16 December 2007 – Advent 3A : James 5:7-10 – Matthew 11:2-11
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills
Stir Up Sunday
“Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us.”
This is our prayer every Third Sunday of Advent. It sounds hopeful, even a bit defiant. We desire a God, our God, to come into this world of darkness, disappointment and seemingly unending woes to shake things up and shape things up. To take a world that appears to be upside down and turn it back right-side up – that is, the way God intends it to be from the day God said, “Let there be….”
Surely this is what is on John the Baptist’s mind. Surely he has been waiting for the “the one to come,” the messiah, God’s anointed. And just as surely if Jesus were God’s anointed, the incredibly evil and traitorous Herod would be overcome, the shackles would come off, the prison doors flung open, and John would be vindicated. So he sends his disciples to find out, “Are you the One?”
We may as well face it, for those of a true and honest faith, it is a question we ask everyday. Now capable of receiving reports from every inch of this earth, our fragile, island home, instantaneously by digitized zeroes and ones in High Definition 24/7, one cannot help but wonder, from time to time, is Jesus the one?
Recall, only last Sunday John was predicting the “wrath to come,” and instead Jesus shows up and says to one and all, righteous and sinner alike, “Let’s eat!”
John expected an axe laid to the tree, and instead comes a gardener hoeing the ground around it.
John dreams of a man with a winnowing fork separating the wheat from the chaff and burning the chaff in unquenchable fire, and along comes a singing seed scatterer.
Truly when John spoke of there being one among us whom we do not know, he spoke from experience. We would do well to remember this, and to remember John’s questioning heart, for we stand with him day and night, looking out from behind whatever bars or shackles hold us back from embracing all that Jesus invites us to be, to live, the work he begins and calls us to continue.
John lived in the desert, waiting. Though his demeanor, dress and actions do not convey a man of patience, he does have something to teach us about waiting – like the farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and late rains.
In the emptiness of John’s desert we find our selves waiting,
“like a bowl that waits for wine,
like a flute that waits for breath,
like a sentinel that waits for the dawn,
You are a highway ready for traffic,
and here comes One
who seems also to be waiting,
waiting for the construction to be complete.
The more is arriving,
and there is only one question,
‘Are you the One Who Is To Come?’
‘Go and tell John
what you see and hear.’
So they did.” - John Shea, The Man Who Was A Lamp (Starlight[Crossroads, NY:1992])
What do we see and hear? An anointed man of God restoring lepers to a life of community; giving those who are blind new vision, new hope; those who could not hear suddenly hear the voice of God that says, “You are my beloved;” the poor hear of good news, of old promises coming to pass.
We come here week after week so that we might “open our eyes to see God’s hand at work in the world about us!” This is hard work. To first open our eyes, eyes which reflexively avert themselves from the news of the world. And then to look for the good news amongst the bad, the flowers amongst the weeds.
John was expecting the fall of
The last enemy to be defeated, says Paul in the First Letter to the Corinthians, is death. Jesus says that’s just next on the list. Do not be offended, he says, by how I choose to go about my Father’s business. All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.
When John heard what his disciples had seen and heard, we can imagine he was not offended or disappointed, but rather fulfilled. He was the cleanser of eyes, but not the sight that fills them. He was the opener of ears, but not the word that thrills them. A prophet, says Jesus, but more. John is a friend of the Bridegroom – the man who was a lamp, the man who shows us the way to find Jesus. He brings us, at our own pace, to the entrance of the cave.
We must be patient, for the coming of the Lord is near. “Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!” Open our doors, let him in, know the joy of John. Become a friend of the Bridegroom, and more. In knowing Him we shall know ourselves – Beloved of God, sisters and brothers in Christ, the Body of Christ in this world and the next! Amen.