“And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1:76 - 79 (NLT)
When John the Baptist was born, his Dad, Zechariah, spoke these words of prophecy over his life. John would be God’s messenger to point God’s people to the Christ. Jesus’ way would be that of peace. In our sin, humanity took that as a declaration of war…and we killed the Prince of Peace.
We killed the messenger too! You can confuse the message with the messenger; that’s how John lost his head. The message is from God, the messenger points the way to the message.
All along this life’s journey I’ve had messengers who helped lead me in the “way of peace”. We call them by different names, “mentor” or “role model” or “hero”, but the “official” job description is “messenger” which means “one sent”.
An early mentor/messenger to me was Pat Giffin. Pat was South Georgia-bred and came to be a minister later in life. Called to a little country church in central Florida, he had no formal education. But he had an inquisitive mind and was hungry to learn. So he read books by the dozen, picked the brains of other ministers, prayed and took some correspondence courses. He did whatever it took to learn how to serve God better.
And he had messengers too!
One of Pat’s messengers was an elderly black man named Elroy Brown; he was pastor to a nearby flock. Pastor Elroy was (according to Pat) the visiting-est preacher I ever saw. Whenever their paths crossed, Rev. Brown was on his way to visit somebody. It didn’t make a difference if it was a church member, or the church member’s neighbor’s third cousin’s dog – if you were sick, Brother Elroy Brown would come and pray with you.
Have ya’ got a good’un?
Almost without fail on a Saturday, there would be a late night knock on Pat’s door. Standing on the other side of the screen door would be Elroy Brown, hat in hand, and a smile that could melt an iceberg; “Have ya’ got a good’un I kin use, Reverend Giffin?” was the opening question. Brother Brown visited so much, some weeks he didn’t have time to study for a sermon.
Or so it seemed.
Actually, Elroy never really needed a sermon. Pat had seen the old man open his Bible, read one verse and preach the better part of an hour on one word out of the verse. The real reason he would come by was his wife had passed a number of years prior, so he lived alone. After visiting with people all week, hearing their problems and praying with the brokenhearted, Elroy just needed a little decompression; he needed to be with somebody like Pat – kind, hospitable, quick with a laugh and a man of peace.
It took me a long while (I’m a slow learner) to put together Zechariah and Elroy. John the Baptist’s father prophesied of the one who would guide the people to peace; Elroy was the embodiment of living in peace!
My messenger, Pat, learned from his messenger, Elroy, that no matter what we do, we need each other – and peace comes when we accept that.
You live in a community, but do you live in community, in peace?The world isn’t particularly peaceful. What are you willing to surrender to become part of the peace of Christ?