Draw Near to Truth

December 9, 2018

Luke 3:1-6

My previous career as a sales rep introduced me to a lot of people. Each of these people had their own personalities that ranged from mellow to off the wall. A man atone of the accounts that I called on would share stories that were so off the wall, you would think that he was making them up just to see if you would fall for it. I would start to question whether or not he was telling me was the truth. Of course, wanting the sale, I would just nod along with him in agreement.

I am sure that you have all encountered someone like this. Someone that bends the truth so much that there is no resemblance to the facts. I imagine that John the Baptist had many people questioning him. If you remember Matthew and Mark’s description of John the Baptist, they described him looking more like someone you would associate as homeless. He wore a coat of camel hair and ate locusts and wild honey. He also was most likely not the first one trying to foretell the coming of the Lord. Now, his image in this drawing may make you pause. He may not be the first person you would walk up to if you had a question.

However, he knew what he was saying was true. He drew many people near him in his proclamation.And in his bold proclamation, he points to the truth that is revealed in our true Lord, Jesus Christ. In John preparing the way, we are drawn near to that truth.

Not everyone was amused with John. Can you imagine the push back he received from some when he proclaimed that he was preparing the way for the Lord who was to come after him? I am sure that he was mocked and ridiculed. I am sure that some people turned their backs on him because what he was saying they did not want to hear.They already had their way set in front of them and there was no way that they were going to follow him down the detour that he was instructing they take. There was no way this man that looked like he was probably better left out by himself was going to call people to follow him and surely, he was not talking about the long-awaited messiah.

John the Baptist was calling people out of their comfort zones. He was naming their fears and telling them to face them straight on. While we know he did have some followers, I am sure that he made just as many, if not more, very uneasy.

When someone comes to us and tells us something that we do not agree with, quite often we put up some type of boundary and block them out. We pretend that we do not hear them because we “know” our way is the only way. Please don’t re-route us,because the path we are on is the one with least resistance. We don’t want to be challenged to go over the higher mountains and through the deepest valleys. We would much rather take the easy road, not the road least traveled.

That is the problem. We don’t want to be challenged. We don’t want to go against the grain.However, this is where Jesus found himself through his entire earthly journey. Today,it seems that Jesus is the road less traveled. If we were to truly follow Jesus words today, we would truly be living counter to our current society.

In the midst of what was happening in 1st Century Israel, John the Baptist had no reservations of calling out to those that were willing to listen. He did not care about the Roman authorities that ruled or the temple leaders that at times seemed distant from God. His voice spoke boldly and proclaimed the great things that were about to happen. He cried out in the wilderness to ensure that everyone heard the wonderful news he was about to share. The beginning of the good news of Jesus.

We too are called to listen! There is a voice crying out in the wilderness still today. It is a voice that calls all of us into God’s loving embrace. An embrace that meets us where we are at. The voice that cries out is present when we take time to sit with God in prayer. It is also present in and among our daily actions as we live out our lives. Have you heard the voice that calls you into love? Have you heard the voice that calls you to reach out and help your neighbor? Have you heard the voice that breaks through the barriers to share the gospel?

In Jesus,the crooked roads that we find ourselves on are going to be made straight and the rough roads are going to be paved over. In Jesus, our old ways are washed clean and we are refreshed and given a new road map. We are called to a new way of living. We are called to a new way of being.

The awesome thing is that when this happens, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” With every step we take this Advent season, we are being drawn near to the truth that is Jesus Christ.

Let us pray. Jesus, you are the way, the truth, and the life. May we find our way in you and be less distracted by those things on our peripheries. And may you guide us in preparing the way for others. Amen.

Draw Near to Wonder

December 2, 2018 Advent 1

Luke 21:25-36

I grew up in the city. Fortunately, the city of Charlotte is not real big, and I lived just on the edge. Therefore, you could go in the back yard and not worry about the light pollution. This meant that whenever there was a meteor shower or comet,we could usually see the event unless it was cloudy. I would lay out in the yard and look up to the stars and wonder in amazement at how it was all created and wonder what existed beyond the earth.

