The Second Sunday of Advent
Pastor George Pejakovich
Luke 3:1-6

 


FOR FOUR HUNDRED YEARS, THE VOICE OF THE LORD WAS NOT HEARD IN THE LAND. THE TIME OF THE PROPHETS WAS PAST, BUT THE PEOPLE STILL HAD THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD IN THE LAW, THE WRITINGS OF THE PROPHETS, AND THE PSALMS. SO THEY STUDIED WHAT THEY HAD; DISCUSSING IT, COMMENTING ON IT, AND EVEN ADDING TO IT. THE RESULT WAS 613 RULES CREATED TO ADD TO THE TEN LAWS OF GOD’S COMMAND. A CLASS OF PEOPLE, THE SCRIBES, BECAME THE INTERPRETERS OF THE LAW, AND THE PEOPLE LIVED UNDER THE BURDEN OF “DO THIS, AND DO NOT DO THAT.” THE SACRIFICIAL RITES OF THE TEMPLE DOMINATED THE LIFE OF THE PEOPLE, AND BECAME AN INDUSTRY IN ITSELF. THE NATION GROANED UNDER THE HEEL OF AN OCCUPYING POWER, WHILE THE RICH GOT RICHER, AND THE POOR GOT POORER. YET, IN SPITE OF ALL THAT, THERE WAS A HOPE, AN EXPECTATION, AND A LONGING, FOR A CHANGE THAT WAS TO COME. SOME PEOPLE LOOKED FOR THE COMING OF THE ANOINTED ONE WHO WOULD SET THEM FREE. THEN, OUT IN THE WILDERNESS, A VOICE WAS HEARD.

LUKE, OF ALL THE GOSPEL WRITERS, WRITES SELF – CONSCIOUSLY AS AN HISTORIAN; NOT A 21ST CENTURY HISTORIAN, BUT AS A 1ST CENTURY HISTORIAN, WHEN ONE WROTE HISTORY TO MAKE A POINT, TO TEACH A LESSON, AND TO DRAW THE PEOPLE INTO THE NARRATIVE OF THE COMMUNITY. HIS INTRODUCTION TO THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST DOES EXACTLY THIS. HE PLACES THE BEGINNING OF THE CHRISTIAN STORY, THE STORY THAT DEFINES, ENCOURAGES, AND CHALLENGES HIS COMMUNITY OF FAITH, INTO THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. “IN THE FIFTEENTH YEAR OF THE REIGN OF EMPEROR TIBERIUS, WHEN PONTIUS PILATE WAS GOVERNOR OF JUDEA, AND HEROD WAS RULER OF GALILEE, AND HIS BROTHER PHILLIP RULER OF THE REGION OF ITURAEA AND TRACHONITIS, AND LYSANIAS RULER OF ABILNENE, DURING THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD OF ANNAS AND CAIAPHAS, THE WORD OF GOD CAME TO JOHN THE SON OF ZECHARIAH IN THE WILDERNESS.” ONE MIGHT WONDER WHAT THE ACCOUNT OF THIS MISPLACED PROPHET HAS TO DO WITH THE POWERFUL EMPERORS, KINGS, AND GOVERNORS, AND LUKE DARES HIS READERS TO ASK THE QUESTION. THE ANSWER IS EVERYTHING!

BY INTRODUCING THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THIS WAY, AND HIS PROCLAMATION OF THE COMING ONE, LUKE SETS THE EVENTS OF THIS SEEMINGLY INSIGNIFICANT PART OF THE WORLD, AND THE LIVES OF JOHN AND HE WHO IS TO COME, AGAINST THE POMP AND POWER THAT SEEMS TO RULE THE WORLD AND THE LIVES OF HUMANITY. HE ASSERTS THAT THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENTS OF THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD BEGINS IN WEAKNESS AND HUMILITY. THE CHALLENGE TO THE POWERS THAT BE COMES NOT WITH MARCHING ARMIES AND CLASH OF ARMS, BUT WITH REPENTANCE AND A BAPTISM FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS, AND THE CRY TO “PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.”

