Advent 2, Sunday December 6, 2015
After Playing > herodskit guys.wmvhttp://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/20151206_message.mp3
Luke 3:1-6 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”[a]
It is dark isn’t it? He is dark. Herod seemed to be a human being devoid of any love, any true service, any humility – a man locked up in himself. When traveling in Israel we were privy to see some of the many fortresses the Herod’s built around the country. They needed lots of places to which they could escape when someone tried to betray or win over them, such was their lust for power and dysfunctional family politics. Herod was a man on ego power drugs, willing to murder members of his own family at times; willing to murder John the Baptist; willing to murder a thousand baby boys under two years old to preserve his place and his things and his image of greatness.
Whether Herod like it or not, the wheels of change, or should we say the feet of the camels of the Eastern travellers are in motion! The timing is all God’s. The means are all God’s. Good news for some, bad news for others like Herod. The skies are shining and angels are singing. Star gazers are noticing the camel train of events leading to a foundational shift in the way the human community will be from now on.
But people like Herod feel threatened. Are we feeling threatened, are people in our families, in our work places, in our schools, in our streets and on our farms feeling threatened by Christmas coming? Hardly. Christmas has become unthreatening, sweet, a play thing, a magic thing…
When you think about, the relentless move to dismiss, dilute and destroy the news that God is one of us in Jesus must be threatening to most people because as a Western world, we are gradually squeezing the truth and power out of the season. The weight of these world shifting events is gradually being lost to our children.
The Christmas machine is remaking the characters into sweet things – quite harmless now. I walk around Nuri and see mainly santa claus lights, reindeer figures, candy canes and trappings of a snow laden winter – snow we don’t have Down Under! We in the Western world have been throwing the real characters of God’s Holy Spirit created movement out and replacing them with imaginary characters that take all the bight out of what God has done and still is doing.
Many of us are hanging on to the real story and trying help others do that too. Now and again we manage to say something about the real story as best as we can. But we are wondering why our community is so relentless in destroying the story?
Is it because we just cannot believe that the Divine could be so human? If God is one of us then he must be of no use, no princely power, no charisma, no “pulling power”. He would not win an election in a world where popular vote and personal choice are king.
Is it because we are frightened of accountability to a Creator God who by his very being has authority to shape the world and shape me? If he is the final authority and he knows what it is to be human then he can rightly call me to account for who I am and what I am doing in life. He can and offers to change my life, my values, my vision of my future and for many this is not always a comfortable thing.
Is it because we are just lazy. Shepherds, young couples, old couples and eastern travellers sensed the greatness of this Christmas truth and marvel at the radical nature of the Bible’s message about God entering our world to forgiven it, bring peace to it and restore families and communities to love and hope and thriving life. Have even we who are in Christ and know his love for real become complacent, taking him for granted, and just got swept along in flowing tide, getting busy with doing life our way.
Herod had to face the news of God, and he did not like it one bit. He had to hear it and he got the message. A Saviour is a threat to my very human and broken soul. A Saviour knocks the self out of the driving seat of my life. A Saviour changes my vision, my goals, my sense of self, my direction, the way I relate to others, my work, my community.
Are you liking it? Am I? Truth be told, there may be plenty of times we don’t want a Saviour like us; who knows us completely – flaws and shame and pain and all. He knows too much and calls us to too much!
But this Saviour coming is not Herod. He is nothing like Herod at all. He does not kill a thousand baby boys but brings to birth this one and only baby boy of his, and millions of men and women since.
He fills in the valleys of suffering and depression and aloneness and shaves off the top of mountains of impossible decisions, tough circumstances like back and charred landscape and souls, hard choices and the temptations that seek to beat us.
He shows us the way through crooked places bit by bit, day by day and he goes before us to show us where to keep in the light, the love and the life he gives. The charcoal will eventually turn to green and growth again, as will our spirits.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.
Whether or not you or your people want to, wish to, don’t want to or wish they did not have to see this God of ours on the move in the baby, they will. Today, tomorrow, this year, next year, on a Tuesday or a Sunday, in doubt and cynicism or in fear and crying out for help, they will see him. We will all see him.
They probably won’t see him in the santa claus, the reindeer, the stars or the seas, or the tea leaves. They will see him in you. That’s God’s program: revealing himself as human and divine through human people with the divine working in and through them by the words we speak and actions we take. This is God’s expressed desire; and all to not to condemn the world but to save the world from itself through wise travellers like us doing our travelling with faith in his light and love for him in our hearts.
John was the voice calling in the lonely place and we heard him. The Saviour he announced still calls in ten thousand voices, “Prepare! Prepare for me again. I place myself in your arms to hold and admire and love”.
The Spirit calls us to hear Jesus but be aware of Herod within and around. “Wise and snakes and gentle as doves”, the bible says.
We are not here to condemn the Herod we see but to help the “Herod’s” whenever and wherever they pop their heads up in our daily interactions. We are called to help them hear someone other than themselves; to hear this Saviour in hay and shed and as a result be set free from endless power seeking and self-focus, instead resting in the Saviour’s saving love and kindness.
We even have this Saviour Jesus challenging the Herod within us whenever he pops up and we have the Saviour’s promise to love us and continue to travel with us through the ups and downs with him ahead, alongside and behind.
Let’s be aware of Herod within and around, but then let’s turn away from him and lend our ears to Jesus.
He will speak and you will see him.