Advent is a time of wonder. The promise of God is going to be fulfilled in Jesus and we anticipate being able to celebrate that very coming on Christmas. In our gospel lesson, Jesus encourages us to raise our heads to look beyond our pains and adversity, so that we can live in the hope and anticipation of his coming into the world.

The problem that we can run into is that we are so distracted with our lists and things that need to be done before Christmas arrives that we forget to wonder! Some of us may have even forgot what it meant to wonder many years ago. We get caught up in work and chores and running kids here and there that we lose the sense of wonder that comes into this world as a newborn baby.

This lesson from Luke seems to be a strange selection as we open up the Advent season. We are anticipating a newborn, and Jesus foretells of the time to come after he dies. The time Jesus speaks of does not sound like one we would get in line to participate in. Who wants to live among the fear and distress of the world? Yet,the gospel also reminds us to be ready at all times. No matter, what it is we are anticipating. Jesus tells those listening to, “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly” (vs 34). He was making sure that they were awakened from their own stupor. I am sure there were many that were walking around with their heads down and not paying attention to the things that were happening around them. They too, were distracted.

We are guilty of the very things that Jesus names. We worry about the day to day issues that affect our lives. We all become drunk in our own ways. That drunkenness could come in many forms. Being so caught up in one thing that we forget to do the things that truly matter. We let time slip away and with that we could spend more time with the people that we should be loving and caring for. We become drunk on those things that distract us from being in relationship with God and in turn fall short of living out that relationship with others.

In response to any distress that we may encounter, Jesus tells us that he will be present to bring us that sign of hope we are looking for. That sign that first came into the world with his birth. He calls us to raise our heads and look up to the signs and know that our redemption is drawing. It is a redemption that is found in Christ. We are redeemed through the grace of God through the blood and life shed on the cross.

While Jesus speaks of signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, we are also reminded of his presence. A presence that will never leave us. Even when the earth and the heavens pass away, his words will never pass away. His words of hope and redemption that comes to all of humanity are the ones that we look towards in wonder. A wonder that guides us and carries us through difficult times. While it seems that we will always have bad things happening around us, Jesus comes with the reminder to raise our heads and be courageous to face those adversities knowing that we are redeemed through his saving grace.

We are called into his presence to wonder. The wonder draws our heads up from the distractions and brings us closer to a loving God that chose to be born in this world so that we would know God’s love. To wonder, draws us near to the mystery of God. How are you going to wonder this Advent season?

Let us pray. God of Wonder, be our guiding star in these days of Advent as the day light gets shortened as well as our patience as we wrestle the lines at the stores. We rejoice as we begin to draw near to you in this time of waiting. Amen.

Here am I

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December 24, 2017 Advent 4

Luke 1:26-38

This has been a short Advent season. Actually, the shortest that it can be. Now, we find ourselves on the cusp of Christmas, and not quite there yet. We long for it and it appears within our reach, yet is still to come. In our longing and waiting for Christmas, have we taken time to really think about what we are waiting for? Are we waiting to receive the material things that were on our Christmas list? Are we eagerly waiting to see the reactions on our loved ones faces when they open the presents we bought them after having spent the past month hunting down the greatest deals.

The greatest gift that we could receive has already been given to us. That gift however, gets lost in the hustle and bustle and flashing lights of what Christmas has been turned into. It starts as soon as Halloween is over, if not before, and distracts us from relationships that could truly help shape us as people of God.

The news that Mary receives in the last Advent Gospel lesson this year throws a wrench into her and Joseph’s marriage plans. First, the fact they were not married yet, created problems for them in the eyes of the law. Being an unwed pregnant mother could result in a death penalty. Mary could have been stoned to death if anyone had found out her news.

Second, what was she going to say to Joseph? What would his reaction be to the news that the angel Gabriel delivered to her? Would he believe her, or would he think that she had cheated on him before they were even married? He may have possibly been one of the first to throw a stone.

This is not the game plan that she had anticipated when arrangements were made for Joseph to become her husband and she his wife. What now would become of their future together? There has to be a point when she realized that she had no control over the calling God had placed upon her.

