Author: Nadia Fitzcharles

I find myself with so many words to say that can’t be said in words. I wish to convey love, so much love. I give thanks to God, who is love, and life, and the essence of community as found in the community of the Holy Trinity. We have lived the gift of life together in community for these months and years, through both the sacred and sometimes mundane bits of a Sunday morning, and also through the seasons of life like baptisms, funerals, and, of course, the pandemic and all the heartache and changes that came with it. I heard once that life is mostly made up of “a million mundane moments.” What you are doing and who you are with during those moments profoundly shape the life that is the culmination of all moments. All the more when you are seeking and searching for God among the moments and in each other all along. I am forever grateful that Na’im and I were together with you for so many of our moments. Through all of it, I have learned and grown in my faith as a follower of Jesus, as well as in my capacity as a teacher and hopeful servant of the church. I am a different person – mother, daughter, sister, friend – than I was when I first came to Peace after a time of wandering through a wilderness season of my life.

The Gospel text this Sunday is from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, which opens with a beautiful and distinct account of the beginning, when “the Word was with God, and the Word was God…What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:1, 3-4). John is a powerful witness to the light who has gained disciples of his own as he meanders through the wilderness on a diet of locusts and honey, preaching the way of repentance. He is approached by priests and Levites who were sent from Jerusalem, the center of religious life and authority, seeking to know who he is. John avoids any confusion about his identity and confesses that he is not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. Rather, he asserts himself as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” (John 1:23) as foretold by the prophet Isaiah.

I wonder if John was tempted to assume the role of savior, or at least claim his credentials (called by God, baptizer of Jesus, etc.), even briefly. Yet, he simply points to Jesus. As one who wore camel skins and survived on strange food, he had no governmental or official religious authority. His humility and clear-eyed focus on preparing the way of the Lord is striking.

In fact, I am reminded now of the wilderness season in my life that brought me to Peace a little over eight years ago. Na’im and I had just moved to Virginia and were living with my parents as I prepared to apply for seminary. My mom was searching for a new church at the time. Church was still fairly new to me, along with everything associated with it – faith, religious community, etc…I’ll save the story of how that is true, even as I prepared to apply for seminary, for Sunday. What is also true is that I was in a time of great exploration, casting a wide net in my search for answers about God and faith. I questioned everyone from pastors and churchgoers to friends, atheists, and bar patrons where I worked. My mom suggested we try the Lutheran church down the street because she likes hymns. (She may have said more; that is what I remember.) When we arrived at the early service, we found vibrant discussion in place of hymns. A few Sunday mornings later, I asked a question, the answer to which I believe has a direct line to this Gospel text and the words I write now. In that early morning hour of 2015, in the fellowship hall over cookies and coffee, the first words of Pastor Sarah’s response to my question were “I don’t know….”.  Having asked many pastors many questions, often noticing a somewhat detached refrain of answers (borne of bewilderment at my unceasing questions, perhaps…), her engaged humility touched something deep in my soul. I was pointed to Jesus.

John points us to Jesus. Church gathers us to remind each other to remember and explore the way forward together, to Jesus. Thanks be to God.

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