Today’s gospel reading had a paragraph which you probably ignored unless you had to read it aloud. It’s the one when Luke lists all the rulers at the time when Jesus began his ministry: Tiberius the emperor, Pilate the governor and then the rulers of the neighbouring territories, and the religious leaders, working down the ladder of importance and influence.
Right here, right now in the UK there’s plenty to worry about in the politics of our country, with political leaders themselves completely uncertain what will happen next, and, many of them, playing games of party political power while the future of this country is in the balance. The simmering division between those who want to get out of the EU, and those who want to stay, could easily come to the surface again. There are no safe bets.
And then there’s the next sentence of the gospel – ‘the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness’. God is very obviously not communicating through the great and powerful, even the religiously influential. Instead his word comes to an unknown son of a minor priest, already in the wilderness, away from all the centres of learning and prayer and power. Something very different is going on. The world of time and politics is being invaded by God’s time, God’s politics.
So where are we going to live, in God’s time or the world’s time? Human time is the time of kings and rulers, the time that rolls on and on, the time of history. It’s the day to day passing of life which can keep us so busy with everyday necessities that we never ask what they are necessary for. It’s the world of politics and right now of anxiety, uncertainty, fear and anger.
Against the time of history, the ever-flowing stream, John the Baptist comes like a rock thrown into the water and damming its flow. God’s time is always now, it is about the decision we make now as to how we are to live. John invites us to step out of the flow of earthly time and power into the kingdom of heaven.
Living in that kingdom sets us free from being prisoners to the anxiety and fear pervading our political life. Whatever we might desire ourselves in this world is secondary, for as Christians we have another country, a different and deeper allegiance. As citizens of that country, we can come back into the everyday world as messengers of a deeper hope and a more profound security. Over this next couple of days, and in whatever happens after, our society may need a lot of that.