A sermon for the 1st Sunday of Epiphany
Many years ago I heard a particular sermon preached from this pulpit and that sermon has come back to me recently from the dusty archives of my mind. The preacher followed a familiar format, beginning with background on the readings, then pointing out the challenges humanity faces in the world, and finally a lead up to how we, as Christians, can meet those challenges by helping to bring the Kingdom of God into harmony with this earthly world. I was ready.
What we know about 1st century Palestine is that decades after John had died, people were still following him and understanding the events of the world through him. One of the most important documents we have about Judaism in the 1st century gives at least twice the space to John than it gives to Jesus. John was a credible witness because he was so popular and had so many followers. So when John the Baptist says to pay attention to this guy, it would have some urgency.
What do John the Baptist and Winnie the Pooh have in common? The same middle name.
There is a story in the Winnie the Pooh books about the arrival of two new characters to the Hundred Acre Woods – Kanga and her son, Roo. When they arrive, the other animals are quite upset. Rabbit, Piglet, and Pooh all gather together to discuss, vent, complain and scheme about how to get rid of them. Rabbit, who seems to be the most frustrated of all says, “Here we are, all of us, and suddenly we wake up one morning, and what do we find? We find a Strange Animal among us.” And in that great A.A. Milne way, the first letters of strange and animal are capitalized, like a proper name, emphasizing those words – “Strange Animal among us”.