My alley-oop nomination for Jesus of Nazareth

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Republicans have nominated their presidential candidate; the Democrats are about to do the same. It is a plum assignment to get to place Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in nomination. These speeches are the equivalent of the alley-oop pass. The nominating speech floats high and lofty; the nominee slams it home the following evening. The crowd cheers wildly.

At the quadrennial party conventions, rhetoric reaches its fullest flower. Speechwriters craft, rewrite, test and rewrite again the words spoken to place a person's name in nomination for the nation's highest office. The nominee himself knows and has signed off on every word of this speech beforehand.

I frequently find myself wondering if those who make the speeches actually mean it. Saying preapproved nice things are the price for getting a prime speaking spot at the rostrum. Regardless of party, it's a bit of a sham. Some of the same men who months earlier savaged the nominee in order to advance their own cause, now praise him. It's as if the campaigns believe we have no memories. But we do have them. Even if we can't recall exactly what candidate B said about candidate A, something unpleasant tingles in our gray matter.

The best nominating speech ever written was brief in length, was heard by comparatively few, but the man who gave it meant every word.

Remember this? "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Matthew 3:11)

John the Baptist endorses Jesus here by way of comparison. The Baptist knows whatever ability he possesses, the Nazarene carpenter's son is so far above him that John is merely an asterisk beside him.

Then the nomination speech moves resolutely into what the "candidate" will do: "His winnowing-shovel is in His hand, and He will make a thorough clearance of His threshing-floor, gathering His wheat into the storehouse, but burning up the chaff in unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:12) For John, Jesus not only feels your pain like no one else, he is a problem solver without peer. Note his teachings, his miracles, his healings -- and yes, his finished work on the cross.

The remarkable thing about this biblical nominating speech is that John, at that time, had standing with the common people that Jesus did not yet own. John freely gives away his popularity to his cousin; he does not become Jesus' rival.

If you find yourself wondering if John means it, recall these words: "He [meaning Jesus] must increase; I must decrease." (John 3:30)

John's greatest gift is getting out of the nominee's way. The Romneys and the Obamas come and go, searing bright lights of the political moment. Jesus is the eternal nominee; his promise is to provide life illumination not for just a four-year term but forever.

Here's my alley-oop: I place in nomination the name of Jesus of Nazareth for the office of Savior from sin and Lord of life. He doesn't need me to tee it up for him, but I'm willing. Et tu, dear reader?

Dr. Jeff Long teaches religious studies at Southeast Missouri State University and is assistant director of marketing for Chateau Girardeau Retirement Community.

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