Control!

This is what is most important for some people. The ability to control every individual part of their lives. The moment they begin to lose control, it feels as though everything will fall apart. If you have control, then that means you have power. If you have power, then you are able to make the decisions that will affect the future. The focus is then shifted to the individual person rather than the community.

Some people are much better at relinquishing control than others. We all know people that would rather not be in control. However, who are they following? Are they following someone that is leading them in the right direction, or are they being led astray?

History has its fair share of people that have led others down the wrong path. With the promise of safety and comfort, it is amazing what we can find ourselves doing, even if we know deep in our hearts that it is wrong.

Mary changes everything when she relinquishes control and boldly proclaims to God, “Here am I.” There is also a bit of obedience that accompanies her. In the moments since the angel Gabriel comes to share the good news, she has a decision to make. She could flat out refuse and stomp off in the other direction, or she could listen and discern who God is calling her to be.

What an incredible weight that has been placed upon an unwed teenager. In Luke’s gospel, she does not stumble. She does not hem or haw in any way, other than asking how is this possible? I would be wondering the same thing myself. Pregnant by the movement of the Holy Spirit. Carrying the Messiah of the World.

She is open to the wonder that God has in store for her. Through any fear and wondering that may have crept up in her mind and heart, she is obedient to God and boldly proclaims, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” She is prepared for what God has called her to and she does so willingly as she knows the word from the angel Gabriel is one of peace  and endless joy. God has come to her in the words of the angel Gabriel and she is now prepared to carry that Word to the rest of the world.

What does it take for us to relinquish control?

Are we prepared to wait in this Advent season and watch for the Messiah as our Advent candle lighting hymn says?

As we do so, are we prepared to step forward and respond to God’s calling in our lives with a bold, “Here am I.”

Here am I, willing to stand up for my neighbors when they are not being cared for.

Here am I, serving my brothers and sisters that may not be as fortunate as I am.

Here am I, asking for repentance and letting you guide me in this life you have called me to.

We eagerly anticipate the coming of this evenings services so that we can celebrate the birth of the Messiah. A birthday like no other and an opportunity to remember the coming of Jesus Christ into our world to walk among us and remind us that we are loved and saved by grace.

Let us pray…God Incarnate, we sit and wait to celebrate the coming of your Son into our world. As we wait and watch, let us not forget your presence is already with us. May we be patient until your kingdom fully comes to us. Amen.

Longing in the Wilderness

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December 10, 2017

Mark 1:1-8

At some point in all of our lives, there is a longing that resides within us and it can be hard to name. We know that something is calling us to greater things, but we are not sure what it may be. The longing can take on the form of nostalgia as we look towards the past and wish that we were back in a time where things seemed much simpler. Those days when we were children and we did not have too much to personally worry about. We long for that time where we may have felt more secure. That same longing can also bring a sense of pain as old memories are restored and we are confronted with those things that we would rather not approach.

The institutional church is great at longing. Longing for days past. Longing for days when there were a 100 children in Sunday School and the sanctuary was full every Sunday. Yet, when we long for the things that were, we tend to forget God in the present and the trajectory that the Spirit is guiding us.

There is a longing that we can point to this morning within our lessons. First, in Isaiah, the people of Israel are nearing the end of their Babylonian Exile and there is a longing for what they had many years ago. They longed to be back in Israel and the familiar, even though a couple of generations had passed. They knew it was their home and they longed to return to the land of their ancestors.

This is picked up in our gospel lesson from Mark this morning. “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ ” There is a longing among the Jewish people that takes place across time. A longing to be in touch with God. A longing to repent of their past grievances and to be found righteous in the eyes of God that had seen them out of exile.

In the longing, they find themselves in the wilderness. The wilderness can be a scary place if you are not familiar with it. You don’t know what is around each bend and each turn could lead to the unexpected. The wilderness does not tell them when it will end. The wilderness can make them forget who they were, or it can help them look toward the future.

