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Deesis in Hagia Sophia

You’ve met them before. They are the ones who aren’t the center of attention, but they recognize who should be the center of attention and introduce those folks to everyone else. These people seem to have the knack of recognizing who should lead, who should speak, and who should be the example for everyone else.

These folks are the ones who introduce the talented to one another. They are the sports scouts who see the talent in a young ball player; the talent scout who recognizes the acting gift in a young man in a high school play; the career recruiter who sees the potential for leadership in the 4 H team leader.

Yep, you’ve seen these folks or at least you’ve seen their work, even if you never knew their names.

The truth is every successful leader has usually had someone blazing the trail before him. Someone usually comes along and networks the right people together to accomplish a great task. There seems to always be a Forerunner who clears the way for the Great Leader to come along and make a difference.

And this is even true of our Lord Jesus.

Look at our Gospel Lesson today and you will read about that greatest of First Testament prophets, St. John the Baptist. In Luke 1:1-25, 57-68, 76-80, the good doctor and scripture writer St. Luke, gives us a bit of an overview of St. John and his ministry of blazing the trail for the coming of the Messiah. The narrative of how St. John came to be born and his miraculous naming give us a hint of the work the Holy Spirit completed in St. John to bring the First Testament to a conclusion and what God accomplished in inaugurating the New Testament. Here’s a powerful section of today’s lesson:

And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

The truth is God, working through the centuries before the coming of the Lord, had already established His “modus operandi” in granting children to seemingly barren women. And the Lord had already set a long precedence in giving significant attention to naming children to tell the central theme of their ministry in the earth. So John’s birth to his now very old mother and father was in keeping with God’s wonderful habit of making the “impossible” happen to remind we humans that “impossible” is just a word we use all too often for a lack of faith and a deficiency in our belief that we serve the God Who created the universe. I mean, really, as St. Luke declares in this very first chapter “For with God nothing will be impossible.” Luke 1:37

Today, we recall the birth of the last, and greatest First Testament prophet, St. John the Baptist. He will serve as the Forerunner to the Messiah fulfilling the promise God made to His people long ago that a prophet would come to blaze the trail for the ministry of the Messiah to change the universe!

So, what trails are you blazing today to prepare those around you for the message of the Good News to come to them? What lives do you recognize as ready to hear and embrace the life changing message of faith all around you? Are you able, by God’s grace, to make your world, your friends, your family, your home, ready for the coming of the Messiah? All you have to do is be available to His grace and He will make you able to continue the ministry of St. John the Baptist in making the way of the Messiah clear to your world as well. Being Orthodox on Purpose will mean you are in the steps of the blessed Forerunner!

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