When being interviewed to work at St Michael le Belfrey I was asked if there was a bible character with whom I particularly identified, and why. If you were asked that, what would you say?
When we moved into our present home nearly three years ago we discovered that for a number of years the only garden work the previous occupant had done was mow the lawn. Everything else had been left. We could just see a path from the back door down the right hand side of the garden, which was overgrown. So we spent time lopping trees and cutting back bushes until a nice straight path was usable again. On the other side there was quite a large border which was quite wide with all sorts of undergrowth and overhanging vegetation. So I began cutting it all back and suddenly discovered that it wasn’t one wide border but two, with a path in between, identical to the one on the other side. It was very exciting to uncover and clean up! So now we have a restored garden and you can find a way down both sides because there’s a straight way. An open road. A clear path.
The bible character who was called to clear the path was John the Baptist. You can read about him in Matthew 3:1-3. His job was to make a way and get things ready for the Lord to come. To make it easy. To make it simple. So that when he came, people were ready.
John the Baptist found that all sorts of things were in the way. Sin. Bad habits. Religiosity. All sorts of stuff needed to be hacked away, so the path was straight. So Jesus could have a straight run. So that’s what John the Baptist did.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve found myself strangely attracted to John the Baptist. Not for his love of itchy clothes, or his ‘Bear Grylls’-style desire for eating wild insects. It was more of an identification with his purpose and his role, for his job was to help people be ready for the ministry of Jesus. And that’s really what I’m trying to do with my life. Getting people ready, so they can meet with the Saviour.
John the Baptist told people they needed to change. To ‘repent’. To turn around. Why? Because God had better things for them. And ‘the kingdom of heaven was near’, which meant his presence, power and love was close. God wanted to come close, in the person of Jesus Christ. And I want to say the same to the people of York and the North: ‘God is close. He is near, in the person of Jesus Christ. He is real and relevant and ready to come.’
In fact I believe he wants to come to many, many people. And I want to make it easy for Jesus Christ to do that. I what to be a help to his ministry. Not a hindrance. I’m happy to play that John the Baptist role. So that he can increase. He can get the praise. Because he is the Saviour of the world.
Now what about you? Is there a bible character you particularly identify with? Because the bible is full of ordinary, fallible people who the Lord used to do God-inspired things. If there’s someone who stands out for you,why not try to find a few minutes today – maybe even right now – to go back to the bible and read about them, asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you. God may well want to speak to you through them, about your life and your call and your future.
If it’s not John the Baptist, who is it for you?