December 9, 2018
Fr. Phil Eberhart
"A Voice in the Wilderness"
This morning is the second Sunday of Advent. It is a John the Baptist kind of day.
Our collect is one that has been preached on a few times here: hold up your hand in front of your face: smallest finger is HEAR, next finger is READ, next is MARK, first finger is LEARN and the thumb, that allows you to grasp it fully is INWARDLY DIGEST
HEAR, READ, MARK, LEARN AND INWARDLY DIGEST... THE WORD
Do everything in your power to make the Word of God an integral - an integrated part of the whole of who you are!
John the Baptist - actually its better to think of him as the Baptizer - was a forerunner for his cousin, Jesus. He saw his role coming up out of the Spirit of Elijah and his call was the Elijah Call to the people of his day.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight...
Elijah was a tough act to follow. He was the old style prophet, bringing the Word of God to bear against a people who had turned their back on the God of Israel -- a king (Ahab) and a queen (Jezebel) who actively led the people away into idolatry. So much so that their very names remain to this day as bywords of evil and treachery against God and His people!
You remember the show down right. The shootout at the OK Corral for ISRAEL was on Mount Carmel in the NW part of Israel. I've stood on the spot on several occasions and looked up at the life size statue of Elijah with the knife upraised. The showdown was with the prophets of Ba-al, the god of the locals, adopted by Ahab and Jezebel, and vigorously pushed by Jezebel as a national god, instead of the God of the Israelites.
Elijah dares them to show up to see which God will answer. On top of Mt Carmel he stands against 400 of these prophets. After a drawn out day of pagan ritual, Elijah douses the wood and the sacrifice with water. He calls on God YHWH, to answer by fire and fire comes, and consumes the sacrifice and the wood and all the water! God 1, Ba'al 0 !
In the Spirit of Elijah, John came to challenge the prevailing culture of Jesus day. He knew his role as a forerunner - not to be confused with the Messiah. In fact he spoke about that to those who asked:
When asked about Jesus, after Jesus own baptism, John said simply, "He must increase, and I must decrease."
It was shortly after that that John ended up in prison for preaching against the morality of his own king. And eventually he lost his head over it!
The Second Sunday of Advent is a challenge for us to walk in the Spirit of Elijah and of John, the Baptizer - to witness (in the old meaning of that word - Martureo) for the Good News that Jesus the Messiah brings.
Friends, if you think that we live in a day that is different from Elijah's or from John's, think again. The world is the world is the world, and though some would have you think, we are getting better and better and better the more politically correct we are, it's just not true. Darkness will always be dark - that's what it is and what it does! The more things change, the more they stay the same!
Some of our readings today sound like the news from yesterday or this week!
I will be a swift witness
against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow
and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do
not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
Friends, on this second Sunday of Advent we are being called to stand in our culture, like Elijah did in his and John did in his. The Word of God inside of us is the only weapon we have.
The Word spoken, just like Elijah and John.
As one modern day prophet put it, the problem is not with the darkness, its just the dark being dark! The problem is with the LIGHT - that's us, by the way. Light dispels darkness, every time.
The prophets of Ba'al may dance around, may be vile towards us, may do all in their power to intimidate, to thwart, to manipulate the culture we live in (and they are!) but we need not be shaken. The God we serve is The True God, the All-powerful God, The Light of the World!
And like John the Baptizer, we are sent as fore-runners for Jesus - His disciples, it ways, were sent out two-by-two into all the places where He was going to come! They were forerunners.
Jesus has sent us here! This very place as a forerunner Church - The season of Advent is about His __________? Advent! His coming again, both spiritually in the Power of the Spirit that transforms you and me - and in the final Advent - His Second Coming.
So our task, our Mission Possible (not Impossible!) is to be God's witnesses. Jesus said that among His very last words to the disciples before His ascension! Acts 1:8
You will be my witnesses (martyrs) in all Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and to the very ends of the earth."
Hold up your hand again.
Hear... Read... Mark... Learn...
and Inwardly Digest!
Why? Paul told Timothy once...