many people call John the Baptist
Others call him John the Baptizer.
I have a different name for him: The Pointer.

Let me share with you how I came up with his name and why it’s an important one to remember.
Remember when your parents or teachers would say, “It’s not nice to point”?
I certainly do.
But there are times when pointing is not only nice, it’s incredible.
By the time Paul was 14 months old, he could do a lot of things, but he could not talk or point to objects.
He was a first class crawler.
He could sign language “more” when he was hungry for more dinner.
And then we went to the Triad Dog Show.
Dogs of all sizes were there for stunts, tricks, games.
And once we got there, Paul did something we least expected.
Paul pointed.
Paul had not done a lot of pointing if at all so to see him do it, and to do it so well it filled our hearts with joy.
He pointed at a dog and said, “Da!”
Then he pointed at another dog.
And another.
Then at one point, Paul was pointing specifically at a certain dog.
It was a big beautiful White Pyrenees.
There were three of them.
And Paul petted them all.
And he had the biggest grin on his face!
Best Day Ever.
We were so excited for about 2 minutes we said, “Let’s get a Pyrenees!”
Then the owner said, “They shed. A lot.”
So we said, “Let’s get a picture of a Pyrenees!”

But on that day, never had pointing meant so much me.

So now let’s look at our Gospel, which comes from the Gospel of John and just like last week it features a story about John.

If we combine this story with last week’s story from Mark, then those stories tell us that John has already become a rock star.
People from all over the area are coming to see and hear him, and then be baptized by him.

Now, back then, not everyone could baptize people.
There were rules.
There were special people for that.
And in our Gospel, some of those special people, the priests and Levites (the church officials), have come to “have a little talk” with John.
This little talk sounds more like the game 20 questions:
Are you the Messiah? “No.”
Are you Elijah? “Nope.”
Are you the prophet? “Unh-uh.”
“Well then WHO are you?”
The question they should have asked is not WHO John was but what John was .

John is not the Messiah, Elijah, or the prophet.
He is a baptizer, but
John is more than a baptizer.
He is a witness.
John is a witness who testifies to the good news of Jesus Christ.
And he witnesses by doing one thing:
He points.

Whenever John shows up in the Gospels,
especially in the Fourth Gospel,
John always points the people’s attention away from himself and towards Jesus.
Always.

His role is to prepare the way of the Lord.
John is the Messenger.
Jesus is the Message!

So let me ask you this:
Do you know anyone who is a good pointer when it comes to God?

Think of the times in your life when
someone has pointed out to you the sliver of light as you faced a dark time.

When Martin Luther was struggling with his faith and whether God loved him,
His confessor, his mentor, Staupitz, pointed him to the cross.
“Look to the cross, Luther!”
And once Luther was pointed in the right direction he was never the same.

Think of the people in your life
who have pointed out to you that you are not alone, and that you are loved.
I think of the people of St. Paul’s who give of their times for the Monday night feedings,
The Christmas Day meal,
The Backpack Program,
Just to name a few of the ministries that point out to the people who are fed and cared for that God loves them,

Think of the people who
thought about YOU and YOUR needs
before they thought about themselves.
Friday morning
I was at the WalMart on Market street when I saw over 50 Wilmington Police Officers walking with children and families around the store for some Christmas shopping.
Each child had $100 spending limit for gifts.
And I saw the police pointing out where the toys were, and I believe in the bottom of my heart with each gift,
That child, somehow someway,
Can be pointed to the God who wants the best for that child and that family.

Finally,
Think of the Sundays when you come to church,
heavy with stress,
guilt,
sin,
sadness,
needing direction…

And then the usher POINTS you to the altar
where each and every week
you receive the GIFT of grace that
can erase your guilt,
bring you comfort,
and energize you for the work ahead.

Starting this morning, I want you to work on your pointing.
Make those pointing fingers strong,
And then you can point people to God
when they are in their times of trouble, struggle, loneliness, or sin,

Get to the place in your life where you can point out where God is working in the lives of the people around you.

Don’t be the Message,
Be the Messenger.
And be a pointer.
Like John.

Isn’t that the point of it all?