December 10, 2012

Hey You!

Filed under: Lectionary,Social Gospel — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 5:05 pm

I love John the Baptist.

I love the way he gets right up in people’s faces.

I love the way he calls out the tax collectors and the soldiers who are abusing their power and extorting illegitimate gain.

I love the truth-telling of his Advent message: Jesus is coming. Get your act together.

This fall a present-day John the Baptist unexpectedly broke into my life. Driving to and from the hospital twice a day for two weeks, I got to know Augusta differently from the sporadic view I get when I only go a few places every once in a while, running errands or getting my hair cut. The everyday rhythm of being in the same areas around the same times awakened a sense of presence and made me pay attention.

I am grateful for that because, had I not been paying attention, I would never have noticed the older man who walks very purposefully along the main thoroughfare, always on the sidewalk and always facing traffic. As cars pass, instead of waving at them, he gives them the finger. It’s not just an absent-minded gesture as he walks along—it’s deliberate; there’s no doubt about which car has caught his attention in any given moment.

It’s clear at a glance that this man does not live in a “have a nice day” world. What makes his habit so compelling is that he’s just being honest. His body language isn’t hostile, or mean spirited. He’s simply telling his truth.

What I appreciate the most is that he tells his truth in a way that draws out mine. The first time I saw him I burst out laughing—did he just do what I think he did? Next, I was curious—would I see him again the second day? I started to tell people about him. I watched for him. Then, and most unexpectedly, I started to hope I would see him. I wanted him to call me out of my self-absorption. I needed his bold reminder that each of us is a beloved child of God, crying out in the wildernesses of whatever our circumstances might be. He became a daily, human reminder of my baptismal vow to strive for justice and peace, and to respect the dignity of every human being.

On the Third Sunday of Advent, this John the Baptist’s bold gesture asks: How does the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus?[i]

How do we live peace in a middle-finger world?[ii]

[i] Philippians 4:7

[ii] While most sources seem to agree that the First Sunday of Advent is Hope and the Fourth Sunday is Love, there is some inconsistency in designating the Second and Third Sundays for Joy and for Peace. Since I reflected on Joy last week, I’m going with Peace this week.


1 Comment »

  1. Lisa,

    Just reposted this on ECF Vital Practices.


    Nancy Davidge Editor, ECF Vital Practices Episcopal Church Foundation 815 Second Avenue, 7th Floor New York, NY 10017

    617.901.4200 Empowering Congregations to do God’s Work

    Comment by — December 14, 2012 @ 9:50 am |Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: