Monday, December 8, 2008

News from the Wilderness

John the Baptist has been preaching to us from the wilderness for over 2,000 years. He is still calling for us to repent, to turn our lives over to God, to have our lives changed from the inside out.
Why is it so difficult for us to change? Why do we not heed the call of the prophet to change our lives? Peter in his final letter to the followers of the Way says that we had better not delay because the Lord will return like a thief in the night. We won’t have any warning before he makes his appearance. And again, this is a Message we’ve heard before. Why are we so resistant to change?
I believe that we drag our feet because we are basically sinful people who refuse to give it all to God. Our faith is weak and we believe that we can do it all ourselves. Or we believe that the Message is for someone else; we don’t need to change, the Message isn’t referring to us. There is no reason for me to repent. I don’t need to make any changes in my life. My life’s perfectly fine the way it is.
Is it really? I used to think that I was just fine doing the same thing year after year. The pledge I made last year was enough, I shouldn’t need to make any changes to it. After all, there are others who are better off, financially, than I am. They’ll pick up the slack. The church doesn’t need me to work on any committees this year. I’ll just sit back and relax this year. Someone else will visit the folks in the care centers. I don’t really have the time anyway. After all, the pastor said we all need quiet time to study and reflect. Isn’t that how most of us think? Surely I’m not the only person who’s had these thoughts.
Friends, I was wrong. I did need to change. I still need to change. My heart is convicted every day by my sinfulness. I am reminded constantly that I am not where I should be. My only consolation is that God has forgiven all of us through the sacrifice made by the One whose birth we are waiting for again this year.
Isn’t that the Message that Peter was trying to get us to understand? We must be working continually to “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”
John the Baptist was the voice calling from the wilderness exhorting the people to change. He was the prophet who knew that there was One coming after him who would baptize folks with something that would last. They wouldn’t have to keep coming back every year with a sacrifice for the priest to make in their behalf. And his voice, John’s, still calls to us from across the centuries. Our lives must be changed. We can’t keep doing the same old thing expecting something different to come from it. God had promised through the prophet Isaiah that he was going to do a new thing. There would be a voice crying from the wilderness to make the road smooth, flatten the mountains, fill in the valleys, to prepare for the coming of the King. John reminded the people of this day. His voice is calling to us today from the pages of our Bibles for us to change our lives.
The prophet Isaiah and the apostle Peter are in agreement when they remind us that our lives are as fragile as grass or the flowers that bloom in the spring. We are here one minute and gone the next. Or that’s what it seems like.
A thousand years are like a day to God and a day is like a thousand years to us. It’s only been a few days using that kind of logic since Jesus ascended to be with the Father.
Has everyone heard the Good News? Have all their questions been answered? Have they been baptized with the Holy Spirit? Is there still someone who hasn’t received the Message about the arrival of the kingdom of God? Have all your questions been answered? Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit? Do you need to make some changes in your life? I do.
What better time than right now, with John calling us to repentance and Peter reminding us that we shouldn’t wait. Friends, is there anyone here today who doesn’t need to change? Is there anyone here today who doesn’t need to be healed from all the sickness in their lives?
Let us humble ourselves and come to God. Let us pray for the strength to change our lives. Let us pray for God’s grace to be forgiven and pray that He will grant us the peace and love that comes with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
To God be the glory and the honor. Amen.

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