Everyone of us could point to some time in our lives when we found ourselves in the wilderness. A time where we felt lost and did know where to turn. A time that all hope seemed to be lost. Perhaps, some of you may even being finding yourselves in that wilderness now. Amid the decorations that we have up in preparation for the Christmas Season, celebrating Christmas may be the farthest thing from your mind.

We may find ourselves longing for days when we felt more comfortable. We even celebrate the days gone past. Richmond has the Good Old Days Festival. My hometown, has a Frontier Days Festival. Now, I am not saying that we should not remember those that have gone before us and helped lay the foundation for our families. These festivals are great for building community and being in relationship with one another. Our Jewish ancestors had several festivals that they celebrated and still celebrate to this day. As we look towards the past, let’s not forget that God is working towards the future.

Those days that we felt comfortable, may have been uncomfortable for others. This is not the kingdom of God that Jesus preaches. The entire world will continue to find itself in the wilderness until we can come together and be reconciled with one another.

In the wilderness the Israelites find hope. While they may have been in the wilderness for decades, Isaiah tells them that their waiting is over and they are being called back to the homeland. It is John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness that proclaims he is clearing the way for someone even greater than him. While John is proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, it is merely with water that he baptizes. It is in the hope of the coming of Jesus Christ that they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist prepares the way to lead people out of the wilderness. It is in Jesus Christ that those that have followed John will find the true God. The God that forgives all sins and breathes the Holy Spirit upon people, calling them to continue proclaiming the good news. That is the first verse of Mark, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark wants to let his readers know what they are going to be reading. This is the good news that comes to the people of Israel as foretold in the Hebrew scriptures, This is the good news that they have been waiting for. This is the good news that was with creation at the very beginning.

In the midst of our own wilderness, many of us are still searching. Searching for something that may be lost. Searching for meaning in our lives. Searching for what it is God is calling us to. Perhaps, you have given up searching. It is hard work, that is true. As we find ourselves in the wilderness, Jesus never said it was going to be easy.

The people that began following John the Baptist were searching for something. They were longing for something greater. People today are searching as well. Longing for deeper relationships and yearning to find meaning in a life that sometimes feels overburdened by the negativity of our world. It is in the voice crying out in the wilderness that we find our hope. We first hear of Jesus Christ, in the gospel of Mark, from John the Baptist. He is simply preparing the way.

The way has been prepared for us. Jesus has come into the world and fulfilled the prophecy of the prophets. In Jesus Christ, we find the grace of God in flesh for all people. The grace of God that welcomes in saints and sinners alike. The grace of God that calls us out of our longing and searching. The grace of God that loves beyond compare.

As you find yourself in your own wilderness, look for those that have prepared they way, and listen to the voice of God calling you and naming you as a beloved child. For as Mark writes, “this is the beginning of the good news.” Do you understand that? It is just the beginning. We find ourselves in a wonderful story that has not come to completion yet. In this story we find hope and grace.

Let us pray. . . .God that fulfills our longing, we come to you in the middle of our own wildernesses. Reveal to us the calling you have placed on our lives as we desire to follow your Son, Jesus Christ. We give thanks for those that have prepared the way and we ask for strength and perseverance as we wait for your kingdom to fully be upon us. Amen.

Claiming Faithfulness

gods-faithfulness

Mark 13:24-37

As children, we usually first learn of faithfulness as we enter into relationship with our parents. We begin to learn that they are someone to trust and rely on. When we have needs, we know that it is them that we can seek when we do not know where to turn. This continues through school age and into their teen years, even when we think we know more than our parents. Unfortunately for some, parents are not always present and thus the image as God as a loving parent does not resonate. There is then a struggle to justify what it means to be in relationship with God and the thought of faithfulness flies out the window.

This Sunday we begin a new Church year, and like all first Sunday’s of Advent, we have an apocalyptic image presented and the second coming of Jesus. We haven’t even celebrated the birth of Jesus this church year yet, and we are already speaking of his return. Jesus’ apocalyptic preaching begins at the beginning of chapter 13 (vs. 1-8). Here we have the prophecy of the destruction of the Temple, which when Mark’s gospel was written, had already happened.

