Thursday 14 December 2023

It is I who say to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.' (Isaiah 41.13)

John the Baptist

David LaChapelle (American, 1963– ). John the Baptist Receiving Instructions, 1985.

Isaiah 41:13-20

For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, 'Do not fear,
I will help you.'

Do not fear, you worm Jacob,
you insect Israel!
I will help you, says the Lord;
your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
Now, I will make of you a threshing-sledge,
sharp, new, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
and you shall make the hills like chaff.
You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away,
and the tempest shall scatter them.
Then you shall rejoice in the Lord;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them,
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
so that all may see and know,
all may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Psalm 145.8-13

8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate:
   slow to anger and of great goodness.
9 The Lord is loving to every one of us:
   and his mercy is over all his works.
10 All creation praises you, O Lord:
   and your faithful servants bless your name.
11 They speak of the glory of your kingdom:
   and tell of your great might,
12 That the whole earth may know your mighty acts:
   and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom:
   and your dominion endures through all generations.

Matthew 11:11-15

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.Let anyone with ears listen!

John The Baptist, by Simon Foulkes
'after me comes one you do not know', John 1.26

The locust is a bitter food without honey sweetness;
For years life was bitter—scorched, desert-ed
Nazirite eyes black pin-pricks of pain, waiting—
And taking ridicule. But I marked out a highway
In the spirit and power of Elijah.
I am not The one to Come. I am not the Prophet. I am not worthy.
I am not Messiah. I am Baptist.
Look! The lamb of God!
I baptise with water—but after me comes another,
He stands among you—visible but unseen,
Present but not noticed, unremarked, disregarded; the cloaked traveller.
You ask me who I am—ask who He is!
In the Isaiah words: 'Here is your God'
I cry out
From the bitter food
But here is the honey
The sweetness of God
O Jerusalem, O lost and shattered city
City of dreams
Of stonings and defeat
Tenderly, sweetly,
Your work, your pain is done
Hard service finished
Sins deleted, paid for
Tenderly, sweetly,
Jerusalem—I am Baptist—

Blessèd are you, Sovereign God, our light and our life;
to you be glory and praise for ever!
When we turned away to darkness and chaos,
like a mother you would not forsake us.
You cried out like a woman in labour
and rejoiced to bring forth a new people.
Your living Word brings light out of darkness
and daily your Spirit renews the face of the earth,
bending our wills to the gentle rule of your love,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Blessèd be God for ever!
Celebrating common prayer.

"The Lord is gracious and compassionate" (Ps 145:8) — Bridget Moses.