Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Third Sunday in Advent, December 16, 2007

The Third Sunday in Advent

Year A

December 16, 2007

Isaiah 35:1-10 Psalm 146:4-9

James 5:7-10 St. Matthew 11:2-11

All of us have expectations in life. They consist of our hopes and dreams in the best of time and of our fears when things seem not to be going so well. It is a wonderful thing to focus on the hopes and dreams of our future, our hopes and dreams of what our life will be like as time unfolds before us. Living in expectation can make life feel vital and refreshing.

As we continue in this Advent season of expectation and anticipation, it is a good time to reflect on the question of “what are our expectations about Jesus?” I began this Advent season preaching about expecting the unexpected. And yet that is a hard thing to do. I know that I, and probably most of us, want to expect the expected. We get our hearts or minds set on something and it can really mess us up if we end up with the unexpected.

John was expecting the Messiah. He had been waiting for years. And he was in a rush to find just the right person. But Jesus must not have been acting exactly like John expected, because John sent messengers to Jesus trying to confirm if Jesus was the person John had been expecting or not. John did not want to invest his time in the wrong person. Jesus response was to tell John to look at Jesus’ life and see for himself what was happening. That would tell John what he needed to know.

Jesus could have said: “Of course I am the Messiah.” And I think John would have accepted it. Jesus however knew that some things require more than just words. We all know that actions speak much louder than words. Jesus called on John and his followers to look at his actions, not his words. In the activities and ministry of Jesus, John would find the answer to his question in a much more powerful way than a simple yes or no.

Jesus was there, right there in the flesh and blood for John and his followers. Jesus was walking, living and ministering right in the midst of mankind.

There as a song a few years ago entitled “What if God was one of us” by Joan Osbourn. The lyrics were very powerful and always made me think. They went like this:

If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in jesus and the saints and all the prophets

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
He's trying to make his way home
Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in rome

This is a song about the incarnation. I was always intrigued about the song, but never though about it in quite those terms. John and his disciples thought that God was one of them. But the face they saw most not have been exactly what they were hoping for or expecting.

What if God were one of us? How would we handle that. A few years ago a show was on that used this song as its theme. It was called Joan of Arcadia. And every week God would appear to Joan taking the form of different people which would come into her life. I never paid much attention to the show thinking is cute, but very likely missing the point of God in our midst. Well I was wrong about that. I happened to be watching it once, not really paying much attention to the show until it dawned on me that God was coming to Joan in the for of a “Goth” teenager. You know Goth, people dressed up all in black looking very not normal to my mind. And I found myself getting very upset! I was fuming at the scandal that they would portray God in this manner.

It took God several days working in my heart to change my mind. I had to struggle with my prejudices and realize that the show was right and I was wrong. That was God.

What do we hear and see in the Christian community today? Even more importantly, what do we show and say to the world around us? Sadly the news is only too happy to tell us stories about Christians who actions fail to match up to their words. People delight in bringing to light the failings of Christians, particularly when those failures include involvement in the very things those Christians were speaking against.

We see that in Jesus life and actions what he did brought people to him. More importantly, Jesus accepted people as they were. Jesus accepted and ministered to people who others in society dismissed or denigrated. Hopefully as we strive to live like Jesus did, people will be drawn to us as well. In that way we live out our lives as evangelists.

Most Episcopalians shudder at that notion. We think being an evangelist means we have to say certain things to everyone we meet. We think it means we have to be the type of people who can’t take no for an answer. Or perhaps we think it means we have to go door to door. But the truth of the matter is we are best as evangelists when our actions speak more loudly than our words. When people see in our lives that they we are acting like Jesus, they will come to us. Then we have an opportunity to share what Jesus has done for us in our life.

In order to share, in order to be an evangelist, we need to learn to see the face of God in everyone we meet. We cannot only see the face of God in the people who look like us, or act like us, or people we find acceptable. To the contrary I think we find Jesus in a more powerful way when we see Jesus in the very people we do not want to.

So let us be proud to be Episcopal evangelists. As we start a new church year and a new calendar year let us commit ourselves to the path of spiritual growth and to living our life in a what, that like Jesus, we draw people to us, wanting to have what we have in life.

You see the incarnation which we will celebrate just a few weeks away is not the only place we find Jesus. Yes Jesus was in that manger 2000 years ago and Jesus was the person John sent his followers to check out. But Jesus lives on today in each one of us. And even more critically, Jesus lives on in the people in need around us. So if you wonder if God is one of us, if God has a face like one of us and if God has a name like one of us, the answer is a resounding yes.

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