The Good News!

Welcome! I am the Rev. Ken Saunders the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Towson, MD (since May 2011). These sermons here were delivered in the context of worship.

[NOTE: Sermons (or Homilies) are commentaries that follow the scripture lessons, and are specifically designed to be heard. They are "written for the ear" and may contain sentence fragments and be difficult to read. They are NOT intended to be academic papers.]

Sunday, December 12, 2010

RCL Year A (Advent 3) - December 12, 2010

The Rev. Kenneth H. Saunders III
Christ Church
Cleveland, NC

RCL Year A (Advent 3) - December 12, 2010

Isaiah 35:1-10
James 5:7-10
Matthew 11:2-11
Canticle 15 (Magnificat)

We live in a world that acts like it doesn’t need God...
It’s kind of depressing, especially this time of year when our thoughts and our minds should be focused on the reason for the season. And yet, we are so hung up on the need to have that “Christmas feeling” of “peace” and “joy” we often forget to include the Christ that makes it all possible.

We go on about things and we don’t make God… and we don’t make Christ a priority. And we wonder why our society suffers… and we wonder why evil and greed exists in this world.

We live in a world where it has become all about us… We have become so inward thinking, that we even ask the questions, “what’s in it for me?” “How do we win?” or “What do we have to gain?”

What ever happened to what Jesus taught us… about loving one another, just for the sake of loving? What ever happened to giving just for the sake of giving?

These are not strange and “new” concepts…

In ancient Israel, the people were on the threshold of complete destruction. God’s people had once again turned from God and they were sitting on the edge of total devastation. They stopped trusting God and loving each other, and they relied totally inwardly on themselves. Evil and greed had taking over, because they had lost their focus on what was really important. They had forgotten to love one another and give just to give and not focus on what you get.

Like us, they were living in places subject to their own demise… those wild and wilderness places of darkness (the ones I talked a bit about last week).

So God sent them the prophet Isaiah to remind them (and remind us) that God is God and we are NOT. To remind them, that regardless of how bad it gets God will be there and be the one who redeems them. God will make blossoms bloom abundantly in the desert out of absolutely nothing! And all shall see the majesty of God!

This will be a day of great comfort but it will also be a day of great judgment. Everything that we understand in our conventional wisdom will be redefined.

If we have adequately prepared, all we need to do is be patient. We need to be patient for the coming of the Lord, heed the prophet’s warning and be ready. But we say we don’t want to wait, we don’t like to wait; “we want it all, and we want it ALL RIGHT NOW!”

That’s how the community of James was acting. They knew Jesus was coming back and they had been planting seeds in order to grow the good fruit. But they weren’t patient, they wanted to reap rewards right now. They weren’t willing to wait and be patient. They didn’t understand that things happen in God’s time not ours.

So they were challenged to strengthen their hearts and not go about grumbling and complaining, but prepare and be patient. Be patient, for the coming of the lord is near.

And, dear friends, it is nearer to us now than it has ever been. It is even nearer to us now than it was last year. God continues to send messengers, prophets to us to prepare the way, to get people ready to receive the kingdom of God.

Isaiah and John are just two of the prophets that we hear about this morning. One of them (Isaiah) reminds us that God delivers God’s people who remain faithful. The other (John) has been captured because of his conviction and imprisoned as King Herod’s political prisoner.

But even in the darkness of John’s cell, he remains faithful and seeks to learn what Jesus is doing, how Jesus is redeeming the world. John asks the hard question for all of us… the question that we all want to ask at one time or another: “Are you the one who has come, or are we to wait for another?”

He wants to know if Jesus is the “real deal” or not. Is this business of Christ, the messiah, the savior of the world more than just a figment of John’s (or any other prophet’s imagination? Jesus answers John, very much like he answers us. Jesus says that we have to decide for ourselves whether or not he is the “real deal.”

We have to look for the evidence. Jesus tells John’s disciples to go tell John what they hear and see. The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

So, when we look for the evidence, what do we hear and what do we see???

I am convinced that regardless of how bad things seem to get, of how this world seems to be focused primarily on selfish desires, there are always glimmers of God grace… God’s grace in Jesus Christ that comes shining through in our relationships with others. When we see this grace, when we witness it, we are more apt to confess our belief in the Lord Jesus. When we see results of his abundant grace and mighty works taking place around us, then our soul can tell out the greatness of the Lord like the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary.

Mary, who must have faced embarrassment and ridicule for her pregnancy, but none the less followed through with the will of God. The will of God for her life that brought salvation to ours.

As we prepare this Advent season, we are called to a place of patience. In these between times, of the already and the not yet we are all called to be pregnant with anticipation for the second coming of Christ. We are called to let Christ grow in us and we are called to make him known to the world, all in preparation for his coming again.

That is our purpose in this world… this world that thinks it doesn’t need God… Our purpose is to know Christ and make Christ known, to be Christ to others and to love and serve others in the name of Christ. We go about this world making disciples for Christ, fellow followers that will proclaim him and love others in his name.

This world may think it doesn’t need God, but this is a world that SO DESPERATELY NEEDS God… and it’s our job to remind others that everything in this world comes from God and exists for God’s glory.

If we want to bring true Christmas joy in our lives; if we want to live a redeemed life, forgiven, restored, and renewed, then we must wait and prepare, and put things in their proper order… prepare and focus on what’s really important… Focusing outward…

Focusing outward and proclaiming the greatness of the Lord by sharing the love and joy that Jesus brings to OUR life and by making His might and His deeds known to others.

Christ is our TRUE hope… and Christ is our TRUE gift…

OUR one true reason for the Season is Jesus Christ our Lord. Go out and know him, and make him known!!

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