As we celebrate Father’s Day in June, let’s dedicate the entire month to all our Dads. Please, consider bringing a framed photo of your Dad to proudly display within our worship space. In our Memorials, let us give thanks and gratitude to God, our Creator, for all good gifts that have been given to us, God’s children.
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.
What an amazing Gospel passage we have today. Often times, the gospel writers, in their efforts to interpret what Jesus said or did wrote in such a way that our attempts to comprehend and fully understand, some times, is not easily accomplished. Of course, Jesus didn’t make matters any easier with His constant use of parables, metaphors, legendary stories and tales that his followers back then would certainly better understand and grasp than perhaps we 21st Century westerners today would understand. Jesus’ stories were relevant for His time though may seem odd to us, just like stories we share today may very well seem odd and difficult to understand in future generations that will follow ours. Perhaps in 50 to 100 years, stories of how people put little electronic devices into their ears to talk on some thing called a cell phone while driving some thing called an automobile on something called an expressway may well sound strange and odd to people in the future, though such things are quite relevant and understandable for us today.
However, today’s Gospel is rather straight forward. The writer John, penned these beautiful words while in Ephesis, a city in Asia, some 70 years after the crucifixion of Christ in around the year 100. He certainly did not mince his words. The writer reports the message of John the Baptist, who, like his namesake writer is direct, clear and to the point as to whom the true Chosen One is and what role he, the baptizer plays.
John the Baptist is terribly forthright in this Gospel. “Are you the Messiah?” He responds “No.” “Are you Elijah?” “No,” is his absolute statement in response. There is no talking around the issue, no misleading innuendos, no playing cute games with words, no hedging the question. John says the truth briefly and fearlessly. Not Elijah, not one of the other great prophets of old who had come back to his people and definitely not the long awaited Messiah.
How refreshing it would be to read of someone who has the public’s attention speaking with candor and directness, as John the Baptizer did.
How refreshing it would be to read of someone who has the public’s attention speaking with candor and directness, as John the Baptizer did. In our day and age, we rarely receive a simple “yes / no” reply to pressing questions. In the corporate world we’ve had scandals that have rocked the stock markets, Wall Street and the business world to their collective knees. In international affairs, one nation accuses another of some sort of violation of some treaty that was as binding as a band aid holding back a severed jugular vein. The political scene, my favorite place for a daily dose of ‘double talk,’ where each new day has some one in some high ranking office changing their previous statement with explanations for their lack of clarity or apologies for their lack of judgment and proper behavior. We have become accustomed to people using words for every possible purpose except for telling the truth! We hear bold lies under oath; we read the most clever manipulation of half-truth in our newspapers and news media outlets; we are barraged with double talk and even triple talk in press conference and interviews.
What has happened to the truth? Is it out of style or old fashioned or perhaps out step with modern person to person relationships? I don’t think such is the case across the board…but sadly, is sure seems to be the course in many public forums and this, my dear friends, in disheartening and discouraging. And John the Baptist says…NO…no lying, no pretending, no double or triple talk but straight from his heart with the absolute truth, so help him God.
John the Baptist is the perfect Advent character…he is the academy award winner for best performance. Why? Because he delivers a message with absolute, faith-filled from his gut conviction and he does so, in order for his listeners to prepare themselves. And exactly what is it for which they are to be prepared…what is it for which WE are to be preparing…
The coming of the Messiah
The coming of Salvation into our world
The arrival of Jesus, God’s only Son
Advent is our time, the right time to be heralds of the truth, to be as John and encourage others that God will be returning and we ought to be preparing ourselves for it, right now.
Now, I do not recommend nor suggest that we include in our holiday greetings some sort of cryptic message spelling out the end of the world and God’s judgment day…
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and oh yes,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord, because He is coming
And the end is near…
No. We accomplish this most worthy task of preparing others and ourselves for God’s ultimate return best by the example of how we live our life…our daily activities must best emulate Jesus’ message of peace, love and forgiveness; how we treat and welcome others especially the stranger, the foreigner, the homeless, those who are different than ourselves.
While I had the unique privilege of running a soup kitchen down in the city, there was always, ALWAYS daily drama. Hundreds upon hundreds of nightly dinner guests came though the doors in my 15 years there. I remember many. In fact I remember most of those loving and special people. One young lady, we’ll call her Betty; a “regular” at the center comes to mind, often, and still, to this day, tears at my heart. She was a drug addict and alcoholic; she was desperate, daily, for a fix or a drink and did anything, ANYTHING she needed to get what she craved. After a couple years of she and I talking, yelling, crying and fighting it out, she at last choose to go into treatment, an extended stay in a local rehabilitation center. I was overjoyed with her decision and I admit, I was as subtle with her as a rhino in crystal palace in my efforts to get her to go and get help!!!
After a week or so, she came back to the center, haggard and worn-out.
Her clothes were ripped, soiled and stained…I verbally fought with her for hours, trying to convince her to go back into treatment, back to the rehabilitation center because she wasn’t ready, she wasn’t right and she wasn’t prepared to be out and on her own. She said no, though she added a few adjectives to her emphatic NO. She was on my mind that whole day. I even went out walking the streets around the soup kitchen trying to find her in order to get her admitted to the hospital, an “involuntary admittance,” at that, though this was something I didn’t like to do, but did so many times. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find her. The next morning as I was opening the doors to the center, another guest of the soup kitchen was huddled up in a little ball near the door, waiting to see a counselor. I woke him and invited him in to sit and relax. He and I knew each other…he asked me if I had heard about the lady the police found in a construction port-o-potty near the river. I feared…I wondered… The police came by with photos and asked if I could help identify the body…it was Betty, my Betty…they found her with a needle in her arm, slumped on the floor of that filthy port-o-potty. Two of the case managers and I went to the funeral…her family was grateful for all we tried to do for her…her children, 3 beautiful children hugged me and thanked me for the work we did for their Mom and all the homeless. Her children called her ‘homeless.’
How do we get to these situations in life? And yes…I think of her often…what could have been…what should have been…We can not give up and we must always, always work at bringing God’s message of salvation and peace and forgiveness to others even when we know we may fail…
In our efforts to bring the Good News to others, let’s be direct, straight forward and to the point. Let’s remember the Baptizer, John, there in the river Jordan, baptizing the masses with water and all the while proclaiming that one greater than he will come and baptize with the Spirit. Let’s remember how he did not mince his words or deny his actions from performing the Lord’s bidding.
I challenge every one here today, to take one extra minute of our prayer time and pray for those who are homeless. Take that extra minute and pray for God’s guidance and how we, each of us, individually and collectively, make a difference and change the fate and plight of the homeless. One extra minute, that’s what I am asking. Can I see a show of hands from all who are willing to participate? I had better see every hand raised or I may well lose it! Seriously, one minute…it is so little but is so powerful and meaningful.
Let’s bring the Good News to all we meet.
Let’s live the Good News and be living examples of God’s divine love.
Let’s celebrate the Good News…Jesus is coming…God will come again.
Are we ready?
For heaven’s sake…as well as our own sake…I pray and hope so…