John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” [Mark 1:4-11]
Just when we thought we were done with John the Baptist after having him appear two of our four Sundays in Advent, we have to see him again.
What a strange character. Living in the wilderness, odd clothing, odd diet. Of course he must eat honey; how else is one able to choke down locusts?
I have seen a number of articles lately about people who live “off the grid,” which apparently can mean different things. Mostly, it seems to mean people who are not connected to a community-based power source. Perhaps they have a generator or solar power—or maybe no electric power at all. They may have heat from a wood or coal stove. Their drinking water may come from streams or they may carry it home in bottles. They may or may not have a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle.
In the developing world, people often live off the grid because of circumstances beyond their control, not by choice. And, in John’s time, obviously, there was no grid.
Even so, John’s manner of living was so ascetic as to invite comment by the authors of both Matthew and Mark.
What interests me is that this man whose lifestyle seemed strange to his contemporaries, was the person who recognized Jesus as the one sent from God.
Could it be that when we take some time to separate from our usual “grid,” we are better able to pay attention to the spiritual, and to how the spiritual is integrated into other parts of our living?
A day off from work or caregiving, turning off the television to have a conversation, a walk in the neighborhood, playing a game with your child instead of doing the dishes, spending a few minutes simply to watch the wind play in the grass… Anything that disrupts our usual way of being “plugged in” to life at a fast pace can create some space for the holy, and increase our sensitivity to things that aren’t necessarily tangible.
Life moves so fast, and like being in a car driving down the interstate, we don’t get to pay attention to the important things we’re passing by. Maybe January will be a time when you can slow down, disconnect from whatever “grid” is keeping you from experiencing holy moments. Maybe you, like John, will be prepared to recognize the movement of God in the ordinary people and events around you.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2015