Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wait for Another?

Third Sunday in Advent, 2012
Matthew 11:2-10
2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’
Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
John in prison, the works of the Christ, sent word. Sometimes it isn’t what is said, but how it is said, isn’t it. Are you the Christ or shall we look for another? Perhaps we have the same question today. We have heard of the work of the Christ, and yet it hardly seems to have made a difference in this sinful world. John was in prison he was confronted with his own mortality, he was sent to cry in the wilderness, to make straight the way of the Lord, and he was sent to confront man with his own mortality, “all flesh is grass, and all its beauty like the flower of the field, the grass whithers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows on it.” Now he is confronted with the fact that his own life is grass, and the works of the Christ seem not to make a difference. Some 2,000 years later, we have heard of the works of the Christ, and yet we are still confronted with our own mortality, our own death, and the prison of sin we live in has not much changed. 2,000 years ago the coming of the Christ was heralded with the slaughter of the innocence, flowers fading almost as if before bloom. And this week? Yet again, as the world awaits the coming of the Christ, the advent greeted with a slaughter of innocence, the celebration of Christ marred as the news informs of flowers fading before bloom. Perhaps we find ourselves asking of , “are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
Oh, the world looks for others, anyone but Jesus. The world looks for other christs, even as they chafe at the word Christ. A Messiah, a savior. The two thousand years since the advent of Christ has been a history of the world discarding Christ and looking for another. Each Christ, each messiah, whether in the form of a man, or a woman, an idea a thought, secular or religious, political or cultural and all proving to be worse than the last, all proving to fail. Often making the world yet a worse place to live, and bleeding the well of worldly hope dry. All bleeding the well of worldly hope dry, and yet as generations wither, as flowers fade, the word of the Lord remains, and all hope with it.
Christs, messiahs, the promise of a better future, shangrila, utopia. The world chases after so many false hopes, cycling through them as if they were on a rolodex it seems, and all too often mowing down the grass to accomplish it, to usher it in only to find more misery, more death, more pain and suffering.
One minute the world blames politics and secularism, the next minute religion. One false hope after another. Mohammed sold himself as a messiah, the prophet of prophets, and the world chased after him, in so many ways still does, after all these centuries of pain and suffering. This alone should be enough to convince people that the world is insane and incurable. Here is a religion that has left its inhabitants in the dark ages. Oh the press would have you believe today that Islam was having some sort of golden renaissance of culture when Europe was suffering the dark ages because of Christianity. The effectiveness of this was illustrated to me once, by a lady who wanted to inform me that Islam was advancing in medicine when Europeans were still trying to burn witches at the stake. This not but a couple hours after I read an article where a woman was convicted of witchcraft in Saudi Arabia and sentenced to death. What happened with Islam, as is pointed out by modern historians not so bent on political correctness and a western hatred of Christianity, was the systematic destruction of a renaissance of culture and medicine, a systematic destructiveness whose effectiveness is quite apparent for anyone with eyes to see.
Of course, then came the French Revolution and the so called offering its own utopias its own Messiahs, and step one in its goals was to discount the Christian faith. So Christianity is vilified, blamed for “dark ages” this is the enemy close at hand in the west, the one that must be dealt with now by would be secularists who think it must be religion to blame, because evidently no one has ever started a war or killed in the name of atheism. Oh, the French revolution is celebrated today as a great accomplishment of the enlightenment. It was a war far worse than the thirty years war, ushered in on utopian dreams of the enlightenment. Ideologically the so called enlightenment has but spawned the great wonders of communism, fascism, anarchy and even in its own way modern notions of capitalism, all offering utopia, all with their own problems, all ending in and death the mowing down of grass, snuffing out flowers before they even bloom. And war? The Russian revolution sparked by the French Revolution, WWI, WWII, the Chinese revolution, Vietnam, not until recently when we have yet again had to deal with Islam and its ideologies in the former Yugoslavia, in Somolia, Iraq, and Afhganistan have we had wars whose origins could not be traced back to the ideals of the enlightenment and the utopia offered by the French revolution. We go through them like a rolodex. Any messiah but Jesus Christ, anything that offers heaven on earth, this prison here, where like John the Baptist we wait for our death, and ask “Are you the one who is to come? Or should we wait for another?” Others have come, others have gone, and have done nothing but prove that the word of God still stands, the grass withers and the flowers fade.
Yes, that is God’s word too. All flesh is grass, and its beauty like the flower of the field. This word stands, but not forever. This word stands in this world that offers no hope. Here, no matter the advances in medicine we enjoy so much, here no matter the political party in control, here no matter the ideology one holds to, this word stands, all flesh is grass, and it’s beauty like the flower of the field, here we die, here mortality confronts us. And precisely for this reason, we do not look for another but hold to the hope of a word of God that remains forever, of a messiah who though he died yet still lives, was raised again from the grave. For this reason we hold to a hope that does not run empty, because its source is the emptiness of a grave abandoned on the third day of death. Yes, John received his answer, the kingdom of God had come with Jesus Christ, who forgave sinners, and with the forgiveness of sins, made the blind to see and the lame to walk, cleansed the lepers and made the deaf to hear, who raised the dead and preached goodnews to the poor, who still preaches good news to the poor, who doesn’t offer them the false hope of prosperity like a cheap politician or third world dictator, but life in him, who gives life to you and I yet today in his body and his blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins, and raised to life on the third day, yes even for your justification. Yes, he is the Christ, the messiah, who gives you hope, not in this world of sin and death a world of tribulation, but in this, that he who gives you life, who forgives your sins, who took away the sin of the world as the lamb of God, he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, amen.

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