In pm's words
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December 12, 2016, 7:44 AM

the one to go and tell...


Sermon from December 11, 2016

Text: Matthew 11: 2-11

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Savior who is to come, Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer.

So, we are just past the middle of this Advent season, still waiting in expectant hope and celebration. Anyone who has ever heard or seen a young child (or really has ever heard or seen a human) knows what happens the closer you get to something. Those days are not full of – “OH man, it’s going to be so great when this comes or we get to where we are going.”

No, if it were only that simple.

Instead, the closer we get to something the more our brain likes to seep in that doubt of ‘what if…’ and ‘is it ever going to arrive…’

It is about this time as we get to this third week of Advent that the kids I know – not just my own – begin to wonder if that future celebration will ever come, if it will ever come. Add a few gloomy and cold days and that overbearing sense of ‘dread’ becomes that much more present and heavy in our lives.

In our gospel this morning, we again listen in on what is going on in a prominent figure of our faith’s life – John the Baptizer. Last week (and 8 chapters ago in Matthew’s gospel) John was standing at the banks of the Jordan River crying out to all who gathered around him, “Repent! Be baptized! You’re forgiven! Re-turn towards God!”

John’s message is powerful, full of faith and life, and he is confident and even daring in that proclamation. He calls out the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to hear him in that sureness of the message he announces.

Yet, as we read this morning, his tone has changed. He no longer walks and speaks with that strong confidence. Has his faith wavered in the word he proclaimed to the people? Perhaps. You couldn’t blame him either. Last week he was standing in the water of the Jordan. We read this morning that he is locked up behind bars because of that message he proclaimed.

The question he asks Jesus is one that I think everyone has asked, prayed about, and pondered on – Are you the one? Or should we wait for another.

God’s kingdom is at hand, both in John’s time and in ours.

Yet, when we proclaim that we are on the ‘winning’ side we think that means that everything will go smoothly. Everyone will listen – how could they not, right? People will be able to see what I see. People from far and wide will gather in love, relationship. In the repentance of sins – and knowing that God already loves you – all will be able live into this freedom as people around the world are cared for, no matter who they are, where they come from, how they speak, and more.

You’d think that would be an easy message to get behind.

Yet, for John – for us – it doesn’t work out that way.

He’s been placed in jail for the message he preaches. The freedom he empowers people with through God’s word. He proclaims forgiveness of sin. A message that he believes is one that people want and need to hear. A message that he thought all would be open towards.

Yet, he is thrown in jail.

It’s no wonder he sends a message to Jesus asking, “Are you really the one?”

Even Jesus’ response is not one that is full of certainty, for Jesus doesn’t say, “Yes. Don’t worry.”

No, Jesus responds with, “You go and tell John what you see and hear. Go tell him what’s happening out in the world now.”

When I was in college I was a communications major with an emphasis in broadcast journalism. There was this thing about people that we learned and you kind of have to ‘hone’ in on.

You see, people like bad news. They do. We do. The worse it is, the more our curiosity is piqued. Especially if it centers on a subject that you don’t agree with. Or pertains to a person who is well known. We thrive on that bad news.

So, naturally the news industry fills their pages, both physical and virtual, with all sorts of dreadful news. Guess where destruction just happened? Did you hear which celebrity is having an affair? Look where in-fighting is taking place now!

We eat that sort of news up.

But, it messes us up without our knowing. As we are presented with all this awful stuff, we begin to think that is how the world always and really is. The sheer amount of that type of news drowns out everything else. A potentially beautiful day is destroyed when we hear, “statistically speaking fatal car accidents happen within 10 miles of where you live.” Or, sure your relationship is going great now, but look what happened to that couple over there – do you see the signs? Your children love to play outside, but you’ve got to watch them with a vigilant eye because I read a story where someone just walked and picked a kid up and took them from their own yard.

Now, this isn’t to say that bad things don’t happen. This isn’t to say that we should ignore that sort of news; that we shouldn’t be concerned with the underside of the world we live in.

But, when we are on the cusp of something so great – and I believe that in Kairos – God’s time – we are on the cusp of the kingdom of God – we can forget to see what’s going on around the world that is so good. So, faithful. So, beautiful.

25 foster children from young toddlers to teenagers have been ‘adopted’ by this community of faith so that they will have an amazing Christmas morning.

Over 1200 children around the world will receive toys and clothes from the donations collected here at Redeemer.

So many chicks, honey bee farms, goats, sheep, pigs and more have been donated through each of you to help communities and families in need.

I like to think that if Jesus answered that question today as directly as he did to John, his response would include those things about Redeemer, but would also include –

Go and tell about the man who gives free haircuts to people going to job interviews, tell him of the story of a Muslim own restaurant giving free meals on Christmas to the homeless and elderly because – no one eats alone on that day, how about the Palestinian firefighters who are helping contain wildfires in Israel, don’t forget to mention this new technology that is helping a woman and others with Parkinson’s to steady their hands so they can write their own names again, or let’s not overlook how so many people gathered around those at Standing Rock to help peacefully protest encroachment onto their sacred and sovereign lands. Tell him and others where God is at work because God is at work.

When we get so close, so very close, to that which is good for us and for the world, we get discouraged and distracted from God’s presence in our life. Terrible stuff is happening in this world, we should know about it – fully and completely – so that we can proclaim God’s word against it and through it. But, we also remember that God is at work in the rich and deep goodness of the world as well.

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.

Jesus is right. That is happening – God is at work. The messiah has come. We continue to wait in that celebration for just a few more weeks. Amen.

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