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Advent Meditation on Joseph

The reading for Sunday, December 17, 2017: Matthew 1:18-25 This Sunday we read about an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream. We've no...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

SERMON FOR SUNDAY
Luke 3:1-6 ADVENT TWO 2009


The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

How does that voice cry out to you?
Does it call you by name?
Is it Urgent? Tough? Gentle? Patient? Passionate?
How are you hearing that voice today?

The voice cries out to us from the wilderness. Are we listening? Are we listening with our ears?
With our hearts? With our souls?
The voice cries out to us from the wilderness.
Are we listening?
You and I. Mall Walking can always produce interesting experiences. At the end of one trip a few years back I went by one of those numerous little booths that one finds in the middle of the corridors. I was walking quickly in order to meet Piper in front of a pre-arrange spot. Sometimes the salespeople can be rather insistent and sometimes they are sitting around looking bored and talking on their cell phones. I found myself confronted by one energetic young woman.
"Would you like me to steam your shirt?" she asked.
To which I responded "No thank you. My shirt is fine."
I had not taken two steps when I heard her say a bit too loudly and quite sarcastically to a co-worker:
"Yea, right, his shirt is fine."
Ouch.
Her words probably came easily enough after a long day on her feet trying to make sales.
I was probably not meant to hear them.
And the fact that upon later inspection my shirt was a bit wrinkled did not take the edge off her sarcasm one bit.
“Yeah, right, his shirt is fine.”

When she asked me if I wanted my shirt steamed, I had responded pleasantly, patiently.

Her sarcastic rebuke hit me while my back was turned. Nothing phony about those words. No fake smile. No bland pleasantries. They were honest words, if not a bit painful in tone.

Something bitter in my throat that tasted like indignation welled up.
And I’m thinking – I’ll make her path a bit straighter. No problem.

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

The words grab us. Call us to action. Practically demand response . Are filled with passion: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

How does that voice cry out to you?
Does it call you by name?
Is it Urgent? Tough? Gentle? Patient? Passionate? Intimate?
How are you hearing that voice today?

After I overheard the personal steamer salesperson's contribution to our nation's general decline in friendliness, I took one half step. Should I turn and vent? Should I get her name and register a complaint with her manager? Should I remind her that as a salesperson, making fun of potential customers was just not sound business practice?

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight

As a kid, I got straightened out a few times.
Like the time I broke the four foot bottle of wine from Italy that someone had given my parents as a gift, splattering its contents on the thick green shag carpet of our dining room.
Like the time I pushed a nail through my bicycle tire just to see what would happened.
Like the time I put my foot through my bedroom door in a fit of disagreement with my older sister.
Like the time that I melted the carpet in the bathroom after finding my father’s lighter.
Mom and Dad took the time to straighten me out.
But here in the mall half a step removed from a steam cleaning salesperson who was having a bad day, these words of John the Baptist echo in my heart:
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight

The straight path is the path that helps build the Kingdom. That’s the path on which you and I want to be walking.
The path that builds up the Kingdom.
Here we talk a lot about proclaiming that very Kingdom in word and deed in all that we do and all that we say.
Here we talk about seeing Christ in all and on that day, in that place, Christ, met me with a touch of sarcasm and was wielding a must-have steam cleaner that could be mine for a very reasonable price.
Seeing Christ in who we want and when we want is one thing. Seeing Christ in all with no asterisks and no fine print. Well, that’s something else altogether, isn’t it?
Having beheld Christ in her, what was I to do?
What would you do?
What would you do having seen Christ, steamer in hand, with his back turned against you in disdain?
My feet said to walk. My head said to complain. My heart, well, It didn't join the conversation that I was having with myself.

The voice calls in the wilderness, sometimes in the most surprising of ways:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord!

I just walked on.

Every single day the voice calls out to us. Calls us by name. Calls to us intimately. Passionately. Constantly:
Prepare the way of the Lord!

It has been calling since we were first called in our Baptism to turn from darkness to the light. From the ways of death to the ways of life. From our sin, to God’s own righteousness.

Prepare the way of the Lord!
Amen.

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