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Sunday, December 12, 2010

SERMON ON Matthew 11:2-11

December 12 2010

Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?

Margaret lost her husband to a painful disease. They were both in their early 50’s and had a lot of living left to do. And then he was gone. And God had a lot to answer for that day and in the days to follow. In her pain her prayers became a brief litany, a few words repeated over and over again “Why God? Why?” And God did not speak. Prayers were not answered with heavenly sent words of comfort and assurance. She heard nothing and her faith withered. She just could not believe in God anymore. She busied herself in volunteer work which gave her purpose and made her happy.

We know other just like Margaret, don’t we? .

I have some friends, we'll call them Mark and Linda, who are fed up with the church. The Jesus that they had come to know in church wasn't someone with whom they could relate. That Jesus seemed so exclusive they said. So judgmental. How could Jesus claim to be the way, the truth and life – what about all of the other religions in the world? These and other questions bother them a lot. Still, they tried to make a go of the church of their childhood after they got married, but it didn’t work. So after a while they decided to shop around and to see what others had to say. They are on a quest for truth and the end of that quest is not yet in sight.

It is likely that we know others just like Mark and Linda, too.

Disciples came from John to Jesus:
Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?

There are an awful lot of people out there like Margaret who have had their faith overwhelmed by the difficulties of life and choose to find meaning and purpose in things that they do. Good things. Helpful things – things that make them feel alive and have a sense of purpose. My friends, Mark and Linda, who are suspicious of the churches of their parents are hardly unique in today's world, either.

Disciples came from John to Jesus:
Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?

There are many, many people who believe that the jury is still out on whether or not Jesus is the expected one – they way, the truth, and the life.
In this respect, things haven’t changed much in 2,000 years.
Jesus was not the only one running around 1st century Palestine claiming to be the Son of God.
He was not the only man in Judea with followers.
He was not the only one who claimed to be the Messiah.

John, in prison for speaking the blunt truth and soon to be beheaded, had heard of Jesus' marvelous deeds and so he sent his disciples to ask Jesus the most important of questions:

Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?

Think about this: What would you tell all of the Margarets in the world searching for comfort and purpose in the midst of their grief? When you befriend the Mark and Linda's in the world and they share their skepticism, what would you offer them? How would you respond?

While we are asking questions perhaps we should consider: Are you comfortable enough in your own belief to share it with conviction? With honesty? With humility?
Margaret and Mark and Linda: You may not know them, but you know many like them. They may even have been you at some point in your life.
What would you tell them? And how would you tell them?

Jesus suggests that John's disciples go and tell John what they see and hear:
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.

Tell John, Jesus says, what you see and hear.

And what they will be reporting back to John is not just the miraculous and blessed work of Jesus – In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus has just send out the 12 disciples to preach the good news, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cleanse those with leprosy, and to drive out demons. The work of the kingdom is not just the exclusive domain of Jesus – but instead Jesus has given authority to his disciples to continue the work of the kingdom.

What do we see and hear?
Where has Christ been at work in our life or in the life of those we know?
How has Christ changed us? Challenged us? Healed us?
How does our faith in Christ give our life meaning? Hope against all hope? A promise that will not be taken away?
What do we see and hear?
How has Christ been at work in our life and our world?
And in our journey of faith where have the challenges been? Doubts and confusions? The awes and wonders?
Can we go tell the Margarets and Marks and Lindas of this world? Can we put our faith and the experience of our faith into words? Into words, for them?

I might tell them of a woman we'll call Ruth, who was dying of cancer, and knew it. She lay there in the hospital with no hair and sunken eyes, and jaundiced skin, and was bleeding internally day after day. Did she curse God? No. Did she rail against the unfairness that she should die so young with a husband and a house full of children? No. She just held my hand and told me that she knew where she was going. It was in God's hands and she was God's child. God would take care of her. She was at peace.

Her strong faith as she lay there unrecognizable on the hospital bed gave witness to me of a strength of faith that I could not imagine possible – the faith of the martyrs of old – the faith of saints that I had only read about. But here was a saint showing me such faith. And my faith paled by comparison.

I might tell them of the time that the doctors thought one of our children had leukemia - of the numbing car ride to the pediatric oncology unit of Hershey Medical Center. Of how we never thought to pray. Of how powerless we felt before God. Of how it felt to have no power, no control, no ability to do anything to change the circumstances in which we found ourselves. Of how one volunteer became Christ for us, tending to our screaming child while we collapsed into tears during the bone marrow biopsy, never judging us. Not once. When we were weak, she was strong. When we had no faith, she had faith enough for us.

I might tell them that I have few answers to their hardest questions. That I cannot argue them to faith. That I can only tell them of the promise to which I cling and the stories that fill my life in which God has walked. Stories that might help them see what I struggle at times to see, but know in my heart, in faith, to be true.

Will you join with your Christian brothers and sisters in telling Margaret, and Mark and Linda and anyone else that you encounter who are searching for the truth
"what you hear and see?"
Come let us tell them how Christ has been at work in our world!
How we were lost and now are found. How we were blind, but now we see.
How we struggle to believe and will always struggle like them to have faith and keep the faith, but with the certainty that the one who was to come has come, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Will you, could you, tell them that?
Would you, if you knew and you do that their very lives depended upon it?

Amen!

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