He will love and we will be accepted.
He will change our views and re-set our vision and we will be free and find joy again.
He will save and we will be new.
In the name of Christ.
We hear of John the Baptist again today. Share what you have heard about him so for in your faith journey for a minute or two….
Read the text again noting the time and location of his ministry and then his goal and message.Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, ….
the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”[a]This is quite an introduction! Luke does this because if you read Luke 1:1-4, he sets out to ‘carefully investigate everything’ and ‘write an orderly account’.
Many believe that Mark’s gospel was the first written record of the eyewitness accounts of Jesus. Many also believe that before Mark put his gospel together, there was an first collection of written accounts that has been called ‘Q’ (from Quelle in Latin that means “first’).
Luke’s gospel is written to “Theophilus”. People see that this could be a real person named Theophilus, or name used to cover up either a single person’s identity or a whole church’s identity (for people under Roman persecution) or a name that means it is written for all “lovers of God’ which is what “theo-philus” means.
Note, we get the first naming of Pontius Pilate right here at the beginning of Luke’s account (3:1).
We also get the names of the High priest who would play a significant role in the crucifixion of Jesus – Caiaphas.
Note how it is ‘the Word of God’ that creates everything after this. Everything begins with God speaking. Our God speaks. Human ‘gods’ don’t. They are merely things of stone and wood’ as it often says in the Old Testament.
When I see footage of monks in Tibet or go into a shop that has a Buddha sitting on the counter, I remember that these ‘gods’ cannot speak. I go the Bible or I listen in worship or talk to my friends, and God speaks through all of them.
John is on the move. He proclaims a simple message. Repent! Turn away from what you have known or believed about yourself or the world or God and listen up. Place your ears and your trust on this One who is coming into the world to FORGIVE.
Some have sad that the real ‘glory of the Christian church’ is the gift of God’s forgiveness. Through us Christians, God who has the final say on everyone and everything says “not guilty” to people who have been guilty of ‘chasing after things of stone and wood” (see around Jeremiah 2:27 – this is God’s charge against Israel when they sought idols and not trusted him; see also around Ezekiel 20:32 for s similar word of God on human idolatry.
As we have said before. There is really only one commandment in the ten from which the other nine flow. As we donlt love the Lord with everything we are and have, then we will break the rest in one way or another and the problem is always us wantng to be god (like Adam and Eve).
Idolatry is not some Old Testament thing about statues, it is about human beings and their flawed nature they have (The “Old Adam” as Paul calls it). Addictions, greed, lust, envy and etc are still part of the Christian struggle (Se Romans 7: 14ff…).
But thanks the Lord that in our baptism into Jesus and with him every day we have a way through and present and future are lived in his forgiveness – the ‘glory of the church’!
As is always the case in the gospel and the New testament it is loaded with the Old Testament. Just look how much there is of direct quote from the Prophets ad Palms in this first part of Luke’s gospel (chapters 1-3) for example.
Jesus’ coming the completion of the story of God’s activity with people in the world. God has always been God, able to judge and condemn and able to forgive and save in wonderful grace. Jesus is the ultimate expression of this. He is the “complete package”.
As the Apostle’s and evangelists tell the story of what they saw and heard, they cannot help but see the grace of God in the Old Testament and how it has been fulfilled in Jesus and his church in the New.
This particular quote is from Isaiah 51 – a fantastic word on the grand scale of God’s grace given in the coming Messiah, Jesus.
Go through and imagine the picture Luke paints of John and of God on the move in his time.
Imagine how the people of the early church heard this stuff on a Sunday morning. Most of them were Jewish (at least at the beginning).
They would have been amazed at what they heard. The stories and the faith they had grown up with were being revolutionized before their very ears!
It would be like you learning something completely new about your own family story. You would then have to totally re-evaluate everything you ever heard about your family to fit this remarkable new part in.
Have a think about it and try to come up with a scenario of how this might happen in your family.
How do we as Jesus’ disciples make the valley’s rise and the hard and high points low so that people who don’t know Jesus’ grace get to him and stay with him in their journey?
How do you view “repentance”? Share your immediate thoughts on the word and what it has meant to you…..
Some people believe that it is something we have to manufacture some great sorrow for our sins and try and name them all and beat ourselves up enough for God to forgive us.
This is not so in the Bible. Repentance is a GIFT of God to us that comes via the Holy Spirit and his work to ‘convict the world of sin’ as we hear God’s law. We are then shown where we have fallen short of the glory of God and then we hear that sweet gospel word of God’s love and forgiveness given fully and freely in Jesus, at great costs to God!
So repentance is not some dark and sorrowful thing (although we can experience sorrow and shame for our rejecting of God’s kindness sometimes and that is a good thing because we just run to Jesus more quickly!) but repentance is also a faith thing. We come to the Lord with faith in his Word, his promises, his assured grace and love for us in Jesus to ask him to make us new, clean us up, renew us in faith and love and hope and continue on the journey.
So God’s forgiveness is not dependent on how ‘sorry’ we feel or how many sins we can list or if we kneel or stand when we pray. God’s forgiveness is based on God – his grace in Jesus. So repentance is all about faith, about trusting him for his promises of love and acceptance for any sin any time.
How does this account of John the Baptist inspire you in your own life?
In what kind of ways would you like to be more like John?
PRAY: Lord, level the deep valleys and high climbs ahead of us and help us follow you with courage, faith and joy. Amen.