Sunday, December 12, 2010

“What Are We Looking For”

Matthew 11:2-11
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: 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. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.'
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

A Message from the Pastor
December 12 and it’s the Third Sunday in Advent. Fifteen days have expired of this Advent season. There are twelve days remaining. We’re right in the middle of the season. So far we’ve heard hopeful comments from the prophet Isaiah. We heard comments from Paul, and today from James. Our first gospel reading had us listening to the words of Jesus as he spoke of the last days. Last week and today we heard about John the Baptist.

Where’s the baby Jesus? Where’s the Christ child? That’s who we’re waiting for. That’s what all this Advent season is about, isn’t it? We are preparing for the coming of Jesus, aren’t we?

Well, with these readings in Advent, what are we waiting for? What are we looking for?

Do you remember last week’s gospel reading? John the Baptist was in the river Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance. Remember what he said about Jesus? “There is one coming more powerful than I. He has his winnowing fork in his hand. He is clearing the threshing floor. His wheat he will store in the granary. The chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. Wow! That sounds like fire and brimstone. Now, John is not so sure. He’s sent his disciples from where he is in prison, asking Jesus, “Are you the one we are waiting for? Or should we look for another?” Jesus says to him, “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.” What is John waiting for? What is John looking for.

Let’s recall the story of Jesus up until the reading for today from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is baptized by John. He is tempted in the desert and then he begins his ministry. We read about all the powerful things that he does. The blind do see. The lame do walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf do hear. The dead are raised. Good news is brought to the poor. I’m sure John heard about that. He probably also heard about some of the things Jesus said. Perhaps that is what confused him.

In most of my years, as I read and heard scripture, I could remember all the miracles of Jesus. I could also remember how he challenged the authorities. (I could hear myself say, “Go get ‘em Jesus!”) Yes, and with that memory of what I read and heard, I would pray for healing of people I knew and loved. I would pray for those who were having difficult relationships. I would pray for those who lost jobs. I would be asking for the same kind of miracles.

I wonder if John heard about Jesus, which happened early in Jesus’ ministry, when he went up the mountain and talked to the people. I wonder if John heard what he said. What I didn’t hear, or I used selective hearing, is what Jesus was saying, either to the people directly or through his parables. “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” That sure doesn’t sound like fire and brimstone to me. But that’s not all. Jesus also said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who curse you.” And, if that isn’t enough, he also said that if you lust for someone, it is the same as committing adultery. Also, he told the people that if you have anger in your heart, you are a murderer. Is that who we are waiting for? Is that who we are looking for?

When I began to think about the whole story of Jesus, his comments shouldn’t have surprised me. He was born to a fourteen year girl. He was born out of wedlock. He had to be an outcast in his community. Then he was born in a feeding trough in a shelter for animals. Let’s be realistic; there would have been a lot of manure, mixed with the straw. Vermin would be there, mice, rats, and the like, along with mosquitoes and flies. Then he and his family had to flee for their lives to Egypt. Is that our Messiah? Is that who we are waiting for? Is that who we are looking for?

Yes, during his ministry he challenged the authorities. Those who followed him loved it, but when he was arrested, they all left him. He was brutally beaten and whipped, and with a bloody crown of thorns on his head, he was hanged naked from a cross. Again, is that our Messiah? Is that who we are looking for? Is that who we are waiting for.

We want someone with power. We want someone with influence. We want someone who can rescue us from political, social, and economic tyranny.

Well, there is one thing we can consider. There is one thing that means all the difference. God loves us so much that God was willing to send his son to us. He was willing to have Jesus become a human. He was willing to have the Son of God become one of us. Jesus knew about being rejected. He knew about being abandoned. He knew about suffering. He knew about broken relationships. He knew about the need for healing. He knew it all because he was fully human besides being fully divine.

As we continue our preparation for the coming of Jesus to the manger, we are also aware of Jesus who will come into the manger of our hearts.

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