Sunday, December 06, 2015

Advent 2: John Shows up

Advent 2: John Shows up

         Luke begins his description of John by placing him in living history—in a particular time…
7 years into the Presidency of Barack Obama, in the 5th year in which Chris Christie was governor of New Jersey. Putin ruled Russia, Assad still held sway in Syria, and Hollande was responding to the attacks on his country.
         When Francis was Bishop in Rome, Elizabeth Eaton Presiding Bishop of the ELCA and Bartholomew Bishop of New Jersey.
         The year when there were mass shootings in Colorado and California and 351 other places.

         I hope you notice the messiness there—Republican Governors and Democratic Presidents,
America, Russia, Syria and France,
Catholics and Lutherans,
Violence stalking just around the corner.
—we know the messiness of all that, the shading of our present reality
…Romans and multiple high priests
multiple high priests holding the singular office of High Priest
—something stinks… rulers with a variety of control over the lands they claimed, even if those lands that did not claim the ruler back.

         And out of this mess, this wide broken window of history, this painter’s palette of the powerful…
 a magnifying glass is given to you, swooping down from the heights of power—the grandiose swatch of the past,
to a priest,
To a particular priest.
To the Priest Zechariah…
         Zechariah, whose song we spoke together.
         This priest surprised and scared silent by the Angel of the Lord in the Holy of Holies itself,
He was acting as an atheist even as he functions as a leader of the faithful. Told that God will act and give him a son, he protests… and the angel puts a cork in it.
         Think of it, there where God is said to stay, you go about your work. Minding your own business, just getting things done—then God acts,
“Hey, you, Zechariah, you’re going to have a son.”
“Nah,” you reply…
to which the angel responds, “yeah!”
         For the next nine months he suffers in silence, until he is asked for a name. Then he opens his mouth and says,
“The Lord is Gracious”
or to you and me, he says, “John.”
         And then he sings that this name is true
—that the Lord is Gracious.
         He sings, in the face of tyrants and the violent messiness of his times
—of all times
—of our time
         He sings to your life, in this very moment, that God will set free, and send a savior
—save us and show us mercy, never forget us, but free us.

         Free as well, his Son, Yochanan, John, “The Lord is Gracious.”
         Free John, to be who he is, a prophet of the Most high,
free to prepare the way,
free to be a magnifying glass for that dawn from on high
—shining it brightly, a spotlight for  the one who himself is the light.
Free to be a path clearer, forging a way to the one who is peace
—the one who is God’s grace itself.
         Free to be Isaiah’s words in the flesh
—a person on whom to peg the precious image of God’s people freely returning home after being imprisoned in Babylon for a generation
—no crooked path,
no steep and treacherous valley,
no back breaking climb
—only return
—only salvation.
         Yes, John as the re-enactment and fulfillment of Isaiah’s promise. He, out by the Jordon, calls people to repent of their sins
because he is preparing the way.

          Think of your preparation for guests
—chucking the pile of papers from the side of the dinning room table into a big green plastic tub and sticking it out of sight out of mind.
         Think of the scrubbing and dusting that gets done only when your in-laws and outlaws come to visit.
         Think of the vacuuming and tidying up, fresh sheets / getting the guest rooms ready, preparing!

         John preparing the way
—that you will repent, so that you might be ready when the Salvation of God comes.
         John preparing the way
—scrubbing clean, that our honored guest will find us glistening.
         John preparing the way
—in a world so messy, with Emperors and Governors and High Priests,
so messy you could be excused for not repenting.
         John preparing the way
not allowing us to have excuses,
because in the midst of all the tumult and terror, the rulers and opinion makers, moving us like marionettes
—in the midst of all that, we still are called to repent.
         John preparing the way
—that even at your most religious
—when you’ve reached the station of his father Zechariah
—you can still be stunned into silence by God’s amazing acts.
         Preparing the way for the Graciousness of God, Jesus Christ.