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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent 2

 From my sermon on John the Baptist (JBap) preaching found in Matthew 3

JBap came "preaching," but the Greek word kerysso does not refer to what I do each Sunday. It means:
to be a herald, to officiate as a herald; to proclaim after the manner of a herald ; always with the suggestion of formality, gravity and an authority which must be listened to and obeyed; to publish, proclaim openly: something which has been done
The Jews dreamed of “the day of the Lord.” Writ large in their biblical text was the idea that some day, through His Messiah/KING, God almighty was going to snatch back the world from the clutches of the Prince of Darkness and his human cohorts (in particular the unjust oppressors) and demonic cohorts (including pagan gods).
The loss of the Davidic king in the exile was a long past event and for over five hundred years Judah had been under the thumb of one or another foreign power. The hope of better days was held in the hearts of the faithful, who recognized their God as creator Lord over all creation and the redeemer Lord who promised to set His people free. They awaited a new Exodus. It is in that context that JBap’s declared that the promised Kingdom was nearby.
The Exodus theme is echoed in the words eremos which means deserted, lonely, uninhabited, a wilderness—or desert. The same place which Israelites wandered after the escape from Pharaoh.
JBap’s message is the same one of Jesus. "Repent the Kingdom of God is drawing near." The call to repentance is a common theme in the prophetic literature, the Hebrew means not only to feel sorry but also to turn around, or better RETURN to the Lord.
Creation, we are told, is when God orders chaos. Without His hand (creating and saving seem to be similar in that sense) at work, things turn out badly. JBAp’s listeners were aware of the consequences of living under the godless rule of Rome—they knew what it meant to be godforsaken. Yet, in the end, to be godforsaken is actually to have forsaken God. It is we who move away, not Him.
The Isaiah quote is taken from a prophecy about the post exilic return of Jews during the Persian period. The language of that return echoes Exodus, which is the archetype of Jewish salvation. Matthew makes a deeper connection for his readers—the true exodus is in Jesus, He is the model of Moses. This becomes clearest at the last supper and on the cross, but that is the Easter story and we still wait for Christmas! However, what we wait for is already present even as it draws near.
John is dressed as Elijah dressed. We know many Jews believed that Elijah, who was taken up in a chariot, would return to prepare Messiah’s way. In JBap we see with our eyes the promise being kept.
But the proclamation of the Good News, the Kingdom is drawing near, is also bad news. It is bad news for those who would have other gods in place of the one true God. It is bad news for those who would give lip service to the Lord but not live lives of justice, mercy and faithful worship.
As JBap confronts his listeners he challenges us too.
Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
How does one bear fruit? We are branches, by returning to the Lord and attaching ourselves to Him the fruit grows of its own. As we wait the work of waiting is to trust and repent. To change our mind and change the direction of our life, to center in, hone in, focus in with laser precision on the Lord God and His Messiah.
The great day of YHWH draws near. IN the meantime we, you and I, are the geographic location of the Kingdom. In our repentance and fruit we witness to God’s faithful love. We live as those who trust the promise and have eyes to see and hearts to believe that in His loving mercy.
Advent is supposed to be a quiet time. HAHAHAHAHA. Right! Yet somehow we must scratch out some place and time to ponder the prophets’ call to us. A call to return to the loving arms of a loving Father, a call to escape the coming chaos in a world which has driven God out with its injustice and unbelief. We are to be washed clean, confessing our sins, aware of our unworthiness and God’s gracious kindness.
The Kingdom is among us and it continues to draw near in its fullness. Repent and bear fruit. Return to the Lord and rest in Him

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