THIS IS THE POWER OF THE GOOD NEWS, MUCH LIKE THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED, WHICH APPEARS INSIGNIFICANT, BUT CREEPS IN UNAWARE, UNTIL IT BLOSSOMS INTO SOMETHING GREAT, AND TAKES OVER WHOLE FIELDS, AND ALL SORTS OF CREATURES TAKE SHELTER UNDER ITS BRANCHES. IT GROWS AND SPREADS, AND GROWS AND SPREADS, UNTIL THE DAY WHEN “ALL FLESH SHALL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.” JOHN IS THE LAST, AND THE CULMINATION, OF THE OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS. HE SERVES AS THE HINGE OF HISTORY, ENDING THE AGE OF LAW AND OPENING THE AGE OF REDEMPTION. HE IS OF PRIESTLY LINEAGE FROM BOTH HIS PARENTS, WAS NAMED BY THE ANGEL GABRIEL AS HAVING THE POWER OF ELIJAH, AND FULFILLS THE PROPHECY OF ISAIAH. IN THE VOICE OF THIS MAN FROM THE WILDERNESS, THE WAY FOR THE MESSIAH IS PREPARED; HE WHO WILL BE THE SALVATION OF ISRAEL, AND OF US ALL. IN THE WORDS OF JOHN’S SPIRIT FILLED FATHER, “BY THE TENDER MERCY OF OUR GOD, THE DAWN FROM ON HIGH WILL BREAK UPON US.”

HERE, IN THIS PLACE WHICH MANY CONSIDER TO BE SO INSIGNIFICANT THAT THEY CALL IT “FLYOVER COUNTRY,” THE DAWN FROM ON HIGH, THE SALVATION OF OUR GOD, CAN BE SEEN. THE WORD OF GOD COMES TO THE PEOPLE OF GRACE CATHEDRAL, AND WE CAN SEE THE SALVATION IN THAT WORD; WE CAN HEAR IT, FEEL IT, TASTE IT, TOUCH IT. IT BEGINS, AS ALWAYS, WITH REPENTANCE, AND BY THAT REPENTANCE, BLOSSOMS INTO THE MANY FRUITS OF THE SALVATION OF GOD. WE HEAR THE WORD WITH OUR EARS, AND TAKE IT INTO OUR HEARTS, THEN FEEL IT IN THE LOVE IN OUR SHARED LIVES. WE TOUCH IT WHEN OUR HANDS PREPARE THE FOOD FOR HUNGRY NEIGHBORS AND THE HOMELESS AT “LET’S HELP.” WE TASTE IT IN THE SACRAMENT OF CHRIST’S BODY AND BLOOD. WE SEE IT IN THE ARMS WRAPPED AROUND THE ONE WHO IS HURTING. ALL FLESH MAY NOT YET HAVE SEEN THE SALVATION OF OUR GOD, BUT WE, IN THIS PLACE, SURELY KNOW THAT WE ARE LIVING IN THE AGE OF REDEMPTION.

JUST AS LUKE SETS THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST IN THE MIDST OF AND IN OPPOSITION TO ALL THE POWERS OF THE AGE, SO TOO IS OUR MINISTRY SET IN THE MIDST OF AND IN OPPOSITION TO THE POWERS OF THIS AGE. IN THE CALL OF CHRIST, WE ARE CALLED OUT OF THE WORLD INTO A NEW WAY OF LIVING DIFFERENT FROM THE WAY OF THE WORLD. IN THIS ADVENT SEASON, LET US ALL RECOMMIT OURSELVES FULLY TO A LIFE OF DEEPER REPENTANCE, AND, IN SO DOING, LIVE OUR LIVES IN THE LIGHT OF THE DAWN FROM ON HIGH; THE LIGHT OF CHRIST. LET US LIVE NOW THE LIFE OF THE SALVATION OF OUR GOD, IN LOVE, MERCY, FORGIVENESS, AND GRACE, AND LOOK FOR THE DAY WHEN, INDEED, ALL FLESH SHALL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD. AMEN.