Friday, December 20, 2013

Are You the One?

Matthew 11:2-11

Welcome to the Third Sunday of Advent – I was very relieved that we cancelled services last week.  I would have been worried sick about all of us out on that ice otherwise.  I am appreciative to the leadership of the parish who made that decision.

Today we get the third candle lit – the rose colored one.  Why do we have a rose colored candle?  Go google it – I dare you – you’ll see many different interpretations of why we have a rose colored candle.  Which one is right?  Exactly. 

The Gospel reading this weekend troubles me.  There’s something not quite right here – did you hear it?  John is asking Jesus who he is – “are you the one?”  Am I the only one lost here?  John is a cousin of sorts, they’ve known each other their whole lives. John baptized Jesus and heard the Voice say, “This is my Beloved Son.”  How can John wonder who Jesus is by the 11th chapter in Matthew?! Maybe it is because Jesus doesn’t do what John thinks he should – maybe it’s because Jesus doesn’t say what John thinks he should.  Jesus doesn’t fit the “Ideal” of what John thinks of in a Messiah.  John seems to want hellfire and brimstone – repentance – separation of the wheat from the tares – cleansing of the threshing floor – baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire – chopping down the worthless and throwing them into the fire.  That’s what John expects.  That’s not who Jesus is. 

We cannot blame John – we do the exact same thing.  I have a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that I love – Calvin is sitting on a swing fuming after the bully has picked on him.  He says something like “God it sure would be easier to believe in you if you would smite someone every now and then!”  We all think that – every day if you’re like me. When will the wicked get their due?  When will justice be done?  Why are we STILL waiting for peace on earth, people’s hearts to be turned to good, neighbors to care about each other? In our darkest days – like these are now – we want fire and brimstone – the wheat and the chaff separated – the unrepentant chopped up and thrown into the fires of hell.  Am I the only one this appeals to?  There would be a great satisfaction in that!

And that is exactly where we are losing potential Christians.  People who have studied Jesus and Christianity admire Jesus because he is not that way.  They cannot understand how the church got to be so judgmental.  As human beings, we mess up Jesus’ message all the time when we draw lines in the sand about who is in or out – when we decided who “deserves” medical care, food stamps, Christmas gifts, help with rent or childcare.  We do it all. The. Time.

One of the explanations for the Rose candle is that we are halfway through Advent and we can celebrate that we have made it this far faithfully preparing for the coming of the Christ child, the second coming of God to this world, the birth of Jesus within ourselves.  Woo-hoo!  How faithful have you been?  I’m not doing so well yet – I still have Angel Tree children to buy for, I have not yet made my year-end donations, I have not gone out of my way to show Christ’s love to anyone yet this Advent.  Maybe that rose candle can motivate me to be more like Christ and think less like John this season.  Maybe I can be Christ-like to someone working late and under stress in this holiday season.  I pray that will be so – for me and for you –as we watch and wait.  I pray that Jesus will surprise us all this season as he comes among us again.  I pray that we will recognize him.  Amen.

Audio of the sermon is on the right sidebar PodBean Player.

Christ the King - Luke

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”C.S. Lewis

This last week, we have heard a lot about the other great man who died 50 years ago this last Friday – and for good reason.  Dallas and this area continues to struggle with having the death of John F Kennedy happen here in our backyards.  Unless you exclusively listen to Pandora and watch Netflix, you cannot help but to have heard bits and pieces about the JFK assassination.  It was interesting for me to hear – I wasn’t alive 50 years ago, so while it was poignant, I was not re-living any part of it. 

CS Lewis also died 50 years ago last Friday.  Most people know him as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia.  Those of us with Anglican roots know him as that and so much more.  The quote I started with is from Mere Christianity.  My favorite theory of the after-life comes from The Great Divorce.  He has influenced Anglican theology immeasurably and helped us all to deal with the dark side of faith with his writings on grief.  I have a whole bookshelf in my office devoted to his writings.

This weekend the last of this church year.  Next Sunday is Advent One – a whole new church year, a time of waiting and watching for a newborn savior, waiting and watching for the second coming of Christ, waiting and watching in the darkest and longest days of the year.  The gospel reading today seems about as far away from the manger as we can get, yet we are incredibly close – just one short season away.  This gospel reminds us of who Christ is for us: the one who prays forgiveness even at his own crucifixion, the one who invites us to join him in Paradise. 

Our Christian faith does not call us to merely remember, study and imitate Christ, as we might JFK or CS Lewis.  We are called to proclaim whom Christ is as our King, our Savior, who still moves among us, even as we wait, even as we pray for forgiveness.  For what do you need to be forgiven to be saved?

As you reflect on all you will give thanks for this next week, remember these words of an ancient hymn that Paul has recorded for us in his letter to the Colossians: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-- all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

Be still then and know that He is God. 

Posted very late - audio is on the PodBean on the right sidebar.