June Pastoral Letter

“Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote His name is John ”

Dear Friends

The 24th June is the birth of John the Baptist, our patron saint. As the mayoral civic service is on Sun 23rd June we will celebrate our patronal on Sun 30th June this year. But who was John the Baptist and why was he important?

Obviously Jesus is the centre of our Gospel story but God’s story of redemption does not happen in a vacuum. Other people play an important role, from Mary, the mother of Jesus, to the disciples, and all the women he encountered who recognised him, interacted with him, and took the Gospel message out into their communities. And the events of Pentecost assure us that we too become part of this story and play our part within it.

There are some old, ancient European fairytales that talk about the ‘wild twin’. Extraordinary stories like The Lindworm and Tatterhood where a strange twin precedes the prince or princess character into the world and needs to be able to play their part in order for negative forces to be resolved and the main character to fulfil their role. John the Baptist resonates with this dynamic, he has an important spiritual role to play, which will come to a resolution at the Baptism of Jesus. John is integral to the first part of Jesus’ life and the beginning of Luke’s Gospel describes an interweaving of their fate even as they are forming in their mothers’ wombs.

Archangel Gabriel comes to Zechariah six months before he comes to Mary to announce John’s conception in Elizabeth. Zechariah finds it hard to accept and is made mute until the birth for his unbelief. When the archangel comes to Mary, she accepts the news of her overshadowing by the Holy Spirit.

John becomes a wild man of the desert. Jesus we presume learns all about the humanity of the people around him as he grows up in his community.

Traditionally we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Midwinter when all creation’s energies are focussed deep into the earth – God incarnating. As John was born six months earlier, at Midsummer, his attention is focussed heavenward. “Repent and look to God”, he says, for heaven is coming to meet us and we must be prepared.

The meeting of these spiritual blood brothers comes to a climax in the river Jordan. John baptised Jesus as instructed by Jesus himself in order to start Jesus’ mission. After this John decreased as Jesus increased (John 3.30), culminating in John’s merciless beheading on the whim of Herod’s wife.

There is so much more could be said on this! For now let’s glory in John’s story. A story of single-minded, unwavering devotion, proclamation, prophecy and sacrifice for God’s salvation of creation. A worthy brother indeed, both to Jesus and to ourselves.

Every blessing Jonathan