Perhaps you feel a little rushed in hearing the gospel lesson this morning. Why are we talking about the second coming in the midst of our waiting during Advent? Don’t worry, there is an uneasiness in the midst of the disciples as well. They are not yet prepared for Jesus to leave them, even though that is what he has been preparing them for during the last three years. Again, we have the warning from Jesus to “keep awake.”

If you recall, we heard these words just a few weeks ago in the parable of the ten bridesmaids as they were waiting for the bridegroom and half of them were not fully prepared. This could possibly be something that we should pay attention to. There may be something behind this theme of keeping awake. In the midst of keeping awake, one may wonder how faithfulness fits into our practice.

It is in Jesus’ prophetic voice that he is encouraging them to stay faithful to the ministry that they have been doing. In the midst of his death, to not lose hope. And yet, what did they do? On that Good Friday, they went to the upper room and sulked around and did not know what to do. They were living in fear.

We have the habit of doing the same thing when things do not go the way we expect them to. We go and sulk and we begin to lose any faith that we had. We begin to question everything and we are left wondering where to turn next. Just like the disciples.

We too, like to rush. How long ago did we begin to see Christmas decorations up in the stores. Usually, they start appearing before Halloween is even over. We want to look right past the time of Advent and get right to the presents and joyous family gatherings. We fail to take time to listen to God in our waiting and watching for the Christ child, yet alone the return of Christ.

That is the way we have been taught to function in our society. We saw it just a few days ago with our Congress. They rush a tax bill through a vote without allowing proper time for full disclosures and the opportunities to examine how it will affect the majority of Americans. We have found it hard to delay gratification. We know what we want, and we want it now!

We fail to let God work in God’s time and because of this, that faithfulness that God calls us to as God’s children becomes tarnished.

Fortunately, faithfulness is not a one way street!

Paul reminds the people of Corinth that “God is faithful.” God calls all into the fellowship of Jesus Christ. That fellowship is not exclusive. All are invited to be a part of it. Despite the prophetic warning that Jesus gives the disciples, God is present.

God is present in the aftermath of the destruction of the temple, just as God was present in the beginning. God is faithful through the Word, that is Jesus Christ. The Word that is promised to come again. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” Jesus tells them, “but [his} words will not pass away.” While the disciples have no clue exactly what Jesus means in these words, they will come to understand. It is in their staying awake that they will encounter Christ and be open to the calling of the Holy Spirit. A calling that will lead them on their own paths proclaiming the Good News of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

While we are called to keep awake, there are times that we fall asleep at the wheel. We forget where we are going and we get distracted by the bright twinkly Christmas lights.  The chaos in our world makes us point to the apocalypse, give up all hope, or truly dig deep and encounter the faithfulness that God has for us. Created in God’s image, we can find hope, knowing that God’s presence is always with us and God’s faithfulness will never vanish.

Our faithfulness, on the other hand, is not as consistent. Because of this, we have the reminder of Jesus Christ breaking into this world to walk among us and encounter the same pain and suffering that we do throughout our lives. In this time of Advent, we wait and watch. We keep awake for the sign of hope found in Jesus Christ. In Jesus we find life and are called to live it abundantly.

Rowan Williams, in Being Christian, writes, “The new humanity that is created around Jesus is not a humanity that is always going to be successful and in control of things, but a humanity that can reach out its hand from the depths of chaos, to be touched by the hand of God. And that means that if we ask the question, “Where might you expect to find the baptized?” one answer is, “In the neighborhood of chaos.” It means you expect to find Christian people near to those places where humanity is most at risk, where humanity is most disordered, disfigured, and needy.”

This is the faithfulness of God that shines through the darkness for all people, but especially for the lost and forgotten. The hungry and the poor. Those that society has cast away. Through our actions as people of God, we can share that same faithfulness with those that we serve. Those that we help when we support mission trips, welcome the homeless during MCREST, collect food for the backpack ministry and the food pantry, prepare gift bags for the children of Macomb County, and much much more.

As we begin our Advent Season, let us claim our faithfulness and keep awake, not only for the coming of the Christ Child, but for the return of Christ to this world to make all things right.

