Channeling God -Advent 2b

Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
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.”

I love words. That is why I write. Words have so many layers. They come from other words, they dance, they cascade, they evoke. Words are wonderful.
Language is such a living thing. It emerges from our primordial past. Like our genes, words carry codes that we have forgotten or were never aware of. Words carry their own grammatic history within themselves. It is an alpha-helix called etymology.
Examining the etymology of a word like etymology is a fascinating exercise. You might want to try it right now. Open Google and type etymology of etymology.
Now click the first link Google serves. You should get…
late 14c., ethimolegia “facts of the origin and development of a word,” from O.Fr. et(h)imologie (14c., Mod.Fr. étymologie), from L. etymologia, from Gk. etymologia, properly “study of the true sense (of a word),” from etymon “true sense” (neut. of etymos “true, real, actual,” related to eteos “true”) + -logia “study of, a speaking of” (see -logy). In classical times, of meanings; later, of histories. Latinized by Cicero as veriloquium. As a branch of linguistic science, from 1640s. Related: Etymological; etymologically.

Now I don’t know about you but that excites me.

Dictionaries are like microscopes. They let us examine words. They place the word on a slide and shine a light from underneath and suddenly we see a wonderland in the word. If you are able to crossover between languages it becomes even more fun.
Words are like families too. They have genealogies.
If you begin to track English words eymologically (hey that’s the word that ended the search we just did!) you will discover that most English words are descended from Latin, Greek, French and perhaps some Germanic Saxon as a catalyst.
When I began to play with the words in this Gospel for the Second Sunday in Advent I notice that Isaiah’s quoted prophecy has for the word of the Lord, “I am sending ” the Greek word appostello. Now you don’t have to be a Greek pundit to know that appostelo is the word from which we trace our word Apostle. Apostles are thos who are sent. They are emissaries. So in the Gospel the writer of Mark quotes Isaiah as saying “God is sending,…” Sending whom?

Well here is the next bit of microscope word fun. The word for messenger that we English readers see in the text is the Greek word angelon. Again you can see that it’s the word we derive “angel” from. So angels are messengers. In fact one could say they are “messengers who are sent” or apostolic angels.

These apostolic angels are to prepare the way of the Lord in the Wilderness
Another translation could be “equip a channel in the eremetic desert for God to pass along”

Now it is when playing like this with the words of a passage, that one is able to come to some interesting insights.
We who know this story well, know that it refers to the work of John the Baptist. He is the divinely appointed and sent one who prepares the way for Jesus.
But if the apostolically sent messenger angel is the one who equips a channel for God.(Please excuse the redundancy but I needed to hold the concepts in parallel) Then we are all potential John the Baptisers.

We are all sent to prepare channels for God.
Is it too much of a leap to suggest that the Christ follower is the one who is divinely charged to channel God in a bleak world?
Maybe our New Age friends have something worth considering on this score?


9 responses to “Channeling God -Advent 2b”

  1. Phil Shuart avatar

    Thanks for a unique (to me) perspective. I’m a Lutheran pastor finishing up some thoughts for my conrgegation tomorrow morning. Not being afraid of new age ideas I like the idea of being a channel for God. I think it complements the idea of being a ‘sign” of God’s presence int he world. Thanks so much some thoughtful and helpful ideas. Blessings.
    Phil Shuart

  2. Vinnie+ avatar

    Thoughtful and compelling blog you have here, sir! I don’t know exactly where I read your post about the dialogue in Joan of Arc, but thank you for reminding me of its sustaining power to astonish – stops me in my tracks whenever I read it and it has been years…..high time to be stopped again.

    Blessed Advent to you.

  3. Brad avatar

    Like Matthew Fox, I feel very much “post-denominational.” Even more so, I feel very “post-religious.” I am of the mind that the human ego has done its best to discern the where, whats and whys of our human existence and experiences. As you have noted, we see these experiences through historical documentation and the forms that have been birthed by them: religion, art, writing, music and other created utensils. The evolution of human thought and, in particular, religious expression, is an exercise in how the ego has been shaped and reactive to the world. I see John the Baptist as merely one in a myriad of human expressions in dealing with, as is often the case in history, a corrupt and oppressive empire and its hired indigenous cohorts. He, as many have done in history, is challenging (and channeling) the powers to be from the margins, the desert, the no-where and no-body place. He probably did not know it then, but he was involved in the on-going evolution of God-thought, radically suggesting that God was living and acting outside the Mountain Temple. Bringing the mountains low was nothing short of revolutionary talk. A clean and decisive break from the “normal” (civilized?) power structures which likes things “just the way they are” (to THEIR benefit of course). I wonder, who is willing to make those charges today? Who in the world is challenging the presumptive “authorities” on God, life and justice? My guess is that it will not come from the center of civilization and the institutions of self preservation. Perhaps we should incline our eyes and ears to the desolate places where, historically, claims of wisdom have been experienced. Peace.

  4. Bruce Hyde avatar
    Bruce Hyde

    I totally agree with the idea that “we are channels” through which others encounter Christ. Over the last two weeks two people have said something positive about the ministry I have offered to their deceased sister and to the community, and both times I responded saying that God uses us as channels to bring encounters with Gods-self. Our role is often to act as a mirror, so that the hills and valleys in peoples lives might be levelled out, so that a place can be found for Christ within.

  5. Al Debelak avatar
    Al Debelak

    A channel is often created when we go over something again and again. When we walk a path – it becomes a channel – a way – a life. I like your ideas here but would lean away from a ‘spiritual’ channel that many are waiting to come to them via a vision or a light or an ‘religious experience’ – all of which are good. But rather, it is a ‘spiritual’ channel that is visible and being brought forth with every action within every day – every common, ordinary, desert-like day. Just a thought.

  6. C D avatar
    C D

    Loved this piece! I, too, have enjoyed words since childhood thanks to a mother who encouraged it. When she wanted respite from her chatty only-child she had only to suggest that I look up a word in the dictionary. That guaranteed an hour of peace and quiet. Enough about me – to your work. I am not a ‘universalist’, lest I be accused of such, but I’ve long rued the fact that we forget that the message of Jesus was Eastern. We are not as far removed from the so-called ‘New Agers’ as some of us want to believe. Indeed, I am persuaded that revival and renewal in the Western church will happen only when we recover those elements of Jesus’ teachings that have been replaced by our Western cultural preferences.

  7. Clive avatar

    I guess our words prepare the way for THE WORD

  8. Kim avatar

    I love words too Peter… the words in the passage that struck me are “preparing the way” and what would that look like?

  9. Charis Varnadore avatar
    Charis Varnadore

    You write, “We are all sent to prepare channels for God,” and I could not agree more. Are we not channels for God ourselves when we forget about ourselves and realize what we are really here for – to do unto “the least of these?” Not only are we preparing channels – we encounter Christ – as well as entering into God’s kingdom as well. These events, these actions that we take move us beyond the beauty and power of words into the reality God has prepared for us since the beginning of time. Peace

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