December 9, 2011

Dec. 9: I’m not the one you’re looking for

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By Heather Goertzen, resident director
SCRIPTURE: John 1:6-8, 19-28 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL:
It was just over a year ago that I was introduced to the Mennonite game. I grew up a “Coaster,” a funny and indecipherable surname, unindicative of its Polish roots, and married a Mennonite in a far away land where “Goertzen” was as unique (strange) as the gringos who bore it. It was only after returning to the U.S. (and a couple specific Menno-lands) that I learned there were more of us out there and that lines could be traced. I also learned that in the Mennonite game, Coaster got me nowhere.

There was a man sent from God whose name was John.

He was new to town and to these religious circles where people were used to knowing each other.

Who are you?

Instead of name-dropping, of defending his honor and his own story (miracle baby of respectable Zechariah and Elizabeth, thank-you very much), he orients himself, in the negative, toward another. I am not the Messiah.

Elijah? No.

The prophet? Not so much.

This is neither helpful nor satisfactory to his inquisitors. They press.

This time he answers in the words of someone else, a prophet they do recognize, but his answer still doesn’t make sense. The voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make way…” And it doesn’t give him the right…

But still, he’s clear: I’m not the one you’re looking for.

As I consider the games we play and the efforts we make to validate our own place and work in the world, John reminds me that it’s not about me anyway, that there is an unrecognized Light and Lord among us and that Advent is about orienting ourselves, holding fast to the One Who Is. Messiah. Holy One. Son of the Most High. God.

Hold fast.

SCRIPTURE: John 1:6-8, 19-28 (NRSV)
6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ. ” 21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself ?” 23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” 24 Now some Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” 28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

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Comments (23)

  1. This send good chills up my spine. Heather thank you, you did what i always long for – made a familiar passage shine anew, gave a sense of what was unique, even shocking, about this episode. It deepens our excitement and anticipation at Advent. You’re so right – it’s ‘not about us’, it’s for us to point to He who is on His way…. Thank you. Jane

    Jane D. December 9, 2011 |
  2. Thank you for this! A great reminder of who we are and where we should find our value and something I needed to hear (and often). Very humbling.

    Ellen m December 9, 2011 |
  3. Amen and Ditto to the comments preceding this one. A penetrating insight into this passage and how it can apply to my life and to this season. May my life point away from me to Jesus! May I not get hung up on what people think of me or of my “creds,” but what they know about our Lord.
    Thank you for the time invested in writing it!

    Scott December 9, 2011 |
  4. Thanks, Heather. A refreshing way to think about John and this passage. The last name “Stair” isn’t a Menno name, either, and I sometimes note a little disappointment when introduced in Menno circles. But I hang around anyway, because there is something about understanding Jesus as the Messiah, and as a Way in the world.

    Tim Stair December 9, 2011 |
  5. I pray that my life points to Christ thank you for the reminder!!!!!!

    bob c December 9, 2011 |
  6. A refreshing way to consider John the Baptist’s mission. He was obedient and sure of what he was to do, even when others didn’t believe him. I want it to be about Christ, and not me, in my life also.

    Ruth December 9, 2011 |
  7. Thanks, Heather. Your reflection certainly caught my attention and encouraged me to reflect.

    Mike December 9, 2011 |
  8. Wow! This is deeply moving. And challenging. Thanks Heather!

    Sharon December 9, 2011 |
  9. Heather well said! Fresh wind,fresh fire..glad you are here among us.

    Jen December 9, 2011 |
  10. Heather, thank you for a powerful meditation on John. May we all point the way–as we await the coming.

    Ann Whitaker December 9, 2011 |
  11. Having grown up in central Kansas, to me a name
    like “Goertzen” is as familiar as “Neufeld” I enjoyed your creative reflection on John the Baptist. You are one of us not matter your name!

    Marjorie Neufeld December 9, 2011 |
  12. Thank you for your insight! I have found the analogous Brethren name game both frustrating and familiar. Your writing adds a surprising new dimension to a well-known Scripture.

    M Kathryn Reynolds December 9, 2011 |
  13. What a wonderful analogy and reminder that it is never about “me” but Him. You are a refreshing writer!

    Lorene December 9, 2011 |
  14. I like the way you wrote up your meditation! And you’re
    right–our focus needs to be on Him.

    Thanks for sharing, Heather.

    Loretta Yoder Ostojic December 9, 2011 |
  15. To Heather
    I really like your writing style as well as the content of your message. Thank you for sharing.
    e e howell

    eleanor howell December 9, 2011 |
  16. Well said Heather. Thank you for your insights and your wonderful way with words.

    Brenda Shelly December 9, 2011 |
  17. Goertzens used to live in Poland, as you maybe know. My grandfather Jeschke, though not a Menno, was born in Poland. So we all come from all over.

    Marlin Jeschke (Religion Prof at GC ’61 to ’94)

    Marlin Jeschke December 9, 2011 |
  18. Thank you for your insight. Perhaps all baptized believers should be given the surname, “Christian.” It is in and through Jesus Christ that we are most importantly linked. Mennonites , Brethren and others can become tribalistic and confuse church with ethnic lodge.

    Gary Olsen-Hasek December 9, 2011 |
  19. I really enjoyed this devotion, one of the most useful I have read, it gave me a lot. Thank you

    Steven Vovk December 9, 2011 |
  20. Heather, I liked your devotional. Refreshing! I just read about these in MWR and at 88 years of age I still play the game. But the news John brings points us to our Saviour and to love one another regardless of our name.

    Marjorie Nofziger December 11, 2011 |
  21. Heather, a refreshing devotional. I just learned of these from MWR tonight. I still play the game and I’m 88 yrs old. But like John we need to point to Jesus and share his love regardless of our name.

    Marjorie Nofziger December 11, 2011 |
  22. I am a Goertzen. A friend sent me a link to your devotional knowing that I have a young daughter named Heather. This past year, I have really enjoyed using a geneology program to better play the the “Menno” game. Your devotional reminded me that it is not who we are, but whom we should be like. Thank you.

    Brad Goertzen December 11, 2011 |
  23. This reminds me of a song I learned in youth group, whose lyrics I think apply here: “I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about you, it’s all about you, Jesus.” I think we all tend to make it about us sometimes; I know I do! But, you have a point – we can take a lesson from the example of John, who knew that it was all about someone whose sandals none of us are worthy to untie.

    Elizabeth S.O. December 14, 2011 |