"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias rule of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness." - Luke 3:1-2
In the grocery line, a magazine cover catches my eye. Someone Beautiful is leaving Someone Glamorous to begin a relationship with Someone Powerful. I have not heard of any of these Someones, although they are all evidently interesting and important enough to warrant news coverage.
Sometimes it worries me not to know the backstories of those magazine cover Someones, and so from time to time I buy a magazine or two on my way out of the store.
"I have to know what's going on in the world," I explain in my defense, "in order to stay relevant in the pulpit."
My explanation sounds flimsy, even to me. I am pretty sure that Karl Barth was not talking about the glossy magazines at check-out stands when he advised preachers to hold the Bible in one hand and the news in the other.
Anyway, there's no way to keep up. Tomorrow, today's Powerful, Glamorous or Beautiful Someone will be replaced by Someone Else.
That's why it's Good News that we don't have to keep track of the rich and famous—the Herods and Lysaniases and Caiaphases of the world. The word of God does not rest there. Instead, we are to look for the word of God where we least expect it, with whom it seems the least likely to appear. Because if the word of God can come to John—roughly clad, honey stuck to his beard, shouting on a river bank—who knows who might be next?
God of the humble and poor, we are so easily distracted by the wealthy and famous. Give us the wisdom to seek Your face, instead, where we least expect it.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.