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Sunday message: Wilderness work

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Sunday December 9, 2018

Scripture readings:

Malachi 3:1-4,

Luke 1:68-79

and Luke 3:1-6

Imagine the cheerleader of a team getting all excited and pumped up while heading a cheerleading squad at a football game. The cheerleader is so excited that something goes horribly wrong. The wrong crowd was responding. Yes, the ball was moving down the field but in the wrong direction. You see, the other team had the ball and in her misguided enthusiasm, she had just cheered on the rivals onto a touchdown.

Today, John the Baptist stands before us—bold, loud, energetic. Before he cheers us enthusiastically down the field, he asks us to check our spiritual compass—to check the direction of our lives. He begs us to make sure we know which way we are heading. He asks us to make sure that we are clear about which direction we are carrying the message of our lives.

We can literally be working hard in a certain direction and be totally mistaken. It’s almost like receiving treatment for an illness, except that the treatment is for a different disease that we don’t even have.

How sad would that be if we are aiming and living in a direction that isn’t really what’s good for our spiritual well-being? It’s as if all four gospels introduce us to John the Baptist, each time at the beginning of December while most in the world are snug and comfy in their celebration of the season. It’s literally clear that John comes to confront us, to afflict us and to discomfort us, reminding us that our preparations for Christmas might not prepare us for Christ at all.

John says it in a very stark way, turn around, change direction! You’re heading along a trajectory that does not benefit you in the least. Really?

Is this really the case? I don’t enjoy it when I get such a rebuke, do you? Sometimes it’s very true, but we don’t like hearing it. We want to dismiss such corrections.

Let’s have a look at how all of this fits in. Why would John want his audience—and by implication us—to turn around and change direction? If God comes feely and graciously for all of us in the full humanity of Jesus, why do we still have to do something? Why are we required to change?

The answer isn’t too hard to find. God already loves us without any conditions. God became human, through Jesus, God became flesh for our sake. God wants the best for us.

Our lives only need to be ready to accept God’s unconditional love for us. This only happens when we first uproot the weeds in the wilderness of our souls. God doesn’t judge us. Nor does John judge us. We also are not to judge one another.

The effect that the Good News about Jesus is to have, is stated clearly in the last two lines of John the Baptist’s section that we read this morning. “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” How shall all flesh see the salvation of God?

Perhaps the following medieval legendwill shed light on us seeing the salvation of God. The legend is adapted from a story told by Thomas Troeger, about a man who was decadent and irresponsible in many ways but who had enough grace in him to want to be good. He went to a costume maker who gave him a costume to wear—complete with a halo wired to his head. As the man walked down the street he was tempted to act in his normal, shiftless way. Then he remembered the halo on his head and he decided to act differently. He gave money to a beggar on the street. He treated his wife well. He refused to cut corners at work. Eventually he returned the halo costume but as he was leaving the costume shop he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and he saw a permanent halo glowing above his head! It seems that he had become what he did—that his change in direction in life had made possible God’s forgiveness and transformation in his life. Yes, by turning around and beginning to behave in a new way this man found a permanent new direction for his life. He was in so doing, seeing the salvation of God.

I think this would great for me to do, to allow God’s salvation to become clear in my life. Let’s allow God to do this increasingly in our lives. 1.)

1.) Inspiration for many parts of this message comes from a sermon series by Susan R. Andrews on www.sermons.com


Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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