2018-12-9/Advent 2-C/Community Lutheran/Rev. Joseph M. Vought
In the 3rd year of Donald Trump’s Presidency, when Mitch McConnell was Majority Leader of the Senate, as Nancy Pelosi was ready to assume leadership as Speaker of the House, John Roberts being Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, after Trump’s firing of Jeff Sessions, as Franklin Graham, Paula White and Joel Osteen are recognized as rich successful preachers of American civil religion. In the wake of the funeral of President George Herbert Walker Bush, the Word of the Lord came to a preacher and a people in Northern VA. This Word came 2000 years ago in the wilderness from the lips of John the Baptist, a prophecy of what shall be for each and every one us, then, now and forevermore:
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight
Every valley shall be filled and every mountain made low,
The crooked shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth,
And all flesh (in days of old, the present time and in future)shall see the salvation of God.”
As it was then, in the days of those who ruled the world- Emperor Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, Herod, the High Priests and those who thought they had it all figured out, so it is now. We who have been baptized into this kingdom of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, hear this disturbing and wonderful Good News: God is coming to rearrange our lives, our kingdoms and priorities. And it will be as dramatic and daunting as a highway being built through the wilderness. Earth will be moved and the mountains will shake and where we thought we were making a way, God will come to show us the way.
Listen to what one scripture scholar has said about John the Baptist and Jesus: “People in the Gospels could smell danger in Jesus and John the Baptist. They needed only to sniff the air around them or notice the people who traveled with them. People understood life as best they could. “This is the only world that will ever be and we must keep it that way.” People did not and do not want change. Everywhere Jesus went, by his words and actions, he caused new things to emerge. Jesus brings God’s power for new life where we thought we were in control.” (Walter Brueggemann)
Most of the time our problem is we think we are in the right and it’s those other people who need correcting. Truth is we never have any trouble pointing out other people’s faults and sins, blaming, criticizing and stating our own opinions.
Thomas Merton, the great contemplative monk said, “Whoever attempts to act and do things for others without deepening their own self-understanding, integrity and capacity to love will not have anything to give. They will communicate nothing but the contagion of their own obsession, aggressiveness, ego-centered ambitions, prejudices and ideas. There is nothing more tragic in the modern world than the misuse of power and action. . . .”
Advent is a time to remember that God is coming to rearrange our world and each one of us. The words of Micah come to mind, “He has shown you O mortal what is good and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.” As we move through the seasons of life- our plans, hopes, dreams and visions- it is good to keep the end in mind. Martin Luther said, “Everyone must do his or her own believing and dying.”
Isn’t that what we witnessed at the Funeral of George H.W. Bush? The Great and Powerful listening to the Word of the Lord, confronting their mortality. George Bush at the height of his popularity, showing kindness and regard for a struggling friend. Alan Simpson reminding world leaders, “Hatred and ego corrode the containers in which they are carried.” Then Fr. Levenson telling the story: As President Bush lay dying, Jim Baker, in a last act of kindness, massaging the feet of his friend, like Jesus washing the disciple’s feet. People gathering and kneeling around his bed praying.
How do we keep the end in mind and prepare for God’s advent in our lives? This time of year and anytime, it is good to remember the motto, “People all wrapped up in themselves and their plans, make for pretty small packages.” How might we seek God’s peace, spend less on ourselves, give more to the poor, show compassion for those in need? The Good News and disturbing news is this: God is coming to remake the world and each one of us. Lord, help us to keep the end in mind, to love you and to love others. Savior of the nations come, make your home among us. And may the Peace of God that passes all understanding keep our hearts and minds on Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.