Sermons and Thoughts from St. Luke's.
This blog is to share Sermons and thoughts written mostly by the clergy of the Parish Church of St. Luke, an Anglican Church in Burlington, Ontario (Diocese of Niagara) Canada.
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“Prepare Ye the Way of Lord, Prepare Ye the
Way of the Lord.
This is the way that your local group of
singers from St. Luke’s started out our Music at St. Luke’s version of
selections from Godspell last Spring. It starts with John the Baptist talking
about the need to prepare for the coming of the Lord. John was the one who
announced that one who was greater than he was coming. He was pointing away
from himself, to announce the coming of the messiah. “The Kingdom of heaven has
come near”, he says.
What was happening at this time that
brought people so far out into the desert to the Jordan river to see this
shaggy locust-eating, camel-hair wearing exceedingly intense man who ekes out
an existence in the desert.
Those of us who went to the Holy Land four
years ago know what the environment here looks like. It’s that part of the
Jordan river which lies just North of the Dead Sea. In the days of John the
Baptist, one would have to travel for a long day by foot, or by donkey through
the desert to get to the Jordan River. When we travelled across the Jordan
River and entered into the predominantly Isalmic Kingdom of Jordan, we passed a
site which the Jordanians claim was where John the Baptist preached and
baptized. John the Baptist is also considered a great prophet in the Islamic
What was it that was drawing people to go
to such extremes to journey from the comfort of their homes to listen to John?
And consider his message. It wasn’t a nice,
fun, or comfortable message.
Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come
near. Get ready. Prepare the way. And the people are coming out from Jerusalem
and the surrounding countryside in droves. What drove them? My answer is, it
was the Spirit working in them. At the deepest level of their being, people
want to build a relationship with their God and, when people are ready, they
are willing to go through extremes to build it.
So how does one prepare the way for the
Lord? John certainly has an answer for that.
Repent is his message. “Repent, for the
Kingdom of God has come near.”
Ok, now that word brings most people up
short. Especially at this time of the year. How come we have this figure coming
and disturbing our pre-Christmas planning with this severe message?
I had to go to the mall last week.
Something which I am loath to do. I call shopping malls Babylon. It seems to
have that feel to me. So I go to Babylon last week and I’m listening to Rudolph
on the muzac over the P.A. system. There are fake evergreen garlands
everywhere, strewn with tinsel and there is a monstrous great throne for Santa,
who was mercifully absent. There are several residents on my street that have
put up their outdoor Christmas decorations already. Everyone is Holly-jollying
and here we have this voice crying out in the wilderness: repent! Won’t someone
just give the man an egg-nog or some mulled wine or something and tone him down
Repent? How does repentance fit in with the
holiday season? First of all, let’s talk about the word. Most people seem to
think that repentance is about feeling really badly about who you are, and
aboutlearning how to grovel in the
dirt. They think it’s about judgement and guilt. This really isn’t very helpful
because it doesn’t provide much of a solution or a way forward. Groveling more
or less keeps you stationary, right there in the dust!
Repentance is something much more positive
and active. It is about movement, about changing your direction and aligning your
path with God’s will. Repentance is about renewal and relationship, rather than
about shame. Repentance is about listening to the spirit which is the deepest
part of your being which is calling your forward, just as it was calling all
those people who walked through the wilderness to hear John.
Of course, there was a section of his
audience that got a harsher message: it was the Pharisees – most likely there
to check up on John, who was creating such an impact outside of the official
Temple establishment rules and regulations. The establishment didn’t like
anything happening which didn’t originate from the temple.
Still, no matter what congregation I have
ever preached to, I’ve never felt the urge to call a group of them a brood of
vipers! What an interesting hook!
But you, see, John’s wrath is directed at
those who were stopping people from developing, from changing, from moving to
deepen their faith. The Pharisees didn’t like change. They didn’t like anything
outside of their control, and the Holy Spirit is certainly outside of any
The symbolism of this baptism was
incredibly important too. It was through the Jordan river that these people’s
ancestor’s crossed to enter into the promised land. It was the way that they
sealed the covenant with God, by being washed, by being made new and entering
into the promise as a new people.
John’s audience knew that what they needed
was renewal, so they trek back out to the Jordan river to be sealed into a new
covenant. They didn’t know all of that at the time, but this is what they were
entering into. A new relationship with God, for the Kingdom of God was near, in
fact it was just around the corner.
And what about you? What is it that is
drawing you forward? What newness are you seeking in your life? Sometimes the
inner voice of the Holy Spirit is really small. Sometimes, it has been a long
time since we have heard it, or remembered it is there, calling us forward. But
it is certainly there. You who have been baptized have been sealed into a new
relationship with God and the Holy Spirit is within you calling you forward
into a deeper relationship with God.
So, during this season of Advent, during
all the hustle and bustle and preparations for the biggest commercial season of
the year, for heaven’s sake, take the time to put down the eggnog and listen to
your deepest desire, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit and asking you to
prepare. Repent: that is move forward, or change your direction in alignment
with God’s will, for the kingdom of heaven has come near – it’s just around the
corner. The Lord is coming, prepare his way and be ready to meet him! Amen.