Let us pray…Expectant God, we struggle and are challenged when it comes to keeping awake. May your faithfulness in us, guide us to claim our faithfulness in you. May we be embraced by your love this season of Advent as we wait and watch. Not just this time of year, but until the kingdom of heaven has finally come into view. Amen.

Are you the one?

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Matthew 11:2-11

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

It does not take long for our circumstances to change. One minute we can feel as though we are at the top of the world. Being part of some amazing things that we think are going to make difference in our community or even globally. The next minute we are caught off guard and are in a place that is unfamiliar and stirs within us questions that we did not even know exists.

That question for John the Baptist is, “Are you the one to come, or are we to wait for another?” Let’s hear that one more time, “Are you the one to come, or are we to wait for another?” Perhaps, we are left asking this same question ourselves at times, if not variations of it. Questioning who Christ and God are and our role in this great mystery.

What is it within John that stirs this question? Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, our lesson from last week, John is confident in his preparation for the one that is to come after him. The one that will baptize in the Holy Spirit. Jesus walks onto the scene at this time, and through his baptism, he knows that he is the one. However, for some reason, John seems to be second guessing himself. His expectations of the Messiah, are not yet being fulfilled.

While Jesus should be bringing about the Kingdom of God, why is John anxiously waiting in his prison cell? Everything should be made right with the coming of Jesus into the world and yet brokenness seems to persist. It is ancient Jewish thought that when the Messiah comes everything is going to be made right. Right at that moment. Not later, but now. However, we have been told to wait. Advent is a season of waiting. And preparing. In our culture when we want instant gratification, perhaps this is when we find ourselves asking the same question that John boldly has brought to Jesus. We want to be able to understand in the midst of the brokenness and hurting, and yet we are left with more questions.

These questions become even harder for us during the holidays. The holidays are a time when many people are celebrating and having a joyous time with friends and families. There are parties everywhere during this season. The annual office party brings co-workers together for a time to relax and not think about the daily tasks of careers. Families gather to share presents and be with one another. The streets are decorated with lights and tinseled ornaments. Houses around town gleam with lights stating that there is something different about this time of year.

And yet, some are shut behind closed doors, drawn curtains and blinds blocking out the very joy that others exude this season. For some, the holidays bring more dread than joy. For them, they can find it easier to relate with John in the cell, then those rejoicing and celebrating. In recent years, some churches are even having “Blue Christmas” services. These services get their name from the feeling some are left with during this time of year and usually occur on December 21, the day of the year with the least amount of daylight.

In John’s question, he is looking for an answer and reassurance that what he proclaimed was not for naught. Did he truly fulfill the calling that God had laid upon his heart? Did he prepare the way? Is God with him, in his blues?

In our own doubts and blues, don’t we sometimes ask ourselves the same things? Did I make the right decision? Did I share the love of God as it was shared with me? While we may not be in prison as John is, we still hold ourselves captive and in bondage to our sins. We feel tied-up and helpless when it comes to death and disease.

It is in Jesus’ words that we are directed to the grace of God that is all around us. He tells John’s disciples to go back and tell John what they hear and see. The blind see! The lame walk! The lepers are cleansed! The deaf hear! The dead are raised! The poor receive good news!

What do you hear and see as you are walking about this creation that God has given to you? Where do you see Jesus at work in the lives of all people?

I have seen Jesus abundantly at work in the midst of our community these past few months!  While we may not have made the blind see or the lame walk, we have still played a role in the kingdom of God. We have given the homeless a roof over their heads and soup to warm their tired, achy bodies. We have fed the hungry and starving, not just in the greater Blue Water Area, also around the world. We have made it possible for children in Detroit to have a great Christmas by filling these bags. This coming Saturday Trinity will host Second Hand Christmas, and parents will be able to get gifts for their children that they would not have been able to get before. This is what I have heard and seen just in the past few months!

What have you heard? What have you seen? There are signs all around us that God is with us, Emmanuel.

It is in these signs, the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, that Jesus is brought into our midst to share with those we serve. In this we know that Jesus has come, and will come again!

 

 

 

A Call from the Wilderness!

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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.