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The Humble Pen
God of grace, on this second Sunday of Advent, we thank you for reminding us that our Lord came to heal the sick, not the “healthy.” He came to dine and enjoy fellowship with sinners, not “the righteous.” Help us to follow his example and precepts by seeking and caring for the least, last, and lost. Cause our hearts to be burdened for such as these. And give us an understanding that we too were in such condition before you sought and saved us in our need. In Christ, we pray, Amen.
28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
31 Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
“ ‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
The Great Tradition
“If someone plucks this reed from the nursery garden of the earth, divests it of what is unnecessary, strips off the old man with his deeds, and fits it to the hand of a swiftly writing scribe,19 it begins to be not a reed but a pen. This pen imprints the precepts of Holy Writ in the inner mind and inscribes them on the tables of the heart. … Imitate this pen in the moderation of your flesh. Do not dip your pen, your flesh, in ink but in the Spirit of the living God so that what you write may be eternal. Paul wrote the epistle with such a pen, of which he says, “You are the epistle of Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.” Dip your flesh in the blood of Christ, as it is written, “that your foot may be dipped in blood.” Moisten the footprint of your spirit and the steps of your mind with the sure confession of the Lord’s cross. You dip your flesh in Christ’s blood as you wash away vices, purge sins and bear the death of Christ in your flesh, as the apostle taught us, saying, ‘bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus Christ.’” Ambrose
As we continue through our sacred Advent season, let us delve into the profound wisdom of the Scriptures and open our hearts to the lessons embedded in Luke 7:28-35. This passage illuminates the contrasting responses to John the Baptist and Jesus, shedding light on the transformative power of humility, compassion, and God’s Kingdom perspective. Today, we focus on the significance of being God’s pen in a world that yearns for the good news of God’s grace.
Ambrose offers a vivid analogy – “the reed plucked from the nursery garden of the earth, transformed into a pen. This pen, dipped not in earthly ink but in the Spirit of the living God, becomes a vessel to inscribe the precepts of Holy Writ on the tables of the heart.” Our Lord Jesus, in verses 28-30, exalts John the Baptist, declaring him the greatest among those born of women. Yet, the paradox unfolds - the least in the Kingdom of God surpasses even the greatness of John. The key lies in humility. John’s humility allowed him to decrease so that Christ might increase (John 3:30). We must pursue that same humility to be considered great in the Kingdom of God. A paradox indeed.
Jesus, in verses 31-35, paints a picture of the contrasting responses to John and himself. Some rejected God’s purpose, clinging to their own self-righteousness. In contrast, those who acknowledged God’s way were baptized by John, demonstrating a willingness to repent and be transformed. The season of Advent calls us to discern God’s purpose amidst life’s temptations to accept and pursue false notions of greatness.
The closing verses emphasize wisdom being vindicated by her children. Wisdom is not merely intellectual but lived out in transformed lives. In fact, a helpful definition of wisdom is “skill in the art of living.” Just as the pen, dipped in the blood of Christ, imprints eternal truths, our lives become a testimony to God’s wisdom when we experience godly change by embracing his transformative power.
May our lives, like echoes of great works of literature, unfold with purpose and the promise of redemption – all under the sovereign hand of our gracious God. To paraphrase the puritan pastor and author Richard Baxter, we are merely pens in the hand of a loving and holy God, and what credit is due a pen? As we journey through this Advent season, may we daily seek to be pens in the hand of our gracious God, inscribing the eternal story of his love on those he has entrusted to our care.
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Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.