The Lighthouse Keeper

Greetings from Pastor Kerry, former pastor of Spring City UMC. This blog contains my sermon outlines and/or manuscripts from my pastorate among the people of Spring City PA, from 2006 to 2011. Pastor Dennis is now the lighthouse keeper. Come and worship on Sundays at 10:00 a.m.!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

"What Time Is It?"

December 10, 2006
Second Sunday of Advent

from Malachi 3:1-4 and Luke 3:1-6

"God says, 'Look! I'm sending my messenger on ahead to clear the way for me... He'll refine them like gold and silver, until they're fit for God... Then will they be fit and pleasing to God..." from Malachi 3:1-4, The Message

My sermon outline:

• “What time is it?” doesn’t have to mean hours and minutes... it could be more general, like “it’s Christmastime” or “it’s about time for us to head down the shore...” or the story of the turtle who tried to fly:
Deep within a forest a little turtle began to climb a tree. After hours of effort he reached the top, jumped into the air waving his front legs and crashed to the ground. After recovering, he slowly climbed the tree again, jumped, and fell to the ground. The turtle tried again and again while a couple of birds (turtledoves, what else?) sitting on a branch watched his sad efforts. Finally, the female bird turned to her mate. "Dear," she chirped, "I think it's time to tell him he's adopted."

• I skipped over part of the Gospel reading (the hard to pronounce names), a part that actually does tell us what time it is (before calendars were standardized the way they are today. I might say I started at Spring City in the second year after Pastor Howarth retired, or the second year after Marcus Matthews became bishop, or in the sixth year of GWB, 43rd president of the US. Luke was grounding this story in local contexts, but perhaps what’s most interesting and surprising is that after naming these 5 political leaders and two religious leaders, the word of God comes to a nobody, John the Baptist.

• But that nobody is a key figure in the advent story, although let’s just say JtB is not the guy you’d want your daughter dating. (imagine JtB @ your door, unshaven, unkempt, wearing camel hair... gonna take her to this nice place in the middle of nowhere and eat bugs and honey. JtB wasn’t the kind of guy who’d blend in at the Christmas party, he’d be standing on a couch or table preaching at people, or maybe by the punch bowl inviting folks to be baptized... you don’t see JtB cards or hymns or ornaments, but God’s word comes to JtB. What time is it? Time to broaden our horizons. Time to realize that God is moving among people you may not expect God to be moving among. Time to prepare ourselves for God’s actions in the world.)

• The word of God came to John in the wilderness, and he went all around the region, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Preaching “prepare ye the way”. Context: Babylonian kings would have engineers precede them, making it safe and nice. JtB's message is a little different, though. Instead of the ground being leveled for the king, God is putting everyone on the same playing field and proclaiming that his salvation is available to all. Man woman adult child, beggar king hero loser. Banker soldier senator janitor, no one has an advantage, no one is better than another. Jew, non-Jew, 1st Century Israeli, 21st Century Christian...

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, and the rough ways smooth, and all mankind shall see God’s salvation.”

• However that’s not JtB's literal message: his is a message of repentance, of getting right with God, everybody, by cleaning house on the inside. John was announcing the coming of the one who would tell the Pharisees that they were like “whitewashed tombs: righteous and lovely looking on the outside, but full of all manor of unclean stuff and hypocrisy and wickedness on the inside. Bring all your sins to the surface, so that you can get rid of them. The things that thrive in darkness, shed God’s light on them.

• Today’s reading in Malachi compare’s the coming of God’s messenger to the strongest soap and to the white-hot refiner’s fire... scrub clean with lye soap, the stuff that if you leave it on your hands too long they’ll chap, but it’s the only stuff that’ll really get your hands clean. Not “SoftSoap”... Used in conjuction with a pumice... JtB says it’s time to get cleaned up folks. And God will help. God will be both the soap and the water (and the elbow grease), cleaning you up.

• You know how metals are purified, by intense heat. Boiling metal (hello, lava) and therefore burning impurities off. The word of the Lord that came to John in the wilderness has this awesome power.

• The wilderness, uncomfortable but that’s where God meets with people. “Then, and only then (after the purifying and cleaning) will God’s people be fit and pleasing to God as they used to be in the years long ago.

• So as we prepare for the coming of the Lord, Psalm 139.

- Pastor Kerry
This Sunday:70 in worship. Winter temps are finally here, now where's the snow?


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