Sermon for December 9, 2018 Advent 2 “Preparing the Way”
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord. This text from Luke harkens back to the time of Malachi the prophet who lived and write about 500 years before Jesus. Malachi’s prophesy is: ‘I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple’.
And the people say…What!?
Elie Weisel the contemporary Jewish writer recalls a childhood story. When he was a boy, his mother would greet him every day when he returned from school. Every day she would ask him the same question. She did not ask, what did your do today? Or whom did you talk to today? Or even what did you learn today? She would ask, Did you have a good question today?
Malachi asks some good questions, how has God loved us? Has not one God created us? Where is the God of Justice? How shall we return to God? In fact, Malachi poses twenty-two questions in just fifty-five verses. The Gospel poses a further question: what is required for forgiveness?
It is I think in the exploration of these questions that we continue our Advent preparations. It is the churning about of these questions that the truth become believable. Jesus is not out there or over there; it’s in you—it’s here and now and everywhere. The journey is to move beyond yourself and recognize that what’s true in you is true in all others too. Jesus permeates all creation including us. We are all the image and likeness of God!
I do not think that the posing of good questions or even the seeking the answers was intended to keep us from fulfilling the primary mission of Jesus which I believe is to love one another. For the past 2000 years the church and Christians have wasted time arguing the wording and not living into the mission. For all of Paul’s meandering words he did get much right. ‘there is only Christ, he is everything and he is in everything’ (Col 3:11). God is everything and God is in everything.
Isaiah 40 and Luke 3 both have the statement: ‘and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’. Richard Rohr’s comment on this is: “You and I are living here in this ever-expanding universe. You and I are a part of Jesus without any choice on our part. We just are, whether we like it or not. It’s nothing we have to consciously believe. It’s first of all announcing an objective truth. But if we consciously take this mystery as our worldview, it will create immense joy and peace. It gives us significance and a sense of belonging as part of God’s Great Work. We are no longer alienated from God, others, or the universe. Everything belongs. And it is pure, undeserved gift from the very beginning. Participating in Jesus allows each of us to know that “I don’t matter at all, and yet I matter intensely—at the same time!” That’s the ultimate therapeutic healing.”
In Malachi’s time and ours, it is not our prerogative to debate the importance of the scriptures, it is as Malachi points out to live into righteousness. Like a refiner’s fire and fullers soap God will purify our hearts and souls and minds until we act, speak and live with righteousness. When our words, actions, and intentions align with those of Jesus, then we have the capacity to begin and begin again. For we are never really quite finished as long as we breath on this earthly orb.
The voice of one calling in the wilderness is still heard in the land of Saint John, New Brunswick, prepare the way of the Lord. This is not the time to be idle, to wait for ‘someone else’ to get the work done. This is our time of preparation. The work of justice is not complete. Our hearts and souls are not ready for Jesus’ return. We are in that time we thought we had lots of time to prepare for, Advent and Christmas. In July it seemed we had lots of time, now we are half way through Advent and Christmas is two week away and time is not on our side anymore. So too with preparing our hearts. The thought that we have lots of time is an illusion. And so again we listen differently to the ancient prophet ‘prepare the way of the Lord’.