This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. John 1:19-28
The water is always around us here. Lately, it has been raining so much, even Sitkans take notice. Although we had some snow a few days ago, we have had massive amounts of rain since. Storm and wind, trees bent over in the gales, and we are tucked inside, sheltered from the elements. And yet, we cannot hide from it all the time. The water is part of our lives and speaks volumes about who we are as a people. It identifies us, shapes us, molds us, and changes us forever.
Today we hear the testimony of John. The Gospel writer places this in Bethany, across the Jordan from where John had been baptizing. It might mean nothing to us who live at a distance, but it is very meaningful to the locals. Knowing where things have happened determines how we understand them. Events and people are shaped by the local culture and the geography. John was in Bethany to bring a message to the people who needed to hear it. And we might just be those people today, who need to hear the message of John. He announces the presence of God, the living, incarnate presence of the Creator in our midst.
Today, I ask God to help me know God's presence in this context and in this place. May we not see God as far off, by as always drawing near. May we pray to have eyes to see God's love in our very own context and place so we might show others the living God in our midst, today.