A Call from the Wilderness!


Matthew 3:1-12

May the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, and the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord come to us in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

It is usually around this time of year when the weather starts turning cold that I find my mind fixating on the summer months. This is the time of year that my family enjoys going camping and we find ourselves in the wilderness. To be separated from our familiar surroundings of home bring about a peace that is hard to leave at the end of the week. I think of the wilderness as a place of renewal and an opportunity to get even closer to God. Amazing revelations can occur in the wilderness!

John the Baptist comes to us this morning in the wilderness. A place that the people of Israel are quite familiar with. Their ancestors were wandering in the wilderness for forty years. The wilderness can be untamed and wild. It can be foreign. In the wilderness, some are left feeling scared and perhaps have a heightened sense of anxiety. In the wilderness, we do not always know what is going to happen. John the Baptist comes to us in the wilderness disrupting our daily lives as he proclaims a gospel that is counter-cultural. It is in this disruption that we are called to repent! It is in John’s wilderness that we are awakened and promised a sign of hope!

The season of Advent breaks into our everyday lives with the reminder that Christ is coming and now we have a prophet speaking from the wilderness pointing to Christ. We could not have asked for a better time for this inbreaking. We are stirred to our senses in this season and reminded that through the prophet John the Baptist we live through judgement into hope! It is John the Baptist that calls us to repent and thus we feel a sense of judgement. It is in his calling the Pharisees and Sadducees nothing but sneaky slimy snakes that it echoes down to our generations as well. John the Baptist is speaking to the brokenness in our lives and the world, knowing that at times we can be far from Christ. If only we were to concentrate on bearing fruit worthy of repentance, then we would find and truly experience the Christ that comes to live within us.

Last week on the first Sunday of Advent we were asked, “Are you Ready?” Are you ready for the coming of Christ that John the Baptist points to? John the Baptist calls us to preparation this second Sunday of Advent as we are told to repent. As the kingdom of God comes near, we are to be prepared. In our repentance, we turn around and start anew. In our repentance, we act out of awe and reverence to a loving God, instead of being afraid.

As we come upon the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the reformation, Martin Luther even had a thing or two to say about repentance. It is the beginning of the 95 Theses, which lays the groundwork for the Reformation. Thesis 1 reads, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent,” he willed the entire life of believers to be of one repentance.” In other words, when we are called to repent, it is not a one and done thing.

St. Francis starts his life anew seeking his own repentance. Where the sight of lepers had previously made him nauseous, he sought repentance and asked for forgiveness as he began caring for those very lepers. He brought to them the love of God.

St. Francis and Martin Luther both realized it was ongoing, and we are called to live a life of repentance in which we are constantly turning ourselves towards God. As we turn around, we are caught in the awe that God enters into our lives.

As we turn around, we find Christ in the most glorious of places, bringing us a reminder of the life that he gave for us so that we can experience the true grace of God.

We turn around to find life anew in the waters of baptism. We are washed cleaned and receive the promise of a new life in Christ.

We turn around and find Christ in the bread and wine of communion, which restores and renews us as we continue to be God’s hands and feet in the world.

As we turn around in the wilderness, God is with us, Emmanuel. The wilderness awakens our senses to a new and glorious thing that is about to take place. A call is placed upon our hearts to be prepared and ready for the inbreaking of the kingdom of God. And in this we experience good news.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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