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Posts Tagged ‘John the Baptist’

John the Baptist (detail) , by Matthias Grunewald

The gospel lesson for Advent 3B from John 1 shows us another side of John the Baptist.   Here, John is a witness who points to Jesus the Light.  The church is called to point people to Jesus.  But do we have to “wow” them in order to do that?  And if we think we have to “wow” the people we’re trying to reach, to whom are we really pointing?

John the Witness

A Sermon on John 1:6-8, 19-34, 3:22-30, with Allusions to Isaiah 40:1-11

John the Baptist attracted attention.  Matthew, Mark and Luke describe John’s distinctive appearance, unusual diet, and fiery preaching style, and no doubt that was part of what drew attention.  People came from miles around and lined up to see him and be baptized.  But John also had a following and disciples of his own.  He didn’t just have spectators.  If John were in ministry today, he could have a successful organization all his own.  It might even have an interesting name, such as Wild Honey Ministries.  People might line up to buy John’s books and DVDs as well as to be baptized by him.  He would get lots of hits on his website.  John the Baptist attracted attention.

The Gospel of John reports that the religious authorities took note of this and sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to investigate.  They wanted to know more.  Who was John?  What was this all about?

John was quick to say in a number of ways, “This is not about me!”  He immediately and decisively pointed the questioners’ attention elsewhere—namely, to Jesus.  “It’s all about him,” John declared.

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Jan Brueghel the Elder, John the Baptist preaching

Image via Wikipedia

Here is an Advent sermon about what repentance looks like, and in particular, what repentance looks like in a church setting.

Get Out of the Way of the Lord!

A Sermon on Isaiah 40:1-5 and Mark 1:1-8, Second Sunday of Advent—Year B

God was on the move into the future, the prophet Isaiah declared.  And the people of God needed to get ready to go with God.  But on the road to the future, the obstacles in the literal wilderness weren’t the only obstacles that God would have to overcome.  God would have to overcome the obstacles in the people’s hearts.  What was in God’s way?  Try stubbornly held beliefs, attitudes, fears, and just plain old habits.  Try exhaustion.

Sometimes people don’t want to take the risk of hope.  Why get their hopes up?  I can hear them right now raising objections to Isaiah’s vision of a new journey to the Promised Land:  “Isaiah, this is too far-fetched.  What if we fail?  Isaiah, we don’t want to get disappointed again.  No, thank you.”

Somewhere in the back of their minds they knew that if God wasn’t through with them, then God could still ask, expect, even demand something from them, something that would cost them.  Daring to hope opens you up to pain all over again.  You might have to drink the cup of suffering.

Some of the exiles found comfortable lives in Babylon.  Why put that at risk?  Others wanted to go home, but were afraid to make the journey.

To get the exiles moving, God had many obstacles to overcome.  “Prepare the way of the Lord,” Isaiah cried.  “Cut a road!  Open out a way!  Make room for God!  Push over the mountains!  Raise up the valleys!  Smooth out the rough places!”  And that includes those in your hearts.  To put it bluntly, prepare the way of the Lord also means get out of the way of the Lord.  Get out of the way and let God lead.  Set aside whatever gets in God’s way and let God have God’s own way.

It was a lesson that God’s people had to learn again and again.  Even the great apostles Peter and Paul had to learn to get out of God’s way.  (more…)

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