The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. (John 1:35-37)
I was at a low spot in my ministry – lacking self-confidence, burned out, and on the verge of hopelessness. These verses from John’s gospel were read as the text during a lectio divina exercise at the retreat I was attending. I, of course, was hoping for some inspiration that would put the wind back in my sails as a new programming year was starting. The only word I could hear in this text was “again”. Again?!
But this word made my ears tingle. I didn’t want to do all of this . . . again.
Rally day . . . again?
Recruiting volunteers . . . again?
Convincing the congregation to invest in their youth . . . again?
Convincing youth and families to invest in the congregation . . . again?
I didn’t want to do any of it ever again!
I can almost hear an exhausted and frustrated John saying it cynically, “Look, it’s the Lamb of God, as if any of you really give a rip anyway!”
But the Jesus John points to is the broken Jesus. The painting above is the Isenheim altarpiece painted by Matthias Grünewald in the early 1500’s for the St. Anthony Monastery in Isenheim, Germany, which served many people dying from the plague. Jesus’ broken body is covered with open sores and wounds, much like the bodies of those who fell victim to the plagues. John the Baptist is on Jesus’ right, pointing to this mangled Christ. This image changes the way we hear John’s words above, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!”
Here is the Lamb of God, in the midst of your burnout and hopelessness. Here is the Lamb of God, right in the middle of your failed Rally Day plans. Here is the Lamb of God, alongside your broken programs and your broken people and your broken self. Right here. Here is the Lamb of God. Again!
So let’s do this thing again. Let’s recruit and train those volunteers again. Let’s write newsletter articles, texts and tweets about the importance of Christian community again. Let’s argue with our pastors and our church councils over funding once again. Our young people are worth it!
Ministry is beautiful and horrifying, frustrating and soothing, life-giving and death-dealing. But we enter into this broken work once again because here is the Lamb of God.