ADVENT 2016 Week 3 Jesus Joy

Sermon, Sunday December 11, 2016.

Advent 3A

Jesus Joy

Matthew 11:2-11 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:‘“I will send my messenger ahead of you,    who will prepare your way before you.”[b]11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.http://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/20161211_message.mp3

The fiery bush tucker, desert dwelling man we squirmed at last week is now seemingly tamed. We hear that he is in prison. He is in one of Herod’s several fortresses somewhere in Israel.

Prisons are not nice places. I have been in prison. At one stage I was going to Yatla Prison once every month. I was assisting the chaplain of the Yatla Women’s Prison. Rosemary and I would head in on a Sunday night. She was the preacher and leader. I was the song man.

Rosemary did a great job. It was funny with the guitar songs though. We would start out singing the usual songs like Love one another or In the house of God etc…. And then the women would start speaking out their requests of the guitar man. Without fail we would end up singing “Highway to hell” by ACDC!

That song meant a lot to these women. I think the song expressed how they felt. They were living on a highway to hell. Prisons are forced, fake communities of dysfunctional relationships lived by hurt, angry, guilty, regretful and shamed people. That sounds like a road towards hell to me.

At least in Yatla they had a dry bed and lights and running water and food and even medical help. Not so for fiery John languishing away in a dark, stone cold, hard floored, rat infested cell somewhere beneath the ground underneath one of Herod’s opulent hang outs.

But it seems that at least he had somebody who came and visited him; maybe brought him some fresh water and food and shared some good news and prayed with him. I know there are people in our community who have occasion to visit people in prison. God bless you for doing that. When we meet Jesus face-to-face you will receive his high praise, “When I was in prison you came and visited me. Enter into your rest with joy!”

John’s friends took the time to share the stories they had either seen for themselves or heard from others who had witnessed the goings on of the last months around this Jesus of Nazareth.

“John. You said he was the One – the one promised to change everything. After you baptised him in the Jordan, and spending a month out in your familiar desert country by himself, he heard that you had been put here in this prison. Then he went back up north and turned up in that large town of Capernaum. One Saturday at the synagogue he said this”;

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,    because he has anointed me    to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners    and recovery of sight for the blind,to set the oppressed free,19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ (Isaiah 61:1-2)20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

“John, he must be the One. Isaiah talked about this. Isaiah said;

15 ‘Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,    the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,    Galilee of the Gentiles –16 the people living in darkness    have seen a great light;on those living in the land of the shadow of death    a light has dawned.’ (Isaiah 9:1-2)

And then he sounded just like you. From that day on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:17)

Such good news for a person in such a bad news place! But John is suffering. His wings have been clipped and his free flowing voice silenced. He is an eagle in a cage, a bushman confined to a couch;

Even the best news is sometimes hard to believe when you are suffering.

John could actually die at any time. He is imprisoned by a ruthless, ego driven, power hungry local ruler who has had at least one of his wives and one of own children murdered in the effort to keep power. The very palace John in which John is imprisoned is one of several purpose build escape fortresses for the Herod family!

When you don’t know how things are going to turn out; when you are not sure if you are going to make it through this one; when you feel constricted, silenced, unappreciated, disliked, treated as if you don’t matter; when you join one of the groups in society that are shamed – a “Con”, you need to know there is hope beyond this and in this.

So friend, what’s your prison? “Name your poison”, as we say. You don’t have to be in a correctional facility to experience a prison. That can happen as school, at work, even at home. It can happen on Facebook. It can happen and does happen to most of us at some stage. You don’t have to go to a courthouse to be shamed, treated like rubbish, dismissed, abused and unjustly treated. You can get that anywhere. You don’t have to be in a visible prison to know the suffering of feeling beaten down, bruised, badgered and bleeding inside. You don’t have to be a visible “drug addict” to know the guilt and constriction and regret or an out of control addiction of some kind. All these things can be unseen and unheard but carried deeply in the heart – often buried so deep we can’t see them – not without someone to visit us and help us and be a friend to us.

So, what is you prison at this point in the journey? The reason I ask is that everyone eventually has to get to the point of that question that John just had to ask. He knew his cousin, Jesus. John had announced him as the One. John had paid the price for responding to the Lord’s call on his life to speak that Word no matter the price paid. And yet, in his humanness and in his suffering, he has to ask that question. We all do…

            ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ (Matthew   11:3)

That is the Advent question today. That is our question. Have you seriously asked that question?

Jesus, are you the One – the One for ME?

Are you who you say you are – my Saviour, my Redeemer, my brother, my friend, my Lord.

Are you the one who turns my sadness and sorrow to freedom and joy?

Are you the one who releases me from my weaknesses and wrongs?

Are you the one who changes me from within and makes me a new creation with a sure hope and spring in my step.

Are you the one those shepherds received and ran off across the paddock following that bright light over that shed.

Are you that baby – that human baby – the manger scene which changed to the cross scene – all for me?

Ask the question for real these Advent days, friend. You won’t be disappointed. John wasn’t. He went on to pay the ultimate price for the hope he found in Jesus’ word.

Jesus responds with good words about that fiery, faithful man, John.

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater  than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than   he. (Matthew 11:11)

Why ask the question about Jesus? Because if he is who he says he is and does what they said he does, then you will know who you are. You will know that all of him and all of his gifts of love are for you – now, no matter your prison or poison!

And then, whether you are the greatest or the least, Christmas will bring his freedom, his new vision, his new ears to hear, his resurrection from guilt and fear – his joy.

You will find what those shepherds found. Joy! Joy enough to leave it all behind to enjoy being in his presence.

Go ahead and ask.

You will find, “Jesus joy, or our desiring”.

Amen

CONVERSATION STARTERS

In Advent we will be using Martin Luther’s way of reflecting on Scripture and praying.

Let’s look at the Gospel readings and use this four part way of seeking deeper insight as we listen to God in Advent.

Luther pictures this way on engaging in Scripture as a string with little knots in it or a four stranded rope.

Slowly read out loud, noting words that stand out to you or questions that the word raises…..

Matthew 11:2-11 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:‘“I will send my messenger ahead of you,    who will prepare your way before you.”[b]11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.11 ‘I baptise you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

Instruction

As a result of hearing this word, what is God teaching me about himself, myself and his kingdom? (Reflect/share these)

Confession

As a result of hearing this word, what is God calling me to repent of, turn away from, confess to him and receive his forgiveness? (Pray these)

Thanksgiving

As a result of hearing this word, what is am wanting to thank God for? (Reflect/share and pray these)

Supplication

As a result of hearing this word, what is God inspiring me to ask him for? (Pray these)

Jesus’ Prayer

Pray the Lord’s Prayer to end….

#advent3a #JohntheBaptist #Luke4 #joy #prison #Matthew11211

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