In Your Midst

I was stuck at a tire repair shop this week, waiting for a leaky tire to be diagnosed. Alas, the leak was too great and a new tire had to be purchased. While I waited, I stumbled upon The Great British Baking Show’s holiday episode. What joy! Four former contestants returned to compete in three Christmas-themed baking challenges.

One contest was to make holiday cake pops. This peaked my non-baker’s interest, as I have always wondered how they are made. Do they use a special ball-shaped form? A muffin pan made of perfect spheres? Do they bake cake into thick squares and then sculpt them into neat balls and stick a lollipop stick in the bottom?

Well I was stunned. None of these methods are how you make a cake pop. Lo and behold, you bake a regular pan or sheet cake and then MASH IT UP when the cake is cool. Then you take the mashed-up cake and mix it with…wait for it…buttercream frosting. Then you scoop it into your buttered hands, shape it into lollipop-sized balls, shove a stick in the bottom, and frost.

Who knew??

The things you learn at the tire shop.

Today’s passage from John 1 is a little like me watching how cake pops are made.

What exactly are we looking at? What weird mashup of things has created what we are seeing? The people were confused. They saw a man named John who was baptizing people, so they assumed him to be the messiah. Little did they know what was really going on.

John 1 (The Message)

19-20 When Jews from Jerusalem sent a group of priests and officials to ask John who he was, he was completely honest. He didn’t evade the question. He told the plain truth: “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They pressed him, “Who, then? Elijah?”

“I am not.”

“The Prophet?”

“No.”

22 Exasperated, they said, “Who, then? We need an answer for those who sent us. Tell us something—anything!—about yourself.”

23 “I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!’ I’m doing what the prophet Isaiah preached.”

24-25 Those sent to question him were from the Pharisee party. Now they had a question of their own: “If you’re neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, why do you baptize?”

26-27 John answered, “I only baptize using water. A person you don’t recognize has taken his stand in your midst. He comes after me, but he is not in second place to me. I’m not even worthy to hold his coat for him.”

A person you don’t recognize has come to save you. He is in your midst.

Did you ever stop to think that you encountered Jesus in someone, but didn’t recognize him? Did a loving pastor, grandparent, teacher, youth worker, friend, parent, stranger, etc. show you a moment of unexpected grace, startling unconditional love, or unwarranted mercy in such a way that later you recognized that they were being Jesus to you in that moment?

A cake pop isn’t really a round ball of cake. John isn’t really the messiah. That person wasn’t really Jesus. But when you had that moment with them, you were ushered into the Light.

Go and be someone’s unexpected light today.

Nobody Really Knows What’s Inside by Gail Driver

Talk About It

What do you like to talk about with your friends? Do you discuss current affairs? Family updates? The weather? Fashion? Politics…..oh, never mind. Hardly anybody ventures THERE any more!

I have a delightful moment once a week when I ZOOM with my two daughters and my niece. We talk about everything and anything. We catch up on the news of their children and jobs, we discuss the pandemic, we giggle about a feisty lady named Nancy whose room is opposite my niece’s office in the nursing home where she works, and we recommend books and shows we have enjoyed binging during the Pandemic.

Apparently there is a Japanese show called “Terrace House” that captured their imagination. I tried to interest them in the History Channel’s survivalist competition “Alone,” but I’m sure I lost them when I described how a contestant not only took down a 600 lb. moose, but killed a wolverine WITH AN AX. Those were my exact words as our free ZOOM call cut off, and that benediction has stayed with them for a week. “WITH AN AX!”

The content of our conversations with one another reveals who we are. Talking is our way to spur one another on, offer encouragement, support each other, give suggestions and corrections, and speak out loud the things that are nestled in our hearts.

In today’s psalm, we hear a call to speak about our Lord. We are invited to tell about his deeds among the people. We are asked to talk about his wondrous works:

Psalm 105 (New King James Version)

Oh, give thanks to the Lord!
Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!
Glory in His holy name;
Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face evermore!
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,
O seed of Abraham His servant,
You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!

Think back for a moment when you first learned about God and his love for you. You didn’t fall into that knowledge in a library, most likely. I’m guessing you didn’t take a walk on the beach and have a sudden revelation. No, chances are SOMEBODY TOLD YOU.

He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
He remembers His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,
The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac,
10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
As the allotment of your inheritance,”

So here is your challenge for the day: go and tell. Tell somebody about God’s goodness in your life and his covenant of love that lasts forever. Talk about what having a relationship with God means to you. You may be the only Jesus somebody will see and hear today!

Go, and tell.

This little guy came to Worship on the Lawn. Photo by Sharon Whitehurst