A Voice Crying in the Wilderness: 2nd Advent, Year A, Matthew 3: 1-12
My old friend is the local rabbi here. I told him a few weeks ago that he is John the Baptist, “A Voice Crying in the Wilderness”. I’ve known him for over fifty years. We were college room mates and he has been crying his cry for justice for the poor, for an end to war, and racial and interfaith understanding and conversations for as long as I’ve known him.
He grows older, as we do, and has moments of real discouragement. This old world is going to destroy itself he cries. And what can I say. He is like a canary in the mine. A little paranoia, whether you are a Jew or not, is maybe a good thing.
I remember when he was attending a Christian Seminary, Yale, and I was beginning to worry that he might convert. “Joshua,” I said, “You’re a Jew. Your parents and grandparents are Jews; you have to be a Jew for us.” He remembers another person saying that to him. It might be true, but I felt the truth of those words in my bones and my gut. We needed him to be a Jew for us. Not as some caricature of the Jew that many of us Christians raise up, but as a perpetual warning and mirror to our ugliness when in a majority, and our perpetual blindness to where and from whom we come. Even more, we need him to remind us that at the very heart of Judaism is a God of Mercy, Compassion, Kindness as well as Justice. –To keep us from the sin of making the Jews the lawyers and the Christians infused with a Gospel of love.
When Joshua organized a Thanksgiving Service for the Community he invited the regulars, the various Christian denominations, his own Conservative congregation, and the Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Native American and some other native religions. It was a superb celebration of Diversity.
And yet the circle as wide as he draws it is never complete. He reaches for a higher and far off goal, the Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah 11:1-10, where the lion lies down with the lamb. Now this is probably not a good idea, and it must be certainly uncomfortable for the lamb. Maybe it’s easier to beat our swords into plowshares and our instruments of war into housing for the homeless and the poor of the earth, or for growing food to feed the starving children. Now, THAT kingdom could be within our reach.
All we need is a billion John the Baptists, their voices crying in the wilderness, their voices raised to draw people to come to the water to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and Fire. Any one for locusts and wild honey?
And thus may Joshua’s voice and John’s and their spiritual descendants never be silenced.